Emails: They Look Harmless, But They Could Be Infecting Your System As You Read This

After the mobile phone, email has become the most important invention by mankind. Today, over 205 billion emails are sent in a day, bringing the count to 2.4 million emails sent per second across the world.

But emails aren’t safe formats of communication. They are often carriers of deadly viruses which can compromise the performance of your computer and the safety of your data.

The devil in disguise

According to research, over ten different types of threats can affect a computer each time an email is opened. These could be in the form of malicious attachments, suspicious website links and uncommon schemes/enticements.

The Anna Kournikova worm comes to mind here. It made its appearance in an email to a company based in Europe with the subject line “Here you are…” and an attachment entitled “AnnaKournikova.jpg.vbs.” Once downloaded, the bug quickly infected the user’s computer and clogged-up the email system, which seriously impacted productivity. It also sent itself to other computers, clogging email systems along the way, across the Atlantic to the US. Although the Anna Kournikova worm didn’t harm systems drastically, there are email-borne viruses that can cause massive damages to organisations.

One such famous virus is the Love Bug worm. First sent through an email to a company in the Philippines with the subject line “ILOVEYOU,” it had an attachment called “LOVE-LETTER-FOR-YOU.txt.vbs.” Upon download, the worm set about destroying the system inside-out, overwriting files, destroying graphics and sending copies of itself across thousands of email IDs. Within a few months’ time, the virus had cost damages worth US$5.5–8.7 billion worldwide, and it took another $15 billion to remove the worm from the 50 million systems it had infected globally.

How do email-borne cybersecurity threats affect organisations?

Emails are prone to cybersecurity threats compared to other forms of technology because of the lack of proper screening filters. Hackers have found sophisticated ways to bypass traditional email protection systems which follow the reputation-based and signature-based security protocols. Some hackers have also designed malware which escapes detection by even the latest in anti-virus technology.

Additionally, with the increase in the number of spear phishing incidents where viruses and malware enter the system through emails from trusted sources, it can be extremely difficult to detect which mail is genuinely safe and which isn’t. Add to this the sad truth that most anti-virus programs are designed to prevent attacks from only known malware, and organisations find themselves vulnerable to new viruses and malware each day.

Protecting organisational cyber assets from malware attacks

Luckily, we can reduce this vulnerability to email-borne malware attacks by taking the following precautions:

• Install top-quality email filters
Good email filters can put in place strict security measures which can deflect and send-away emails with malware. Some email filters can even alarm the system to protect itself against attack. Use good email filters to keep the systems safe.

• Regularly change email passwords
Always use multiple passwords for email accounts, as this protects them from the hands of hackers. These passwords should also be changed once every 2-3 months for added security.

• Set in place stringent managerial controls
From training on cyber safety to the setting-up of information security policies, top management should work towards ensuring that every cadre of employees is aware of healthy email cybersecurity practices.

• Never open any suspicious looking emails
If an email looks weird or too good to be true, it could mean that there is something wrong with it. It’s okay to not answer an email or look at an attachment once. Ignoring suspicious emails could save the organisation from millions of dollars’ worth of losses.

• Secure the hardware and software components of the mail system
Trustworthy data authentication software, secure mail server applications, strong mailbox authentication and access systems and a safe PKI technology are all a must when it comes to enforcing the safety of email systems. At totality services, we offer IT Support‎ London. Contact us for more information.

totality services was founded in 2008 to provide London’s small & medium businesses with end-to-end IT services, right from purchasing and installing hardware to providing Mac & Windows support, cloud solutions, and data backup. We support our clients using proven, high-quality systems and IT security practices that blue-chip companies take for granted.

We consistently achieve excellent client satisfaction thanks to a process-driven approach, concise documentation and our team of friendly and highly trained London based engineers.

totality Tim
IT Support London