Hackers Have the Advantage When the Inbox Is Insecure


Thought Leadership

Hackers Have the Advantage When the Inbox Is Insecure

Zix Staff

Cybersecurity is a true cat-and-mouse game, and it seems that hackers currently have the advantage.
The problem is not that cybersecurity is impossible or ineffective. The reason hackers have been so consistently successful is that they have so many tools of attack. When cybercriminals encounter one defense, they simply pivot and look for another trick or scam to steal data or gain network entry. Because it's overwhelming to defend 100 directions at once, they often succeed.

The Myth of Perfect Security

Achieving a perfect level of security is impossible, period. In order to eliminate every threat, technology would have to be restricted to the point of uselessness. For data to be valuable, it must be accessible. And for that reason, it will always be vulnerable to hackers.
Then there is the added problem of human error. Today's hackers are extremely savvy about manipulation and coercion, which is why even well-trained and educated employees are susceptible to downloading bad attachments or visiting phony websites. Unless every user is rigorously monitored in real time, risky behaviors will continue and hackers will steal at will.
Complicating all this is that hackers are no longer driven by profit motive alone. State-sponsored groups with political agendas are increasingly behind today's hacks. These groups are extremely well-funded and motivated, making them especially hard to defend against. It adds a whole new category to a threat landscape that was already plenty crowded and complex.

Two Types of Attacks

Another challenge of cybersecurity is that defenses must be both expansive and specific. In organizations with 100 or 100,000 people, an expansive perimeter needs to be in place to keep out a barrage of threats and attacks. Failing to take baseline protections — such as using advanced threat protection, email encryption, or firewalls — invites huge amounts of risk.
Those protections will keep out many threats, but hackers are no longer just attacking organizations with brute force. They're also searching social media to get information about an individual, then sending a targeted attack. Sprinkled with personal details, the message sounds familiar and harmless yet contains a malicious link, a toxic attachment, or directions that will transfer thousands or millions of funds to a bad actor.
This puts companies in the difficult position of defending against all the threats they know about, plus all the ones they don't. They also have to worry about threats corrupting the network or even just entering an email inbox. Once they have bypassed the basic security perimeter, the worst damage is already done.

Elements of Effective Security

Cybersecurity is an urgent issue that, like all complex problems, requires a complex solution. That begins by focusing on the weakest link in any IT infrastructure: the email inbox. This is where the vast majority of attacks originate thanks to the direct connection it creates with network users. Focusing on neutralizing the inbox creates a hard layer of cybersecurity around any organization.
Email encryption is the foundation of that strategy, because it ensures that any stolen data is rendered worthless. But data extraction is not the only threat. Implementing an archive system and mobile security are further ways to minimize the risk of threats that are not currently known or understood.
Adding to that effort is email threat protection such as ZixProtect. The overarching goal is to filter out every bad email while seamlessly granting access to every legitimate email. With multiple filters working in concert, end users are exposed to far fewer dangerous emails in their inboxes. And when filtering is backed by sophisticated machine learning and real-time threat analysis, email security can detect emerging threats and evolve with changes in attack strategies.
Hackers have historically been one step ahead, but the tools now exist to close the gap. It'll never be perfect, but cleaning up the inbox means that social manipulation is a tactic that hackers no longer have in their arsenals. When there are fewer threats to focus on, cybersecurity becomes more focused overall.
To learn more about strengthening your email security, check out our webinar featuring cybersecurity expert David Kennedy titled “Hacks and Email Attacks.”