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Email Services & Email Security Issues

Email was first used in the U.S. in the 1960s and 1970s, long before the internet was developed. Email is a method of exchanging (sending or receiving) information via the internet using the appropriate electronic equipment (like mobile, computers, etc.).

Email is without a doubt one of the most significant tools on the internet today, and it is utilized in formal/informal everyday conversations. Because we use email in almost every aspect of our lives, its convenience has prompted concerns about email security. Email, which stands for ‘Electronic Mail,’ is a method of exchanging (sending or receiving) information (in all forms; text, image, video, etc.) via the internet using the appropriate electronic equipment (like mobile, computers .. etc.). It was first used in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s, long before the internet was developed.

1-Why are emails so important in our daily lives?

a- Easy, free, and fast:

To send an email, all you need is a digital device, such as a smartphone or computer, and a legitimate account with one of the email service providers, such as Hotmail or Gmail.

b- The efficient way of documentation and archiving:

Email is one of the greatest ways to organize and document text-based communications. It can also be utilized as a massive database that can be accessed at any time.

c- Manager assistant:

An email is an indispensable tool in any business or organization. It assists administrators in managing and scheduling duties, allowing for more structured work.

d- Efficient marketing tool

Email marketing services are widely regarded as the most effective method of marketing. They outperform paid search, social media, and television advertising. As a result, email security is critical because it contains all of our crucial and useful data.

2- Email services are classified into two types:

a- Web-based email service:

Your emails are stored on another device on the internet in this type of service, and all you need is a free account with one of the providers and an internet connection. Having your emails stored on the internet allows you to access them from any location by simply connecting to the internet. Web-based mail service employs a multi-tier design, and, most importantly, no setups are required.

b- Client-based email service:

The primary difference here is that your emails are stored on a server rather than being placed on the web so that you may reread them when you don’t have an internet connection. In contrast to web-based email services, you must have an application connected to the service and manage the configurations, and you can only view your email from your device. Furthermore, because client-based email services use a two-tier design, security risks are reduced when compared to web-based mail services.

  • POP3: POP3 stands for ‘Post Office Protocol 3’. In POP3, emails are stored on a server and are downloaded continuously to your computer so you don’t have to have an internet connection for reading your emails. Then, they are deleted automatically from the server and kept only on your device.
  • IMAP: IMAP stands for ‘Internet Message Access Protocol’. We can say that it is a combination of POP3 and web-based email service, where your emails are saved on service and can be accessed via a proper application that keeps a synchronized copy of them on the computer.
  • MAPI: MAPI stands for, ‘Messaging Application Programming Interface’. It is an email service that is managed by Microsoft Exchange Server. It offers the service of managing your emails including calendar and contact information and can be fully accessed from multiple devices.

3- What Are the Different Types of Email Security Threats?

While email services make it simple and free for users to do their jobs, they also have certain negative aspects. It is impossible to provide services that are completely pure, clear, and safe. Email services, like any other internet-based service, may be hacked and cause harm to users’ information and privacy. In this essay, we will discuss some of the most common email security concerns that can harm consumers using email services:

a. Malware:

Malware, often known as malicious software, is a harmful application or file that can disrupt your device’s performance or cause data damage without your permission. Malware can comprise viruses, trojan horses, worms, spyware, and keyloggers, making email security vulnerable. The makers of this malicious software typically use email to secure delivery to the intended victim. The threat of such malicious software is its capacity, if properly exploited, to seize control of the device or possibly the entire network by applying privilege escalation to the system.

An example of the danger of malware on email services is what happened last month in Virginia State Police, USA when a malware attack caused the agency to shut down its email service for 2 days and disabled the ability to update the ‘Virginia Sex Offender and Crimes Against Children Registry’ website.

b. Phishing & Spam:

Spam is an abbreviation for unwanted, irritating, and electronic junk mail. Spam emails are sent at random to several recipients. Spams can significantly diminish a person’s or company’s productivity and can be transmitted directly from spammers, people who send spam emails, or other email accounts that fall victim to their schemes. Spam is not just a nuisance, but it may also pose a threat to email security, especially if it is a phishing email.

Phishing emails are a type of spam that attempts to obtain personal information from the victim by convincing him or her that the email is legitimate. A spammer, for example, could create a standard version of your bank account’s online page and suggest that you log in using your personal information. When you do this, the phisher gains access to your personal information, including your ID number and password, which might result in the loss of your financial account.

 Other similar methods can be used to grant access to your accounts by some people who are not supposed to do so. Moreover, they can use your email account to launch new spam to other accounts.

c. Social Engineering:

It is critical to note that all hacking and security vulnerabilities are dependent on the user. Someone cannot enter your home unless you willingly open your door to him or foolishly forget your window is open. The same concept applies to email security vulnerabilities, and here is where the phrase “Social Engineering” comes into play. Social engineering is essentially the art of manipulating people and strategically exploiting their vulnerabilities. Phishing schemes are also a type of social engineering approach. It is far easier to deceive someone into giving up his or her password than it is to try to guess or hack it technically unless the password is weak or simple.

To explain the social engineering aspect clearly, let’s assume you have succeeded in hacking a Facebook account of X victim. Yet, Facebook asked you to provide your birth date for identity confirmation. In such a case, we have two approaches. The first one is to ask the X victim directly, which more likely will not work. However, the second approach, which is based on social engineering, would be designing a new website that requires a birth date for the ‘sign-up process and then making this X victim sign up. In this way, you have reached your goal without even letting the victim notice that he had been hacked.

4- How to Boost Your Email Security.

As previously said, no one can enter your home unless you open it for him or leave it unlocked. So, here is a list of tips to assist you to safeguard your email service and prevent unwanted action from being taken against it:

  • 1-) Secure your device and email account. Don’t leave your account open, be sure you log out after finishing your work and secure your device with a strong password.

  • 2-) Use multiple emails. It is better if you have at least 2 emails, one is private for your pure personal use, and one is public which you can use for registering for the public online forms. Using multiple emails and specifying private and public different emails help you with protecting your privacy.

  • 3-) Never open any suspicious links or download attachments from unknown sources. Even better, don’t read the suspicious email at all.

  • 4-) Use a strong password for a unique account. Don’t use the same password for multiple accounts. Use a unique password for a unique account. And be sure to have a strong password. Passwords can be complete sentences with normal spaces, which makes it is considered stronger and easy to remember as well.

  • 5-) Don’t share your personal information with an unknown or untrusted party. And beware that no one has any right to know your password. Passwords can’t be shared with a third party.

  • 6-) Use an up-to-date sufficient anti-virus and spam filter. 
  • Use an email security gap analysis tool (e.g. Email threat Simulator) to reduce email risks.  Email Threat Simulator is a great tool to test your email vulnerability and to test your overall email security. 

Register and use the free threat simulator now.

Editor’s note: This post was last updated on August 10, 2022.

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