Email remains a crucial part of business communication. It’s a professional way to communicate with clients and business partners. However, it usually carries your company’s and clients’ sensitive information.
Thus, cybercriminals exploit security weaknesses to gain information that can be used for malicious purposes, causing significant data, credibility, and financial losses for the company and its clients.
For this reason, a secured business mail server is a necessity for corporations. Luckily, securing your business email is not always a complicated process.
Let’s take a look at eight easy security measures you can take to protect your business’s mail server.
1. Choose a Secure Web Hosting
The first step is to get secure web hosting for your company’s website. A web hosting provider stores all your website files, including sensitive information and client data. Thus, make sure that the web host server is secure to prevent data breaches.
Check if the web hosting service includes an SSL certificate, malware scanning, and DDoS protection.
2. Use Strong Passwords
The first layer of defense is the login credential, which includes the email address and password. Cybercriminals can easily obtain an employee’s email address as some may be used for corresponding with clients or displayed publicly on the company’s site.
What’s important is protecting the email address with a strong password. Use a combination of numbers, special characters, uppercase, and lowercase letters to make it hard to guess.
Try to make the password longer than 12 characters, too, as it’s easier to brute-force attack shorter and less complicated passwords.
To help you with that, LastPass and 1Password provide password generators to create a strong password with a complex character combination. Their password storage services also make it easy to safely store passwords, so you don’t have to remember all your credentials.
3. Inspect Message Headers
Inspecting the email message header helps you reveal the actual origin of an email. This is particularly useful if you receive a suspicious email.
The email header is always hidden on the default view. That said, there are ways to inspect them depending on the email service you use.
If you use Gmail, click the three dots on the right-hand side of the email to open a menu. Choose Show Original, and you should see this page:
First, check whether the email passed the Sender Policy Framework (SPF), Domain Keys Identification Mail (DKIM), and Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance (DMARC) authentication checks to ensure that the email wasn’t spoofed.
Now that you have the message header, copy it and use a message header analyzer to track the origin and sender of the email.
4. Avoid Clicking or Downloading Email Attachments
One of the most common cyberattacks uses phishing emails. Fraudsters disguise phishing emails as legitimate messages, saying, for example, that there’s an issue with your account and you have to click a link to solve it or download the attachments.
If they successfully attract victims to give their credentials or install malicious software, they may gain access to the victims’ bank accounts, social media accounts, and emails.
The best defense against phishing attacks is simply not responding to any of these emails: don’t click any links, download attachments, or reply to the email. That said, recognizing that the email is a phishing attempt can be challenging.
Thus, always double-check your emails before taking any action. Contact the company the attackers pretend to be through other channels or ask your colleagues if they received the same email. In addition, use spam filters or security software that can identify potential threats and report them to the company’s cybersecurity team.
5. Use End-to-End Encryption
Most email services use TLS security by default. However, this security measure only encrypts the email content from the sender to the mail server. Once it reaches the recipient’s mail server, the information is no longer encrypted.
Encryption standards such as PGP encryption and S/MIME protect the email’s confidentiality by encrypting the email end-to-end, ensuring that only the sender and receiver can read the email.
On Gmail, S/MIME encryption is only available on Google Workspace paid plans. That said, there are third-party extensions that can enable S/MIME encryption, such as FlowCrypt and PreVeil. Alternatively, opt for an email service like ProtonMail and Mailfence, which comes with end-to-end encryption by default.
6. Verify User Account
If your business allows users to sign up for business services or email marketing purposes, check if the registered email addresses are valid. There are various reasons why verifying a user account’s email is important, but one is to avoid spam traps.
Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and email blacklist providers use invalid email addresses to lure spammers. If you have these email addresses on your list and don’t verify them, it will increase your bounce rates and affect email deliverability. As a result, your sender score will suffer, and you risk being identified as a spammer.
To avoid that, there are various online tools verifying email addresses. Free online email checkers let you verify email addresses one by one, while paid services such as Hunter provide bulk verification.
7. Configure Mail Relay Options
Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) relay or email relay allows emails to be transferred from one server to the other. This service lets you send bulk messages for marketing purposes or transactional emails such as payment receipts or password resets.
However, open mail relays, which are misconfigured SMTP servers, let unauthorized people use your mail server to send emails. Cybercriminals can then connect to the server and send spam emails.
To prevent that, set up your mail server to allow only specific IP addresses or domains to use the mail relay.
8. Enable Two-Factor Authentication
Two-factor authentication is an additional security layer used in login processes. Essentially, it requires the user to input a unique number or other information to complete the login process.
Thus, even if cybercriminals have your login credentials, they can’t log in because they lack the extra information needed to authenticate the login process.
Enabling two-factor authentication usually requires a third-party app such as Google Authenticator. That said, check whether the mail server supports the chosen two-factor authentication method in the first place.
Mail servers are an attractive target for cyberattackers, as emails are a popular way to communicate and exchange sensitive information among business partners. That’s why setting up security measures is crucial to keep your mail server safe.
Fortunately, protecting your business’s mail server doesn’t have to be expensive and time-consuming. To recap, here are the steps to do so:
- Pick a secure web hosting
- Use strong passwords
- Inspect message headers
- Avoid clicking links or downloading email attachments
- Use end-to-end encryption
- Verify user account
- Configure mail relay options
- Enable two-factor authentication
By implementing these eight simple measures, your mail server is a step safer.