Oftentimes, spam email seems like nothing more than a minor inconvenience, or at least it does if you have a reliable spam filter in place. However, with more than half of emails being classified as spam, the effect it has on communities and businesses all over the world has become extremely costly. Not only is spam a common annoyance and a drain on productivity in the workplace - it's also the number-one delivery channel for malicious software and phishing scams.
There was a time when most spam was obvious, even if it didn't get picked up by the spam filters. Most reasonably tech-savvy users could easily identify spam and would delete it right away. Unfortunately, while a lot of spam remains blatantly obvious, spammers are also constantly upping their game to get around the filters. Spam has now become an extremely aggressive threat characterized by increasingly sophisticated and diverse attacks and rapidly evolving methods.
Proactively Protecting Your Business against Cybersecurity Breaches
For consumers, the spam filters that come with all the mainstream email services are usually just fine, but then individuals typically need to deal with only a fraction of the amount of emails that businesses do. There's also the fact the small- and medium-sized businesses are among the favorite targets for cybercriminals. After all, from a spammer's perspective, they're less likely to have the security resources of a large enterprise but at the same time present richer pickings than the average consumer.
Choosing a business spam filter service is an essential element of any cybersecurity strategy, not least because it provides a way to proactively block threats before they end up penetrating your network. A decent spam filter should do more than just move emails into a spam folder - it should also provide features that specifically identify things like phishing scams and other potential security threats and send you automated alerts whenever any suspicious activity occurs.
Easily the biggest cybersecurity threats to arrive by email are social engineering scams. Popularly known as phishing scams, the overwhelming majority of them are sent by email and, while some of them are blindingly obvious, an increasing number are much more effective. Phishing scams are using increasingly effective methods to dupe their victims into downloading malicious software or even giving away payment or login information without relying on any malware at all.
The most dangerous phishing scams by far are those that are targeted. These are known as spear phishing scams, and they target specific individuals in a company, such as executives, directors and employees in sales and human resources. Again, these scammers typically initially contact you through email. They know the victim's name and perhaps even more, so they can make the email appear personalized to the individual and, therefore, more trustworthy.
The best email filtering services do far more than just identify common words and phrases found in spam emails. They also identify potentially suspicious addresses and domain names and more, thus weeding out even some of the cleverest scams. While there's no substitute for training your team, and recognizing that everyone is a potential target, a reliable spam filter should be able to catch out even advanced spear phishing scams.
Enhancing Productivity and Optimizing Workflows
The average employee receives dozens of unsolicited emails every day, including many which are very much on the fine line between spam and things like legitimate newsletters. Although it doesn't usually take more than a few seconds to delete more obvious spam messages, it is still a drain on productivity. Many times, people do open offending emails which, of course, translates into more lost time than simply moving it straight to the trash folder.
The real threat from spam with regards to productivity is indirect. The very fact that spam is often dangerous can lead to cybersecurity breaches and unscheduled downtimes that are sometimes severe enough that they can cripple your entire operation and leave your employees with nothing to do until the problem has been resolved. Given that businesses are now more reliant on their technology than ever before, extended periods of downtime are likely not something you can afford.
Safeguarding Your Reputation with Outbound Mail Scanning
Almost every successful company has an email marketing strategy in place and, if you don't, it's certainly time to join in and start taking advantage of one of the biggest returns on investment in the world of advertising. However, given the ubiquity of spam, email marketing has at the same time built up a rather unfortunate reputation. That's why you also need to think not just about the emails you're receiving, but also about the ones you're sending out to potential and existing customers.
Every email marketing strategy should be approached with a long-term view that involves working consistently to build a high-quality mailing list of opt-in subscribers, but every bit as important is ensuring that your newsletter content is compelling and relevant enough to avoid the spam filters. That's why every business with an email marketing strategy of its own should consider implementing an outbound mail scanning filter as well to ensure you're meeting deliverability and quality targets.
Outbound mail scanning can help enormously to improve newsletter deliverability, particularly if it takes a zealous approach towards flagging potentially unwanted emails. After all, even some consumer spam filters can flag an email for something as innocuous as a misspelled title or excessive, but legitimate, use of a specific key word or phrase. There's also the possibility of malware ending up in one of your own emails due to them being sent from an infected machine.
You owe it to the future of your business to make sure that your email marketing strategy doesn't suddenly backfire and end up tarnishing your reputation. After all, if your company's own emails end up getting flagged, you could even end up on a global blacklist, which would severely harm the flow of communication between your business and your target audience. That's why outbound scanning is essential for safeguarding your reputation and maintaining your credibility.
The Case for Migrating to a Hosted Spam Filtering Service
Businesses have several options available to them when it comes to choosing an email spam filtering service. The three main choices are filters that are hardware-, software- or cloud-based. Given advances in technology, there's rarely a case for using a hardware spam filter, which is a computer that's dedicated towards fighting spam. Software-based spam filters are much more common, since they're more versatile and operate as a gateway between your network and your email server.
Nowadays, most businesses are making the move to the cloud for a multitude of different services, and this is especially the case in cybersecurity. Cloud-based spam filters are usually the best choice for smaller businesses, since they effectively allow you to outsource your email filtering to a third-party service provider and just forget about it. With a hosted solution, there's no need to install any software or go through any complicated configuration settings yourself.
Hosted spam filters allow companies with limited financial and human resources to take advantage of the latest cybersecurity solutions. In addition to flexible pricing and automatic updates, cloud-based solutions provide a first line of defense by stopping spam before it even reaches your network. Instead, incoming email is routed through the vendor's datacenter and vetted there for potential threats like phishing attacks and malicious software. In other words, the vendor does the dirty work for you.
Yet another advantage of adopting a cloud-based approach is reduced consumption of bandwidth. Many businesses receive hundreds or even thousands of spam emails every day, and if they're ending up on your mail servers, they waste both bandwidth and storage space. With a hosted spam filtering service, your employees will rarely ever see a spam email, the result of which is increased productivity and improved cybersecurity all round.
Key Considerations when Choosing an Email Spam Filter Service
While standard email platforms provide a high degree of protection from spam emails, they rarely offer the degree of functionality that a typical growing business requires. After all, at least two percent of all unwanted emails do still avoid detection, according to Microsoft, and it only takes one employee to click one malicious link or download in one email to cause havoc across your entire organization. Due to the potential threats, you'll need to choose a service provider with utmost care.
Organizations should consider how spam email is treated, whether it's automatically quarantined, deleted or tagged. Outright deletion, for example, is rarely ideal, since there's always the chance of false positives occurring. Other features to look out for include reporting, automatic alerts, outbound mail scanning, phishing and malware detection and mail continuity. Finally, every business spam filter should offer a high degree of scalability and customization.
The best way to protect your business against the rising multitude of cybersecurity attacks is to take a proactive approach. In other words, it's important to outsource an additional layer of security to help ensure that threats don't ever manage to reach your network in the first place. That's why a hosted spam filtering service offers an unprecedented degree of flexibility and, above all, excellent security.