Barely a day goes by without an announcement being made about an email account compromise, especially in the healthcare industry, but how does business email get hacked? What are the main ways that email account access is gained by unauthorized individuals?
Four Ways Business Email Gets Hacked
There four main ways that business email gets hacked, although fortunately there are simple steps that can be taken to improve email security and reduce the risk of an email account compromise at your business.
The easiest way for a hacker to access business email accounts is to ask the account holder for their password. This method is incredibly simple, costs next to nothing, and is very effective. Phishing, like fishing, uses a lure to achieve its aim. An attacker only needs to craft an email with a plausible reason for divulging a password.
The attack could be as simple as spoofing an email from the IT department that requests the user change his or her password for security reasons. A link is supplied in the email that directs the user to a site where they have to enter their password and a replacement. Office 365 phishing scams are now common. A user is directed to a spoofed website where they are presented with a standard Office 365 login box, which they need to enter to open a shared file for example.
The lures are diverse, although there is usually a valid reason for providing login credentials, urgency, and often a threat – The failure to take action will result in harm or loss.
Brute Force Attacks
An alternative method of hacking business email accounts is for the attacker to attempt to guess a user’s password. This is a much more long-winded approach that can require thousands of attempts before the password is guessed. This technique is automated and made easier by poor password choices and the failure to change default passwords. Passwords obtained in previous breaches can be used, which will catch out people who use the same passwords for multiple platforms. Information about a person can also be found on social media – A partner’s name, child’s name, pet name, or dates of birth – Information that is commonly used to create passwords.
A man-in-the-middle attack involves an attacker intercepting information such as a password when it is sent between two parties. Information can be intercepted in unencrypted emails or when a user logs into a web-based platform via their browser. Man-in-the-middle attacks are common on unsecured public Wi-Fi networks and evil twin Wi-Fi hotspots – Hotspots that mimic a genuine hotspot provider, such as a coffee shop or hotel. Any information transmitted via that hotspot can be easily intercepted.
Writing Down Passwords
Many businesses have implemented password polices that require the use of strong and difficult to remember passwords. As a result, some employees write their passwords down on post-it notes, tape a password to their computer, or keep a note under their keyboard where any visitor to an office could discover it.
How to Stop Business Email Getting Hacked
These methods of hacking business email accounts are easy and inexpensive to block through low-cost cybersecurity solutions, policies and procedures, and staff training.
For businesses, the most important control to implement to protect against phishing is an advanced spam filter. A spam filter inspects all incoming emails for common spam signatures and malicious links and blocks messages before they are delivered to end users. Some spam filters also inspect outgoing email, which helps to prevent a breached email account from being used for further phishing attacks on contacts.
Even the best spam filters will not block every single phishing email so security awareness training for staff is essential. Regular training sessions should be provided – at least twice annually – and these should be augmented with more regular reminders about security and newsletters about the latest threats. Phishing simulations are useful for testing the effectiveness of training and to condition employees how to respond to email threats.
Brute force attacks are best prevented with good password policies that prevent weak passwords from being set. To prevent employees from writing passwords down, consider paying for a password manager or allowing the use of long passphrases, which are easy to remember but difficult to guess. Ensure two-factor authentication is enabled and rate limiting is applied to block login attempts after a set number of failed password guesses.
Man-in-the-middle attacks can be prevented in a number of ways. Remote workers should be provided with a VPN to access work networks and email. Some web filters, WebTitan for instance, can be used to protect remote workers online and prevent man-in-the-middle attacks and can also to prevent users from visiting malicious websites, such as those used for phishing.
If you want to improve email security, TitanHQ can help. Contact the team today for information on spam filters to block phishing attacks and to find out more about the benefits of web filtering.
How Does Business Email Get Hacked FAQ
Will a spam filter block ransomware attacks?
A spam filter is effective at identifying and blocking malicious files sent by email. SpamTitan uses dual antivirus engines that detect all known malware and ransomware and sandboxing to subject email attachments to in-depth analysis to identify new malware and ransomware variants. However, ransomware can be deployed in many different ways, not just via email, so other cybersecurity measures will also be required.
How can I justify the cost of an additional spam filter for Office 365?
Consider the cost of mitigating a successful malware or phishing attack, data theft/loss, notifying customers, and the harm caused to your company’s reputation. The cost of an additional spam filter is several orders of magnitude lower. Take advantage of a free trial of a new solution to find out what additional threats are blocked to help determine if the cost is justified.
Can I block 100% of all spam and phishing emails?
It is possible to block 100% of spam and phishing emails but doing so may see an unacceptable number of genuine emails blocked. The best spam filters block in excess of 99.9% of spam emails and allow spam tolerance thresholds to be set lower for higher risk departments such as finance to almost reach 100% without blocking genuine emails.
Why is sandboxing important in a spam filter?
Spam filters scan for malicious email attachments using one or more antivirus engines. This ensures 100% of known malware is blocked. However, new malware variants are constantly being released and signature-based mechanisms do not identify these new threats. Sandboxing sees email attachments that pass initial checks sent for deep analysis to identify the malicious actions of unknown malware.
Why do I need a web filter if I have a spam filter?
Phishing emails usually have an email and web component. A spam filter will block the majority of phishing emails but should be combined with a web filter for greater protection. A web filter provides time-of-click protection to prevent users from visiting known malicious websites. A web filter protects also protects against phishing and malware downloads through general web browsing.