Email Security – The importance of the end user’s participation

For businesses of all sizes, email security remains a top priority. Yet, even the most advanced technological defenses can be breached by a single human click. This reality underscores the critical role that end users play in safeguarding their organizations and themselves from email-borne threats.

At IsI, we understand the importance of protecting your email in the defense contracting space. Foreign agents and criminals are constantly trying to obtain government data and information for malicious purposes. Department of Defense (DoD) contractors need to remain vigilant to both mitigate risks and adhere to the security requirements put in place by the government.

Most Common Email Threat

Phishing attacks are constantly evolving to mimic legitimate senders and lure unsuspecting users into clicking malicious links or attachments. Spear phishing takes it a step further by targeting individuals with personalized emails, making them even more difficult to spot. Successful attacks can have devastating consequences that compromise sensitive data, cause financial loss, and disrupt operations. 

Educating Email Users

Technology plays a vital role in filtering and blocking malicious emails, but it’s not foolproof. Users are the human firewall and serve as the last line of defense against sophisticated attacks. As a DoD contractor, it’s the leadership team, or FSO’s responsibility to train and educate employees and subcontractors on the safeguards that should be in place. To truly strengthen email security, organizations must empower their employees with:

  • Regular Cybersecurity Training: Engaging, relatable training equips users with the knowledge and skills to identify suspicious emails, recognize common phishing tactics, and avoid clicking on malicious links or attachments. Internal phishing simulations can further enhance awareness and preparedness.
  • Clear Reporting Mechanisms: Dedicated channels, like a “report suspicious email” button, should be readily available and user-friendly to encourage prompt reporting of potential threats.
  • Open Communication: Build a culture where users feel comfortable to ask questions, seek clarification, and report suspicious activity without fear of judgment.
  • Continuous Awareness: Regularly share real-world phishing examples, highlight emerging threats, and emphasize the importance of vigilance.

For those looking to understand the specific email security compliance requirements that DoD contractors must follow, please review NIST SP 800-171 Rev. 2 and the current CMMC documentation. Interested in learning how these might apply to your organization? Please reach out to us today to schedule a consultation

Building a Secure Email Culture

A team learning about email security

Beyond individual awareness, fostering a security-conscious culture is crucial. This involves:

  • Password Hygiene: Encourage strong, unique passwords and consider implementing multi-factor authentication for added security.
  • Sensitive Information Sharing: Establish clear guidelines on what information can be shared via email and promote alternative secure communication channels for sensitive data.
  • Staying Informed: Keep users updated on evolving threats and adapt training and protocols accordingly.
  • External Sender Notice: Another layer of protection can be put in place when an IT team embeds an external sender notice at the top of emails originating from outside the organization. These messages can be customized but typically read along the lines of “CAUTION: This email originates from an external source…” A simple measure like this can help employees stay on guard when responding to emails.
  • Build Awareness on the Most Common Email Threat Types: According to Barracuda Networks, the most common threat types are spam, malware, data exfiltration, URL phishing, scamming, spear phishing, domain impersonation, brand impersonation, blackmail, business email compromise, conversation hijacking, lateral phishing, and account takeover. Be sure to visit their helpful guide for more details on each of these. 

By empowering users, fostering a culture of awareness, and leveraging technology effectively, organizations can significantly reduce their vulnerability to email-borne threats. It is important to remember that everyone plays a role in protecting your organization. Organizations can fortify their final line of defense by educating and empowering their team members. With this approach, companies of all sizes can achieve a secure email environment, contributing to enhanced security for all.

At IsI, we know the in’s and out’s of email security and have experts on staff who can help you build a culture of security. Contact us to learn more about how we can keep your organization secure.