The security of email is a vital concern for businesses and individuals. Even though email has many advantages, it is still one of the most vulnerable methods of communication.
Cybercriminals can exploit vulnerabilities to gain access to sensitive information, wreak havoc on systems, and more.
The purpose of this blog is to educate readers on what email security is, the various types of email-based attacks, and how to protect oneself from them. We hope you find the information both useful and helpful!
- Email security is the process of preventing unauthorized access to email messages.
- Email attacks are a type of cyber attack that uses email to spread malware or gain access to confidential information.
What Is Email Security?
Definition: The process of email security protects email messages and accounts from being accessed or stolen without permission. Email security encompasses measures to keep message contents confidential, as well as ensuring email services are available when needed.
What Is an Email security threat?
Email security threats come in many forms, including phishing attacks, malware, and spam.
- Phishing attacks are designed to trick users into disclosing their email login credentials or other sensitive information.
- Malware is malicious software that can damage or disable computers and devices.
- Spam is an unsolicited email that often contains links to malicious websites or attachments containing malware.
There are a few things users can do to safeguard their email accounts from these and other dangers. These email security steps include:
- Using strong passwords,
- Using two-factor authentication, and
- Being careful when clicking on links or attachments from unfamiliar sources.
What kinds of attacks occur via email?
Email-based fraud attacks:
Email fraud attacks are the most common type of email attack. They happen when a criminal uses email to pretend to be someone else in order to steal money or sensitive information.
Email attacks via Malware:
Email malware attacks take place when a malicious email attachment or link is opened, which then allows the malware to be installed on the victim’s computer.
Email attacks via Phishing:
Email phishing attacks happen when a fraudulent email is sent with the intention of tricking the victim into giving away personal information or clicking on a malicious link.
Email interception attacks take place when a perpetrator intercepts email messages while they are in transit and reads or changes them without the victim’s consent.
This can be done either by infecting the victim’s computer with malware that allows the attacker to read their email or by compromising the server that is hosting the victim’s email account.
Email Account takeover:
An email account takeover attack happens when a hacker gets into a person’s email account and uses it to send out fake emails or access other accounts that are connected to that account, like financial ones.
This happens when your email security is compromised
What is the difference between Email domain spoofing and an email phishing attack?
There are two main types of email-based attacks: email spoofing and phishing.
- Email spoofing is when an attacker uses a fake email address to pretend to be someone else in order to trick the recipient into opening the email.
- Phishing is when an attacker sends an email that looks legitimate but contains a malicious link or attachment. When the user clicks on the link or opens the attachment, they are taken to a fake website or their computer is infected with malware.
Types of email phishing
Email phishing is a type of social engineering attack that is commonly used to steal user data, such as login credentials and credit card numbers. It typically involves an email message that appears to come from a trusted source, such as a financial institution or website, that tricks the user into clicking a malicious link or attachment.
There are several types of email phishing attacks, including spear phishing, whaling, and non-email phishing.
Spear phishing is a type of email phishing attack where the attacker forges the sender’s address and uses personal information about the recipient to make the email look more credible.
Whaling is a type of spear phishing attack that specifically aims at high-profile individuals or groups, such as CEOs or celebrities.
Non-email phishing is a type of social engineering attack that uses fake websites or text messages to trick users into revealing personal information or downloading malware.
How are email attachments used in attacks?
One of the most frequent methods that attackers use to spread malware is through email attachments.
In a lot of cases, the email will look like it’s from a credible source, such as a business or person that the victim knows.
The email might also have other types of content that are supposed to trick the victim into opening the attachment, such as an apparent message from a shipping company or a bill from a vendor.
If the victim opens the attachment, the malware inside of it will activate and start infecting the system.
In certain situations, the malware might be created to encrypt files on the system so that they’re held hostage and the attacker can demand a ransom payment for decrypting them.
Other types of malware might just steal information from the system or enable remote access to it by an attacker.
Examples of email attacks
Ryuk ransomware example
A recent example of this type of attack took place in August 2018, when ransomware called “Ryuk” was used to target organizations in multiple countries.
How was it done?
The attackers sent emails containing malicious attachments to employees at various organizations. Once these attachments were opened, the Ryuk ransomware encrypted files on the victim’s system and demanded a ransom payment in Bitcoin in order to decrypt them.
Maze ransomware example
In September 2018, another attack occurred using Maze ransomware. This time, an advertising firm in California was the victim.
The attackers supposedly gained access to the company’s systems through an email attachment that was opened by one of the employees. Once they were inside, they encrypted files on the system and demanded a ransom payment for decrypting them.
The Maze ransomware operators also claimed to have stolen data from the victim’s systems and threatened to release it publicly if their ransom demands were not met.
Petya ransomware attacks example
Petya is another type of ransomware that has been used in attacks via email attachments.
