Thursday, October 3, 2013

How To Deal With Email Threats

by Nematoda

Today email is essential to businesses, but it has proven to be vulnerable to a variety of threats. Over the last decade these have grown considerably, with the result that the security and encryption systems that have been developed to protect against them have grown considerably in terms of complexity. Users also rightly demand the very highest levels of protection possible, while they also demand increased levels of functionality. This can result in a great deal of complexity. For instance a secure email gateway needs to accomplish several tasks. These include:

*  Providing security for the content of the message along with that of any attachments. This is achieved by deep scanning which allows the examination of all content including that of compressed files. Binary signatures rather than file names are used to identify the document types.
*  Preventing data loss which is accomplished by the implementation of an organization’s compliance policies.
*  Spam removal which is achieved in a number of ways, for instance by using a database of known spam URLs and by examining content including the message source and destination, its content and that of its attachments.
*  Malware protection.

Bolting all this functionality together to provide an on-premises solution can be expensive in terms of investment, integration and maintenance. Even so, this is not a guarantee that it will keep your organization safe from email threats. New ones are happening all the time, and it is very difficult for any IT department to keep on top. For instance, over recent years email viruses and worms have wreaked havoc within many organizations with huge implications in terms of cost and damaged reputations.

An alternative approach is to use a hosted email gateway. This can be cost effective, easy to administer, and much more secure than a traditional on-premises solution. For instance the SaaS provider Mimecast provides an award winning cloud-based email security system that is certainly one of the most comprehensive available today. It uses an infinitely scalable MTA (mail transfer agent) that includes many spam and malware protection layers and which provides a cloud bridgehead which removes any threats, both known and emerging so that they never reach the users’ networks. The system also includes content and communication policies to outbound traffic in order to protect against data leak. There are also various email encryption options and it is compliant with all privacy and security obligations.

Today this approach provides excellent levels of security; however it leaves no space for complacency. It would be a big mistake to underestimate the abilities and determination of those who would use email to exploit legitimate business. New threats arise daily, and the levels of sophistication grow ever more complex. There is also the danger of state sponsored attacks that come backed by massive resources and probably from un-attributable sources, though today at least the safest solution is a hosted email gateway.

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