What Does a Secure Email Gateway Do?

Compliance Knowledge Base | Cyber Security Training

Posted by: India Wentworth Published: Tue, 14 Aug 2018 Last Reviewed: Tue, 14 Aug 2018
What Does a Secure Email Gateway Do?

As 59% of UK business leaders see emails as their biggest threat, and with hackers growing in skills and techniques all the time, the threat from emails has never been stronger.

Hackers work by sending emails with malicious attachments and links, causing the unsuspecting recipient to innocently open the email to release a wave of malware into the system, something that you can reduce the risk of happening by using an email gateway.

The growing number of devices available to access emails means that people are no longer restricted to a traditional corporate network when they want to check their inbox, a beneficial flexibility – yes, but this also means that users can be left vulnerable to gaps in security that hackers may infiltrate.

What is an Email Gateway?

Email gateways have the same sort of job as a nightclub doorman, but instead of managing the rowdy public on a Saturday night, they are controlling which emails get into the inbox, and what is left out in the cold. This is so important nowadays due to the growing trend in cyberattacks through emails.

The first serious wave of cybercrime was because of emails in the late 80s. They're such a popular form of attack because they allow hackers to target their victims directly through sending harmful files straight to an inbox. This technique is actually the newest trend in email hacking, so rather than sending mass emails and hoping for a few recipients to fall for it, attackers are spending more time researching their targets to personalise the attack through tailored emails, and as a result their chances of success are larger.

Gateways are able to detect and block harmful content from getting into the network, as well as preventing the transmission of sensitive data such as credit card information. This could be in the many strains of malware, or phishing attacks, or even general spam:

  • Malware is also known as malicious software and comes in many different forms. So when viruses, spyware, and trojan horses are mentioned, they are all referring to malware, the different names just refer to the different techniques used in the aim of stealing or deleting valuable data through unauthorised access.
  • Phishing is a form of fraud that is growing in popularity through the anonymity you can gain online. Sat behind a screen, you can become anyone you want to be. The attack means people pretend to be someone they're not, with the goal being that they gain the trust of their victim to then have access to the desired information.
  • General spam refers to emails that promote scams or illegitimate businesses. The sender will distribute hundreds of thousands of emails in the hope that a small number of people will reply, and as a result create an entry-point into a network.

As a result of the severity in email threats, businesses of all sizes use gateways to prevent security breaches and maintain protection as a result. There are different types of security gateways out there, with different solution types depending on what the company needs. This could be dependent on what security features are available, and how easy it is to use and manage.

What Does a Secure Email Gateway Do?

The Priorities in Gateways:

By looking for the following credentials in an email gateway, you can block more attacks, track suspicious files, and consistently respond quickly. No solution provides 100% protection, but these steps can make all the difference in the fight against cybercrime.

Advanced Features

Make sure that the gateway you're using has more than just the 'basic' features, because as the name gives away, this just isn't enough to protect you anymore due to the constant development in hacking. The more advanced the antivirus, antiphishing, and antispam technologies you can get, the higher the chances are of staying safe. The fact that technology is always changing means that the basic features aren't new enough and wouldn't be effective against the newest threats.

  • Web reputational tools look at the URLs mentioned in the emails to detect if there is malware present, and grant access accordingly. These tools can stop up to 90% of spam from entering your network.
  • Sandboxing is a prime example of an advanced feature. It uses an isolated environment to test a file and see what happens once it is opened. So essentially, the email is taken to a space where the repercussions of opening it don't matter, creating a safe way of knowing what's inside.
  • Threat intelligence is another technique used to maintain effective gateways. This means organisations have information about current threats such as IP addresses to look out for. By having threat intelligence services, the gateway can be much more efficient in detecting malicious emails because the threat intelligence is an up-to-date warning of what's out there.

Customisation and Integration

Customising the gateway means that the management is strengthened through customised reports and consequently the detection capabilities are improved because the whole process is more personal to the organisation.

False Positive and False Negative Rates

Sometimes an email can be identified inaccurately, whether that's a harmful email getting through, or an important email being destroyed, with both results having a negative impact on the organisation because you can potentially suffer from a cyberattack, or you could lose a client. The lower the rate of a false positives and negatives, the more reliable the system is being because it isn't making regular mistakes.

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