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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Beyond Phishing: The Evolving Threats to Your Email and How to Stay Safe

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Email: Still relevant, yet vulnerable. Learn how to stay secure in a digital world.

The role of the internet has surged through digital transformation, revolutionizing communication, commerce, and connectivity. It has reshaped industries by enabling remote work, E-commerce, and cloud services. While the omnipresence of the Internet is propelling economies by redefining how we operate, information dissemination and global networking through the Internet are fostering collaboration and innovation. Today, the internet has become a crucial component for information exchange, with email playing a pivotal role in facilitating communication.

Email remains a cornerstone of digital communication, offering swift, reliable, and versatile global correspondence. According to a recent cybersecurity report by Hornetsecurity, there was a 144% increase in email attacks. Phishing increased by nearly 4% this year, from 39.6% to 43.3% of all email attacks. With encrypted options ensuring security, email is a formal conduit for business exchanges and a personal touchpoint for connecting worldwide. Despite evolving platforms, its adaptability and familiarity persist, underscoring email’s enduring significance in modern communication landscapes.

However, as reliance on digital communication grows, hackers exploit human error using sophisticated tactics, heightening email’s vulnerability to attacks. According to a survey from Cloudflare, ‘Securing the Future: Asia Pacific Cybersecurity Readiness Survey,’ respondents cited data/IP loss (20%), reputational damage (15%), and a loss or reduction of customers (12%) as some of the biggest losses generated through such attacks. Exploiting trust, these emails steal credentials financial information, or install malware, compromising valuable systems and data. Robust cybersecurity measures and user awareness are crucial to mitigate these evolving risks.

Techniques that attackers are majorly using to steal information

Breaches can lead to losing sensitive data, compromising confidentiality, and damaging trust. Cyber attackers are always on the lookout for new techniques to breach cybersecurity. Some common techniques found among these attackers include phishing attacks, email spoofing and social engineering tactics, and business email compromise (BEC).

  • Phishing attacks – Cyber attackers employ phishing emails to deceive workers into sharing sensitive details like logins, financial data, or personal information. Phishing, like any type of cyber attack, exploits the weakest link. However, unlike many other attacks, phishing exploits human behavior rather than technical vulnerabilities. Whether you are booking a trip, responding to a Zoom invite, or simply checking email — everyone online is a target. The Cloudflare survey also found that phishing attacks are one of India’s biggest causes of cybersecurity incidents.

  • Email spoofing and social engineering tactics – Cyber criminals utilize email spoofing to mimic a trusted source and deceive targeted individuals into sharing sensitive data or engaging in harmful activities. Social engineering employs psychological manipulation to trick people into revealing confidential information or clicking on malicious links.

  • Business email compromise (BEC) – BEC attacks occur when cybercriminals infiltrate a valid account and pose as a reputable entity, like a vendor or company executive, aiming to acquire sensitive data or execute deceitful transactions. These attacks are pinpointed and often tough to spot, leading to substantial financial repercussions.

Emerging trends in email security

As attackers keep looking for newer techniques, some of the most common trends involve advanced threat protection, zero-trust email security, and enhanced authentication mechanisms.

  • Advanced threat protection – Traditional antivirus and spam filters are no longer effective enough. Contemporary email security solutions leverage machine learning and artificial intelligence to identify and prevent sophisticated threats like phishing, spear-phishing, and BEC attacks. These technologies assess email content, sender actions, and contextual cues to pinpoint suspicious behaviors.

  • Zero trust email security – The zero trust security model has become prominent in email security, operating on the premise that neither internal nor external entities should be automatically trusted. Even if a message has passed email authentication, it should not be inherently trusted. Instead, preventing a potential phishing attack requires a zero-trust security model that ensures all user traffic is verified, filtered, inspected, and isolated from internet threats.

  • Enhanced authentication mechanisms – Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is increasingly significant in email security. It provides an additional authentication layer, heightening the challenge for unauthorized individuals accessing email accounts. Alongside conventional MFA, email security now integrates adaptive authentication, assessing risk elements to decide when extra authentication measures are necessary. Cloudflare Zero Trust offers a holistic defense against phishing threats through a multifaceted approach. It seamlessly integrates cloud email security with remote browser isolation (RBI), automatically isolating suspicious email links.

In safeguarding both personal and business communication, it is imperative to stay ahead of these evolving threats by implementing robust cybersecurity measures, fostering user awareness, and embracing cutting-edge technologies.

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