Most organizations rely on email to communicate with employees, vendors, and clients. As such, cybercriminals continue to target email with different ransomware and phishing campaigns. The goal? To steal sensitive information, compromise networks, and exploit vulnerabilities for financial and other gains
During the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers reported a 350% increase in phishing websites. According to the 2021 Cisco Cybersecurity Threat Trend Report, at least one person clicked a phishing link in around 86% of organizations. The report also claims that phishing accounts for 90% of all data breaches. Organizations need a robust email security policy to counter cyberattacks, prevent threats, and keep sensitive data safe.
But how can email policies help security in practical terms? Read on to learn what an email security policy is and why your company needs it.
What is an Email Security Policy?
An email policy in cybersecurity is a strategic directive an organization implements to ensure employees use their email accounts in line with cybersecurity measures. While this policy varies depending on the organization, some standard terms exist.
With an effective email security policy, employees are aware of their responsibilities when using the company’s email. This highlights what they can and cannot do, and such rules must be agreed upon. With that, you can hold an employee accountable for any violation of the agreement.
Having a good security policy should be a vital component of your cybersecurity plan. Even if an employee is acquainted with email and top providers like Office 365, having a strict policy guiding the handling of confidential information reduces the risks of a compromised email and its impact on business continuity.
What Is Included in an Email Security Policy?
Organization goals differ, so no one email policy applies to all. However, some general terms should be included in any company’s email security policy.
Scope: Defines the range of impact of the policy document.
Definitions: Defines any terms, concepts, and acronyms clearly to avoid any confusion.
- Appropriate and inappropriate use: What usage of the company email is considered acceptable. It can be everyday work-related communication, signing up for newsletters and job-adjacent platforms, etc.
- Personal use: The strictness of the policy depends on the company. Most of them straight up ban personal communication through work email. Others might allow signing up for courses, downloading ebooks, or talking to friends and family. In any case, the company should take into account that any outside communication has the potential of becoming a threat.
- Password protection: This section sets the accepted requirements for password hygiene—length, change frequency, strength, etc.
- Email signature: Most companies, especially those with unified branding that communicate externally, require a uniform email signature. The information displayed and the logo design requirements are usually mentioned in this section.
Confidentiality: Highlights the handling of sensitive info in company emails, such as forwarding emails, disclosures,etc.
Retention: Defines the period required by employees to keep emails.
Attachments: Attachments are the easiest way to carry malware and viruses into the company network. This section explains what attachment types and sizes employees can download. It’s also useful to talk about suspicious attachments and how to deal with them.
Disciplinary Action: This part defines the conditions under which the employee might be subjected to disciplinary action.
Pros and Cons of an Email Security Policy
An email policy in cybersecurity is a company’s official document detailing the acceptable use of your organization’s email system. If you’re wondering why an effective email security policy is crucial, here are four reasons;
Protects your organization from liabilities
When an employee reads and signs this policy, they take responsibility for any damage caused by inappropriate email handling.
Reduces distractions in the workplace
When an email system is used for non-professional reasons, it distracts employees, thereby reducing efficiency and productivity. If an email policy prohibits the unprofessional use of email, employees can focus on work-related issues rather than sending personal emails.
Enhances your organization’s professional image and reputation
You can outline appropriate content for any business emails. This ensures employees send emails using the company’s templates and set up signatures. It also helps establish business legitimacy and professionalism in the eyes of clients and partners.
While email security policy can be a fantastic tool to keep order in client communication, it can also have a few negative elements.
Setting Up an Email Security Policy Can Be Daunting
This requires proper planning to ensure a successful policy. Organizations with no knowledge about email security policies will find it difficult to develop an effective one.
There’s Always the Human Factor
The policy regulates employee actions to prevent errors. Thus, not having proper enforcement mechanisms can render the whole document and efforts surrounding it useless.
You Need an Email Security Policy: Here’s Why
More than 90% of organizations communicate via email, so cyberattackers often use this medium to compromise systems and network resources. Humans are the weakest point in the security chain, so they need to be cautioned.
Implement a security policy that enforces the best cybersecurity and email security practices. This goes a long way to keep your business safe, prevent ransomware or phishing attacks, and ensure employee compliance.