Best Practices for Choosing an Email Security Solution
There are important things to consider when choosing an email security solution to ensure it meets the needs of your business. Most cybersecurity vendors offer an email security product, and while most will meet the needs of a broad range of businesses, finding a great product that meets your unique needs at a reasonable price can be a challenge.
Here we share some best practices for choosing an email security solution to help you make a shortlist of products. We will explore the main features of email security solutions, as while all products will protect against malware, phishing, spam, and scam emails, some products have additional capabilities and offer more comprehensive protection.
Best Practices for Choosing an Email Security Solution
You could easily compile a list of 25 email security solutions in a few minutes using Google and most likely many more. It is therefore likely to be a daunting task checking each solution and whittling them down to create a shortlist. When you apply these best practices, it will make it easier to quickly evaluate solutions and eliminate a large percentage of solutions that are not be suitable for your business or email environment.
One of the most important steps to take before you consider choosing an email security solution is to create a list of features you definitely need and separately list desirable features. Having a checklist such as this will help you to narrow down your search considerably and quickly eliminate email security solutions that are not suitable.
Bear in mind that some solutions are developed for certain IT infrastructures. Some email security solutions are difficult to use with on-premises architectures or do not work seamlessly with cloud-based email such as Microsoft 365. Many email security solutions are delivered as a cloud-based service, which may not be suitable for use in certain regulated industry sectors such as healthcare. Email data may not necessarily remain in the country where the customer is based, which can involve compliance risks. Emails may be put at risk of being accessed by foreign governments and law enforcement agencies.
It is important to bear in mind that while all email security solutions will have the ability to block malware and phishing attacks, there can be a vast amount of difference in their detection capabilities. We will cover this in more detail in the next section, but you will need to evaluate the methods used to block threats.
You should also bear in mind that many companies offer tiered levels of protection. The most basic product is likely to have far fewer capabilities. This is true with Office 365 for instance. The product comes with basic protection for blocking spam email, malware, and phishing, but the protection provided really is basic – it will not protect against more sophisticated threats. For those capabilities, you will need to pay for the next tier – Advanced Threat Protection – as it is not included with standard licenses.
Every organization will have its own risk profile and will face different threats. Organizations in financial services, education, technology, and retail are often extensively targeted via email and will need an email security solution with more advanced threat detection capabilities. Enterprises will likely require a solution that provides the tools to allow in-depth threat investigations to be conducted.
Be sure to check out third-party review sites. You should not totally rely on those sites when choosing an email security solution, but they can provide valuable insights to can help you see past the sales and marketing speak of cybersecurity companies. These sites can provide insights from genuine users on the positives and negatives of products. Review platforms such as G2, Expert Insights, and Gartner are a good place to start, with valuable information on products also available on Reddit, Spiceworks, and Capterra.
Features to Look for When Choosing an Email Security Solution
We have listed some of the most important features of email security products to help you with choosing an email security solution that will match your needs.
Phishing is one of the main ways that businesses are targeted by threat actors. All email security solutions will provide a degree of protection against phishing but many will not block more sophisticated phishing attacks. Email security solutions that rely on blacklists of malicious IP addresses, domains with poor reputations, and anti-spoofing measures such as SPF, DKIM, and DMARC will block bulk phishing attacks but will be far less effective at blocking spear phishing emails. Look for a solution that uses Bayesian analysis, heuristics, and greylisting for greater protection, and AI or machine learning capabilities for predicting phishing attacks.
Virtually all email security solutions will offer protection against malware, viruses, and ransomware, but many solutions only have signature-based detection capabilities, which are provided through antivirus engines. While these products will protect against 100% of known malware, they will not block any new malware variants. Behavior-based detection mechanisms are important for businesses of all sizes. Look for a solution that includes sandboxing as well as AV protection. Sandboxing allows novel malware variants to be detected based on their behavior rather than their signature.
Choosing an email security solution that will work perfectly straight out of the box is ideal, but the reality is that some tweaking will be required. It will likely take some time to get any solution working optimally for your business. The capability to customize a solution is advantageous, as this will allow you to improve detection rates and better protect against the threats you face. It is important to choose a product that is easy to use. Even IT professionals can struggle with some of the more complex solutions, which means while the product should provide excellent protection, if it is not set up and managed properly, it may end up providing much less protection than a solution that is much cheaper and easy to configure and use. Choosing a solution with a low management overhead is also likely to result in considerable cost savings and allow the It team to concentrate on the many other things they need to manage.
False Positive/False Negatives Rates
When evaluating email security solutions, you should investigate false positives and false negatives. A false negative is a malicious or spam email that is not identified as such and is delivered. A false positive is a genuine email that is classed as malicious. You will not be able to find a solution that will never misclassify emails but look for one that has the lowest possible misclassification rates, ideally using independent review sites and third-party product tests.
Data Loss Prevention
Some email security solutions have data loss prevention capabilities, which can be advantageous for businesses that do not have separate cybersecurity solutions that provide that functionality. It might be possible to tag certain sensitive data types and prevent them from being sent externally for instance. Lok for outbound scanning, as this can also help to identify compromised mailboxes and malicious insider activity.
Some email security solutions will offer email encryption, or this may be available as an add-on with a cybersecurity company. Email encryption will secure email data in transit and protect against interception. There are degrees of protection provided. TLS encryption, for instance, will protect emails in transit, but end-to-end encryption provides greater protection as the recipient is required to authenticate to view emails.
Email security solutions may include email archiving. Archiving is used to protect against data loss and for the long-term storage of emails. An archive can be searched, in contrast to a backup, which makes finding and recovering emails a quick and easy process. Archiving will also improve the performance of your mail servers and reduce the storage space required.
Take your time when choosing an email security solution and evaluate solutions first on the features and protection provided, and then on price. Check review sites for further feedback and after creating a shortlist, take advantage of free trials to discover how effective they are in your own environment and to determine how easy they are to use.