Sending an email has become second nature to most people. Think about it: if you tried to calculate the exact number of emails you’ve sent in the past week, month, or year, it would take you a while. So it’s no surprise that across all industries and businesses, an estimated 333.2 billion emails will either be sent and received in 2022 alone.
As email remains a popular form of communication, it also has the potential to increase the risk of security breaches, lawsuits, fines, and lost trust. And while casual language, unsecured networks, email platforms, and risky file transfers are part of everyday life for most consumers, email security awareness is vital for businesses that want to operate in a responsible and respectful way.
Email recipients have the power to forward, copy, or screenshot a message, so you’re never really sure where your emails end up once you click send. And since this form of communication is such a crucial part of business and personal life, it’s crucial to not overlook email privacy and security risks to avoid potential email disasters down the line.
What is email privacy?
Simply put, email privacy is the practice of keeping emails secured from unauthorized access. Privacy relates to the gathering, sharing, storing, or sending information—whether the email is in transit to the recipient, stored on a computer server, or on a user’s cell phone. As a result, sending an email involves many hardware and software systems susceptible to unauthorized attacks.
Here are 4 ways unauthorized people can gain access to private emails:
- On your device: Whether you walk away from your computer or cell phone or read an email while on a crowded train, anyone nearby can open your email to read it.
- On a network: When you use unsecured networks, you run the risk of having your device hacked into, leading to an infiltration of your company’s network.
- On a server: With hackers getting smarter, they can get into your email server whether it’s in house or through a cloud-based email service provider. If this happens, they’ll likely gain access to a lot of personal and business information.
- On the receiver’s end: Anyone you send an email to has the same device, network, and server vulnerabilities you do.
What is email security?
Email security ensures hackers and other cybercriminals don’t use email to exploit your personal information or company for criminal gain. This security refers to steps an organization takes to protect sensitive information from unauthorized access. For instance, companies can enhance email security by establishing policies and protocols or using email security tools to protect against malicious threats, like malware, spam, and phishing attacks.
The importance of email security awareness
A prime target for cyberattacks, email is an easy entry point to other accounts and devices. In fact, 91% of cyberattacks infiltrate an organization through email.
It only takes one misguided click on an unfamiliar link in an innocent-looking email to cause a security crisis for an entire organization with the potential to cost millions of dollars. So in addition to integrating an email security solution like Twilio SendGrid, it’s crucial for companies to educate employees on the importance of email security awareness to create a line of defense against cyberattacks.
Typically, privacy policies let customers know what data your business collects, how you collect that data (e.g., through a form or cookies on your website), and what you intend to do with their information. These also outline how you store information and how long their data will stay in your possession. You may also outline security measures you take to ensure the safekeeping of customer information.
- What personal data you collect (e.g., email addresses, first and last names, and so forth)
- How you might use this personal data (e.g., to send promotional emails)
- How you might share this information with any third parties (e.g., Google Analytics)
- How users can opt out of promotional emails (e.g., clicking an unsubscribe link)
- How users can contact the sender of the promotional emails (e.g., through a valid email address)
- How (and if) you track email analytics
Email privacy and security best practices
As with all digital communication, email will always have risks. But there are precautions your business can take to keep information safe and improve your email privacy and security:
1. Treat email as a formal communication method
As mentioned earlier, people are becoming more reliant on less formal language when communicating with colleagues. Since email is a widely available tool, with BCC and the ability to forward emails, you’re never entirely sure who views your email.
So when emailing at work, a best practice is to always think before you send. Be thoughtful about what you send, use proper English and impeccable grammar, and don’t write something you wouldn’t want your CEO to see. And remember, regarding email security awareness, email is really never private.
2. Don’t use personal email platforms for business
When creating an email for your business, it’s critical to use your domain name (e.g., email@example.com). This protects your credibility, adds validity, and positions your business as authorities in your industry.
This means everyone in your company, from interns to the CEO, should use their company email when communicating about business matters with other employees, customers, clients, or vendors. And you should only use business emails for business purposes to protect the company’s email privacy and security.
3. Enable two-factor authentication
Two-factor authentication adds an extra layer of security to your account login by requiring 2 types of identity verification. Beyond email, you’ll also see authentication used with social media accounts, bank accounts, and much more since it makes a hacker’s job much harder: they’ll need access to your phone to continue their cyberattack. This feature is vital for email security awareness and only takes a few minutes to enable.
Simply put, email has fundamentally changed how we communicate. That’s why it’s critical for businesses to know exactly what it shares (and with whom), as well as practice strong email security awareness to keep information secure and private.
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