What are the threats to email?

What are the threats to email? 

There has been lots of discussion in the business world in recent years of the critical importance of cybersecurity practices organization-wide. This is particularly true in light of a flurry of high-profile breaches affecting some of the world’s largest and most powerful organizations, from Target to Yahoo. Even the U.S. federal government has fallen prey to hackers and ransomware attacks

However, even as the issue of cybersecurity becomes an increasing point of concern and conversation for private citizens, government entities, and public enterprises alike. The fact remains that cyberthreats continue to be very real, with the number of security breaches continuing to increase. 

In fact, studies show that, while the number of successful email-based attacks may have declined in recent years. They are still quite prevalent. Equally as concerning, however, is the rise of so-called “smishing”. Or the use of text messaging (SMS) and phone calls to perpetrate scams against individuals and businesses alike.

The Prevalence of Email and Smishing Scams

Most businesses and government organizations today are making significant efforts to protect their interests against cybercrime. From integrating firewalls and VPNs into their IT infrastructure to requiring regular cybersecurity training for all employees. 

Despite these measures, however, the data show that cybercrime, and especially crimes targeting businesses, are increasing. Further, it is through the channels of email and text messaging that these breaches most often occur. In fact, recent data show that business email compromise was the most common form of cybercrime. Producing nearly $2 billion in losses in 2020.

How It Happens

Unfortunately, cybercrime takes many forms. In addition to the risk posed by spam email, business leaders and employees alike must also be wary of threats emerging through other channels. 

As cybersecurity efforts evolve, after all, so do bad actors’ tactics for evading them. One of the most significant, and dangerous, of these evolutions in recent years has been the advent of “smishing,” the use of text messages and mobile phone calls to manipulate users into inadvertently clicking a fraudulent link or disclosing private information. 

End users, for example, may unwittingly download malware when they click a link embedded in a text message. Believing this to be routing them to a secure site. Conversely, mobile phone calls, text messages, or emails may spoof legitimate entities. Prompting employees to reveal passwords or other sensitive data that can lead to identity theft or the breach of a company’s IT systems.  

Among the greatest cybercrime threats businesses face today, in fact, is the threat of ransomware. Ransomware functions very much like any other form of malware: the end-user is tricked into clicking a link or downloading an infected file, activating the malicious program. Companies then lose access to their files and, often, to their entire system until the ransom is paid.

What To Do

Though cyberthreats constantly evolve. the solution remains the same as it always has been: Relentless vigilance, training, and prevention efforts. In addition to continuing to underscore the dangers of spam, employees must be educated on the many duplicitous forms that cyberthreats can take. Including the reality that bad actors may spoof legitimate sites. 

Emails, text messages, and even phone calls may appear to be coming from trusted agents. For this reason, employees must receive training on what a suspicious looking email entails. Including never opening messages that are not expected and never following links or downloading files until the true origins are confirmed. 

According to Julio Rivera, cybersecurity columnist and Editorial Director of technology and cybersecurity website the Reactionary Times, “Hackers will continue to leverage traditional attack vectors. These include Phishing and Smishing attacks. These vectors are even more susceptible now as Ransomware as a Service (RAAS) attacks, like the ones enabled by the Buran Ransomware Gang, continue to increase in frequency. With many hacking outfits offering their malicious code to freelance hackers. Moreover, more and more cybercriminals are making a quick dollar at the expense of naive victims that are too fast to click on an attractively worded email or text message.”  

The Takeaway

Spam and smishing scams are on the rise and businesses are a principal target. Unfortunately, this means that today, no communication device, not even your employees’ cell phones, are safe. This also means that if you want to protect your company, your employees, and your customers. Then your prevention efforts must keep pace with the ever-evolving threat.

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What are the threats to email?