In June 2017, Petya was used in a worldwide cyberattack that targeted organizations in Ukraine, Russia, India, and other countries. The attack began with emails containing malicious attachments that were sent to employees at various organizations.
Once opened, the Petya ransomware encrypted files on victims’ systems and displayed a message demanding a ransom payment in Bitcoin for decrypting them.
What is spam?
Spam is most commonly known as unsolicited or unwanted email. It can be in the form of commercial messages, such as ads, or from someone you don’t know or don’t want to hear from.
Spam can also contain messages with viruses, worms, or other malware.
How do attackers take over email accounts?
1/ Purchasing lists of previously stolen credentials:
If you’re thinking about purchasing lists of stolen credentials, there are a few things to keep in mind.
First, you’ll want to make sure that the list is from a reputable source. Second, you’ll need to be sure that the list is up-to-date. And finally, you’ll want to consider how you’ll use the list and what precautions you’ll take to protect your own information.
Attackers can buy lists of email addresses and passwords that were stolen from other businesses. They can then use these lists to log in to people’s email accounts.
2/ Brute force attacks:
Brute force attacks are a type of cyber attack where hackers try to gain access to a system or network by trying to guess the password or other authentication credentials.
These attacks can be very difficult to defend against, so it’s important to take steps to protect your systems and data.
A brute force attack can be used by an attacker in an attempt to guess a victim’s email password.
This method is often successful because people usually have passwords that are easy to guess and not complex.
3/ Phishing attacks:
Phishing attacks are a type of cyber attack that involve criminals posing as a legitimate entities in order to trick victims into providing sensitive information or financial data.
These attacks can be very difficult to spot, but there are some tell-tale signs to look out for, such as unexpected requests for personal information or unusual login pages.
If you think you may be the target of a phishing attack, do not respond to the request and report it to the proper authorities immediately.
Email phishing is a type of social engineering attack in which the attacker tries to trick the victim into giving them their email password.
This is usually done by sending the victim an email that looks like it’s from a legitimate company, such as their bank or email provider, and asking the victim to log in with their credentials.
4/ Web browser infections:
Web browser infections are a serious problem. They can cause your computer to slow down, crash, or even become unusable.
If you suspect that your web browser has been infected, it’s important to take steps to clean it up as soon as possible.
There are a few different ways to do this, but the most effective method is to use a specialized piece of software designed to remove web browser infections.
A web browser infection can take place when an individual clicks on a harmful advertisement or visits a malicious website.
If the victim’s computer becomes infected, the attacker may gain access to their email account.
Spyware is a type of software that can be installed on your computer without your knowledge. It can collect information about you and your online activities, and it can be used to track your movements online.
Spyware can be difficult to remove, and it can pose a serious security threat to your personal information. If you think you may have spyware on your computer, it’s important to take steps to remove it and protect yourself from future attacks.
Email spyware is a type of malware that allows an attacker to secretly record the victim’s keystrokes, including their email password. The attacker can then use this information to login into the victim’s account.
How does encryption protect email?
Encryption is a process of transforming readable data into an unreadable format using mathematical algorithms. The objective of encryption is to safeguard information from being read by anyone who is not authorized to do so.
In order to read encrypted data, one must possess the decryption key that corresponds to the encryption key used to encode the data.
Email encryption is a secure communication technique that employs cryptography to prevent unauthorized individuals from accessing the content of email messages.
Email encryption works by jumbling up the contents of an email using a mathematical code. The person sending the message and the person receiving it each have a private key that can be used to unscramble the message.
Because only the sender and receiver have access to the private keys, only they will be able to read the message.
Even if someone gets hold of an encrypted email, they won’t be able to read it without the private key.
How do DNS records help prevent email attacks and strengthen email security?
While all organizations that use email should have comprehensive security measures, DNS records can also be helpful in email security.
By configuring DNS records correctly, administrators can block email attacks and protect their networks from malicious or unwanted email messages.
- Spoofing, where a malicious sender tries to cover up the source of an email to get around security measures, is one of the most frequent types of email attacks. By setting up DNS records, system administrators can help stop spoofed emails from getting to their users.
- Phishing is another type of email attack that occurs when a malicious sender tries to trick users into revealing sensitive information, like passwords or credit card numbers. By setting up DNS records carefully, administrators can block phishing emails and protect their users from accidentally disclosing sensitive information.
DNS records can not only be used to block email attacks but also to improve the deliverability of good emails.
By configuring DNS records correctly, administrators can make sure that real emails are not marked as spam and that they go to the right people quickly.
How can phishing attacks be stopped? The best way to stop phishing attacks is through education and awareness. Companies should have policies and procedures that teach employees how to identify a phishing email, and what to do if they believe they’ve received one.
In addition, organisations can use technology solutions to filter out phishing emails before they reach employees’ inboxes.