In the wake of eCommerce, Internet and app development, businesses worldwide have generally shifted their attention from offline shopping to digital alternatives as the main playground. Amongst essential digital resources these days, email can be considered an intrinsic part of businesses to build and maintain long-lasting relationships with customers.
However, the increasing number of data breaches makes emails no longer considered as a high secured tool for both businesses and customers. It comes as no surprise that a high-security level is one of the determining factors for a business’s reputation. This post’s focus is mostly about how “living in the digital age” marketers can enhance their email marketing security more effectively.
Why is email marketing security important?
Up to 80% of experts confirmed the power of email marketing in driving customer acquisition and retention. In fact, email marketing is considered one of the most cost-effective and conversion-rich forms of digital marketing due to its personalization and potential reach.
However, as the trends in the ecommerce industry change, the increasing usage of email marketing has come with a warning sign about the importance of data privacy and security in the online world these days.
For businesses, an insecure email marketing system gives cyber attackers an open door into sensitive information of the company’s employees, partners, and customers, resulting in:
- Phishing emails that can trick users into specific actions via email like giving up sensitive information or approving fake bills, installing malware to infect your network, etc
- Severe damage to business’s reputation and the relationship with customers.
- In the long-term, cyber threats can even cause significant financial losses and reduce customer confidence.
Unless businesses are aware of the severe effect of cyber threats, they put themselves at risk of getting their personal data exposed. Email security should be a top priority now more than ever for any business with the increasing number of data breaches, primarily via email.
Common types of marketing email threats
Email security threats continue to be among the most serious risks to global organizations. Below are the primary types of email security breaches your business should be aware of.
Scams can take on a lot of different forms. Typically, a scam email’s goal is to convince you to click on a link or forward the email with malware to your team members.
Once you or a person on your team clicks on the phishing link, it can install a virus on personal computers and steal some of your sensitive data like passwords or personal information. More more dangerous, a successful attract of scammers can:
- Steal hundreds or even thousands of dollars from your employees and customers
- Compromise employees across the organization by asking them to download a file with malware inside
- Collect every active email in your organization, partners, and subscription who’re potentially gullible targets for future attacks
To trick email recipients into doing what the scammers want them to do, they will pretend to be friends, coworkers in a different department, or someone from some organizations you trust. Scam messages these days can be challenging to spot since they’re designed to get you to react without consideration.
Phishing refers to a kind of social engineering attack. Cybercriminals use electronic communication channels (typically email) to gather the user’s personal and confidential information.
The danger of email phishing is that the forged email looks like it’s sent from a legitimate source, a known or trusted individual, or an organization.
There is a thin line of difference between spoofing and phishing.
- Spoofing is where the attacker first spoofs or steals a real-time user’s identity then contacts the user. Their purpose is to get personal and sensitive information from the user
- Phishing is where the cybercriminals send an authentic-looking email and make users believe it’s from a legitimate source
When users think the forged email from a reputable source, they tend to inconsiderately and undoubtedly provide private information, thereby exposing themselves to a virus.
Email spoofing is a common technique that cybercriminals use in spam and phishing attacks by pretending to be someone the email recipients know. In other words, hackers will try to use a legitimate user’s identity to send forged emails.
The biggest problem with spoofing is that average users can hardly know whether that email is illegitimate and very difficult to trace to its actual sender. The attacker will ask the email recipient to divulge information or take specific actions. This is extremely dangerous for eCommerce sites built on platforms like Shopify or Wix.
For successful spoofing attacks, cybercriminals usually forge email headers in a way that is similar to the email recipients. For instance,
- Cybercriminals some ways get your email address and create an email that looks like it comes from Paypal or Microsoft team
- They send forged email and announce your account will be suspended after 24 hours if you don’t click a link, authenticate into the site and reset the password
Most importantly, most users take at face value. In other words, if they recognize the forged sender name, email users are more likely to trust and click malicious links or open malware attachments, etc.
For example, typically, you will use an email attachment extension to auto-attach necessary billing documentation to sales emails. Still, vulnerability can be a chance for hackers to replace yours with malicious attachments, then steal information from your customers.
