Understanding Email Threats and How to Defend Against Them

Explore the different types of email threats, such as phishing, credential harvesting, and social engineering, and the essential strategies to defend your business.

by | Jun 4, 2024 | Tech Insights

Understanding Email Threats and How to Defend Against Them

Operating System
Email remains a vital communication tool for businesses. However, it also serves as a major entry point for cyber threats. It’s crucial for business owners to understand the various types of email threats they may encounter and how to protect themselves and their employees. Here’s an in-depth look at some common email threats and effective defense strategies.

Types of Email Threats

Phishing Attacks: Phishing attacks are fraudulent attempts to obtain sensitive information, such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details, by masquerading as a trustworthy entity. Phishers often use urgent language to trick recipients into clicking on malicious links or opening infected attachments. If your boss is asking for Amazon gift cards, then it is probably not your boss.

Spear Phishing: Unlike broad phishing attacks, spear phishing is highly targeted. Attackers customize their messages to a specific individual or organization, often using personal information to appear more convincing. These attacks are particularly dangerous as they are more likely to bypass generic defenses.

Business Email Compromise (BEC): BEC attacks specifically target businesses or individuals who perform financial transactions. This involves cybercriminals impersonating company executives or vendors to trick employees into transferring funds or disclosing confidential information. These attacks can cause significant financial losses and data breaches.

Malware Attachments: Malware attachments are a common method used by cybercriminals to infect computers and networks. Once opened, these attachments can install malicious software that can steal data, monitor activities, or provide remote access to the attacker.

Ransomware: Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts the victim’s data and demands a ransom for the decryption key. Often delivered through email attachments or links, ransomware can cripple a business’s operations until the ransom is paid.

Credential Harvesting: Credential harvesting involves cybercriminals attempting to gather login credentials through deceptive means, such as fake login pages or phishing emails. Once obtained, these credentials can be used to access sensitive systems and data.

Defending Against Email Threats

Employee Training and Awareness: Educate employees about the various types of email threats and the importance of vigilance. Regular training sessions can help staff recognize phishing attempts, suspicious attachments, and other potential threats. Simulated phishing exercises can be particularly effective in reinforcing this training.

Email Filtering Solutions: Implement advanced email filtering solutions that can detect and block malicious emails before they reach the inbox. These solutions can filter out phishing attempts, prevent emails with suspicious attachments from being delivered, and identify emails that may be part of impersonation.

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Enforce the use of multi-factor authentication for accessing email accounts. MFA adds an extra layer of security by requiring users to provide two or more verification factors, making it more difficult for attackers to gain unauthorized access.

Regular Software Updates: Ensure that all software, including email clients and antivirus programs, is kept up to date. Regular updates and patches address known vulnerabilities that cybercriminals could exploit.

Data Encryption: Use encryption for sensitive emails and data. Encrypting emails ensures that even if a message is intercepted, the contents remain unreadable without the appropriate decryption key.

Incident Response Plan: Develop and maintain an incident response plan that outlines steps to take in the event of an email-related security breach. This plan should include procedures for isolating affected systems, notifying stakeholders, and restoring compromised data.

Regular Backups: Perform regular backups of important data and ensure that these backups are stored securely. In the event of a ransomware attack, having recent backups can minimize downtime and data loss without needing to pay the ransom.


Email threats are evolving constantly, posing significant risks to all businesses. By understanding these threats and implementing robust security measures, businesses can safeguard their email communications and protect sensitive information. As a business owner, you have a crucial role in leading your employees through this process, assisting them in developing a solid understanding of the constantly evolving landscape of email threats.

Your IT needs are our priority. Network Security Associates offers comprehensive Managed IT Support. Call 702-547-9800 today for a free consultation and find out how we can help!