Telecommunications has always had an essential role in society. Everyone from military and government agencies to small and midsize businesses (SMBs) depends on it. However, there are significant threats due to the vast amount of data held by telecom companies and the nature of the services that they provide. One threat comes from a channel that telecom providers use daily, i.e., email.
Today, more and more email security threats are surfacing at an alarming speed. Spoofing, ransomware, phishing, malware and other attacks have become a great risk for many companies. One of the biggest reasons adversaries are using email to target telecoms is to bypass their network security. Why take the risk of breaking into complex security systems when they can simply trick an employee into handing over sensitive customer data?
Needless to say, telecom companies should do everything in their power to improve their email security if they want to avoid the embarrassment of being a victim of the next great email breach. Here are a few steps your company could take.
1. Encrypt Your Messages
Every outbound and inbound email should come with encryption. It’s the single most effective way to keep the contents of your message secure. If you operate in a regulated industry, such as healthcare, you’re legally required to encrypt emails anyway to comply with HIPAA laws. The easiest way to encrypt your emails is to use a secure email provider like ProtonMail. Taking this step will minimize the chances of an adversary intercepting your emails by encrypting the metadata of your messages. Most importantly, it ensures the intended recipient is the only one that sees the emails being sent from your corporate email account.
2. Be Wary of Where You Display Your Email Address
If you have to put a company email address on a public website, consider using a secondary email address. Using an account that you can do without will keep things simple, should that email address become compromised. Keep your main account as private as possible, and you’ll greatly improve your email security. Also, Google your company email regularly to see if it’s listed on any forums/groups/websites where it could be easily scraped. If you have a company domain name, activate WHOIS service to conceal your email ID (or use a firstname.lastname@example.org email address). If you receive illicit emails on the Gmail account, it gives a clear indication that someone is trying to lure you into sharing sensitive company records.
3. Use Separate Email Accounts
You know the adage not to put all of your eggs in one basket? The same general concept applies to email—don’t put them all into one inbox. There’s always a risk that your email account may get compromised, and if you only have one, you’re in trouble. Having multiple accounts helps improve your security by allocating various categories of emails in different places, instead of one central repository. So, in case of a data breach, you have other accounts and you won’t have to part ways with everything you have access to. Besides, many email platforms will let you create a backup email address, just in case there’s an issue with one of your accounts. Having separate email accounts increases your productivity, too. Consolidating your messages into different accounts for personal, office, and more makes it easier to track down messages and stay focused.
4. Never Access Emails from Public WiFi
This is especially critical in this age of enterprise mobility where employees can access the network from any number of places. Avoid accessing your corporate emails when you’re connected to public WiFi. There will be several instances where you will get the option to use public internet, such as when you’re at an airport, coffee shop, or a city park. Unfortunately, public WiFi is extremely insecure and could result in a compromise of your corporate email. Hackers use tools like network sniffers to track all the data flowing through a specific network and then evaluate that data for important and personal information (i.e., your company email and password). Hence, opening your email on public internet comes with a risk – one that you should avoid, especially if there are confidential messages in your inbox. If you do need to send or check an important email, consider using a virtual private network to safeguard your internet privacy. Also, access your email clients via websites that have “https://” at the beginning of their URLs. HTTPS indicates that the website encrypts the connection between the connecting device and itself.
5. Protect Yourself from Phishing and Malware
Hackers are getting more and more sophisticated with their techniques. Today’s hackers use everything from phishing emails to keyword logging methods to steal your email information. From confidential shareholder information to business bank accounts and important customer data, a tiny malware or virus in your corporate email account can inflict a lot of damage. To prevent this from happening, make sure to use the latest anti-malware software for your business email. Also, use email software that blocks attempts at email harvesting and prevents emails with more than 20 recipients from showing up in the inbox.
6. Think Twice Before Opening an Unfamiliar Attachment
If you get an email from someone you’re unfamiliar with, be cautious about clicking any attachments or links inside the message. The same thing applies to files that end with odd or suspicious extensions. Of course, you might come across some extensions you aren’t aware of personally that might be genuine. That’s why it’s important to scan all attached files and folders so you know if they’re safe to open. This can be done with the help of a program like VirusTotal. If the program indicates that there’s malicious content in the file, you can block the sender, trash the email, and keep your account secure. This simple preventive measure can help stop a potential data breach.
Taking these six steps should help keep your telecom’s email accounts secure. Remember, cybercriminals are everywhere, and if you continue doing nothing, your information could be compromised in minutes. Now is the time to step up your game and protect your data with smart email security.