Malware or malicious software includes viruses, worms, Trojan horses, and other harmful computer programs hackers use to attack organizations. The final goals of these cybercriminals are usually to:
- Weak the business’s destruction to gain access to sensitive information
- Get the entity control over a company’s workstations and servers, monitor users’ activities, etc.
In fact, the software is identified as malware primarily based on its using purposes of the code developers. In general, there are 3 ways malware can infect target computers:
- Worm: A standalone malware that spreads copies of itself from computer to computer. It can replicate multiple times without any human interaction. Hackers can transmit the worm due to software vulnerabilities or attacked files on emails
- Virus: Activated when a user clicks on or downloads a link with malicious software. The virus can insert itself within a standalone program’s code and forces that program to take harmful actions, or even spread itself
- Trojan: This malware type can’t reproduce itself. Still, when the Trojan is activated, cybercriminals can spy on your computer, steal sensitive data and gain backdoor access to the business’s system for further harmful actions
Email Security Advice for Marketers
Educate customers and team members on the organization
To prevent these threats, you can start by educating your employees, partners, and customers on the most common cybersecurity threats. Give your team and customers distinctive signs of forged emails, how to deal with security attacks and prevent them.
Some indications of forged emails:
- Carefully check the email address, not just the sender. Typically, most legitimate companies (except small ones) won’t send email from an address that ends “@gmail.com”
- Check whether that email has any sign of being crafted and copy-edited
- In case you get an email that comes with a link or an attachment, contact that organization via their official web or phone number to double-check the authenticity of the mail
- Avoid sharing of sensitive information within emails and only send it to trusted individuals or required
Even if your business never meets any trouble with cyber threats, this practice is prevalent. Customers have also become more skeptical about organizations that possibly track their online activity or leak their personal information.
Thus, proactively mentioning the presence of cybercriminals and personal information protection is one effective way to fight that stigma. That’s for the customer side.
For your businesses, raising awareness of employees or team members can significantly protect your organization from email security threats. Only when your team can develop good habits and detect malicious messages as second nature, your email security is ensured.
Filter outbound email
For those who don’t know about outbound email, it refers to messages typically sent by sales reps or business developers. This will be a great strategy to build a connection with a selected group of potential customers who might never be heard about your brand before
Still, a hacker can:
- Intentionally access your SMTP service and use it to send unauthorized emails to your contacts and external accounts
- Take advantage of SMTP vulnerabilities to add malicious viruses or attachments to the messages without being noticed when you send large batches of emails
Therefore, a strong firewall is what you need to make sure users within your network avoid risks associated with outbound emails.
Use high-quality email marketing tools
Email marketing tool becomes an indispensable part of a digital strategy with multiple capabilities from creating, sending to reporting on each of the business’s campaigns. Still, with the rise of data breaches, your email marketing tool requires more than that.
In action, your email marketing tool should not only create and send emails in bulk. It needs to be able to protect you as well as the mail recipients from being victims of phishing or spoofed email attacks.
For instance, AVADA Email Marketing (an email marketing service) enables businesses to verify a sender’s authenticity when sending emails, plus increase email deliverability. What’s special about this software is that it uses DKIM, SFP, DMARC, and Bounce to verify the sender domain for higher deliverability rate.
Use an email security software
Another option when it comes to increasing email security, that’s investing in email security software. It might be a bit obvious, but worth adding to the list.
As its name suggests, email security software is used as a firewall that reduces the threat of email security breaches your business can meet these days. Regular email security software allows you to:
- Monitor all inbound and outbound email traffic and detect suspicious or malicious message
- Block or quarantine malicious emails, phishing attacks, and spams
- Some come with advanced features like data loss prevention and email encryption capability for outbound email
Use a VPN
Virtual private networks or VPN refers to any technology that can encapsulate and transmit network data. We can take VPN as a firewall that leverages your data privacy when using public Wi-fi.
VPN creates an encrypted tunnel between you and a remote server operated by a VPN service while using a public network when switched on. All your outgoing data is encrypted and routed through this tunnel; hence, it’s protected from prying eyes.
Email security is of high importance. You might not have been compromised by far; there’s a day when you will face a cybersecurity attack. The worst thing in that situation is that you deal with data loss risk with no preparation.
Facing the possibility of losing important data or permanently hurting your business, make sure you are on guard at all times and be well-prepared for any situation.