Email marketing campaigns have become one of the most successful ways for companies to grow business, with a return on investment that surpasses almost any other form of advertising.
Unfortunately, cybercriminals have caught up. Email is by far their favored gateway to people's computers, private data, and bank accounts, with 75 percent of all malware originating from this source.
Ways your email marketing campaign can be attacked
So what are the threats to you and your customers when you conduct a marketing campaign?
This scam happens when cybercriminals send false marketing emails that copy those of a legitimate company. Their purpose is usually to get the victim to click on links that will lead to malware installation on their computer.
There are two ways they do this. The first is by domain impersonation, where they have an address that looks almost like the real thing, e.g. micr0soft.com. The other way is by email spoofing. This requires more expert knowledge of IT – the email address in the header is exactly the same as the genuine one.
Sometimes the malware they install will steal the victim’s data, such as passwords and financial details. Alternatively, a victim may get a virus on their computer accompanied by a number to call to have it removed for a fee.
A phishing email induces you to share your private data believing that you are dealing with a trusted party. This process can take many forms, but the victim is always deceived into sharing their banking details or the data that allows criminals access to it.
For instance, it might claim to be from a major e-commerce company informing you that your account has just been debited for a product you never ordered. There will then be a procedure to follow for a refund, requiring you to give your financial details.
Ways to ensure the safety of your email campaigns
Let’s look at the ways you can keep your marketing campaign safe from cyber-attacks.
Use a virtual private network
The best defense against the interception and/or infection of your mail is a virtual private network (VPN). This encrypts all your data to make it unreadable to everyone except the sender and recipient.
The protection provided by VPNs:
- Your email can't be read or manipulated while in transit, due to end-to-end encryption. Only the sender and receiver have the keys to unlock the contents.
- Your messages can’t be spoofed, as hackers have no way of manipulating their contents. Cybercriminals can’t impersonate you.
- It restricts your email domain to the IP addresses you use. If an IP address that you don’t use tries to send emails using your domain, they will be blocked.
With all these features, most of your defenses against cyber-attacks are in place. Many organizations offer free trials of their VPN so you can determine if that particular solution is right for you and your needs.
Educate your customers
Another of the primary defenses against cybercrime is to warn your customers against the dangers of email fraud. You can send them an informative email saying warning them about cyber threats. Here are the simple precautions you can advise them to take:
- Ask your customers to check the address of any mail they receive against the legitimate company address.
- Caution them to watch out for ill-written, unprofessional messages. They’ll often have poor spelling, grammar, or graphics.
- Warn them to beware of suspicious links - if in doubt, don't click.
- Advice your clients to watch out for messages that carry alarming news and/or urge them to take immediate action. Shocking the recipient into hasty and ill-considered action is one of the favorite tricks of cybercriminals.
You should also immediately warn your customers of any cyber-threats against you, and ask them to notify you of any fraudulent emails sent to them in your name.
This will show them that you care about their security.
Maintain internal security
As cybersecurity becomes ever more sophisticated, the weakest link for cyber-attackers to exploit is often the human operators within a company. Your staff has access to the data and codes necessary to breach its defenses. In one survey, 44 percent of employees admitted to having accidentally exposed sensitive security data. Oops.
Companies need to be vigilant for employees who, either through malice or carelessness, reveal passwords or codes to third parties. Access to sensitive data should be given only to those who need it and knows how to operate and protect this data.
To guard against internal security leaks you need to:
- Implement a transparent method of tracking access to codes and passwords.
- Educate personnel in the secure storage of passwords and teach them what to do when they have accidentally revealed or shared them.
- Make staff aware of the various phishing procedures they may encounter to trick them into revealing personal information.
Taking these measures will minimize the risk of security leaks inside your company.
Ensure genuine mail is not blocked
While email security is your greatest ally, don't become its victim by sending emails that may be flagged as suspicious and never reach their target.
- Be careful of where you source your recipients' addresses. If they’re purchased from a third party, there's a good chance ISPs and blacklisting software will block them.
- If you must buy mailing lists, ensure they're updated to stay ahead of blacklisting.
- Don't send emails to recipients without their permission. ISPs may also block these, as well as emails without an unsubscribe function.
Taking these precautions will ensure that all of your emails will reach their target.
Email security must constantly evolve to keep up with advances in cybercrime. Last year's protection will not suffice today. You have to keep working on your cyber defense.
Here are the key ways to ensure your email marketing campaigns are secure:
- Invest in a reliable VPN to encrypt all your data and prevent it from being hacked.
- Keep your staff up to date on how to maintain internal security in your company.
- Educate your customers in recognizing the dangers and being vigilant against cyber-attacks.
- Make sure only those who know how to protect sensitive data have access to it.
Don’t let your marketing campaign suffer from a security breach that will waste all your efforts. Constant vigilance is the key to commercial success unmarred by cyber threats.