Monday, April 15, 2013

Why Email Security is Still Important - A guest post!

Our blog today will feature our first guest post author! He is Andrew S. Baker, an accomplished and skilled Security and Network engineer. He has a successful practice and can be reached though comments on this blog page or his XeeMe account, also listed here.

Why Email Security is Still Important

by Andrew S. Baker –

Over the past decade, email has been steadily diminishing as the primary means of personal communication.  Even within corporations, email has been losing its status as the primary vehicle for internal and external communications for the past five years or so.  But it is not dead yet – not by a longshot.

Not only do a significant number of business and technology processes still rely on email today, but it is one of the preferred mechanisms for attackers who are looking to spread malware across a corporation or gain a foothold within an organization.  Spear phishing attacks continue to rise each year, even sophisticated tech savvy Fortune 100 organizations have been victimized recently.

A layered security approach to email protection is well recommended, and the key locations for adding security checkpoints are the corporate network perimeter, the mail server, and the hosts that send mail.  Beyond the technology, employees need to understand at a high level how email attacks can occur, and what they can do to minimize the risk of opening a malware message.

Email attacks are getting more and more sophisticated every year.  Still, there are mistakes that malware writers often make that can help you detect suspicious emails:

n  Malware messages often have unprofessional subjects like “Check this out” or “take a look at this!”

n  Poor grammar has been a hallmark of malware in the past, although things have been improving significantly in just the past year.

n  Malware emails often lack formal greetings, contain a high degree of urgency, and offer strange links or attachments.

n  Malware emails are often addressed to multiple people within an enterprise, without using distribution lists and other mechanisms that would be used by internal employees.

n  Trying to take advantage of natural disasters or newsworthy events with some sort of call to action is another common tactic to be found in malware messages.


Consider the following as you write your own messages, so that you can help your colleagues more easily detect malware messages.

n  In your messages, resist the urge to be totally informal in your style, especially when links or attachments are going to be involved.  

n  If you plan to send an uncharacteristic message to colleagues, be sure to give them a heads up in some other fashion – possibly an earlier email.  

n  Use meaningful subjects in your message so that the content is easier to discern.

n  Use a spell/grammar checker to minimize errors in your communication.

n  Minimize the use of links, images, and attachments in your messages, so that they do not get flagged as SPAM or make colleagues in other organizations suspicious.


We are going to have to rely on email for quite some time, and it behooves us all to practice good email creation so that the malware writers have a harder time using email successfully.

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Andrew S. Baker is an IT Operations and Information Security consultant. See Andrew's complete social presence at\AndrewBaker