Why a Layered Approach to Email Security is Best Practice for Organizations of All Sizes

layered approach to email security

Email is a hotspot for malicious actors. Because most corporations use email, threat actors often see it as an easy target. There are many email security solutions available on the market today. So, how do you know the best way to keep your business safe?

SEGs vs. API vs. Layered Defense:

Which One Should You Choose?

In the early days of email security, organizations relied on Secure Email Gateways (SEGs) to safeguard their email communications from malicious threats. However, as cloud-based services became more popular, there was a shift towards API integration with Cloud email platforms. While this integration was a step in the right direction, today the security community recognizes the value of a more comprehensive approach – Integrated Cloud Email Security (ICES). ICES combines the benefits of a dedicated email security gateway with powerful integration into Cloud email services, often while utilizing AI-based protection services. This layered approach has proven effective in today’s challenging security environment.

With ICES, it’s important to distinguish between platforms that genuinely offer this integrated approach and those that merely claim to do so. One notable player in the ICES arena is Libraesva, which provides a robust layered defense strategy. While some platforms market themselves as “cloud-native” or use the ICES label, they may fall short by offering only API integration, which comes with drawbacks.

Let’s look at these technologies and how they can work together to offer robust email protection.

SEGs: the OGs of Email Security

Secure email gateways are the guardians of your email system. Their job is to stop harmful emails from reaching your inbox or leaving your email network. They do this by analyzing each email and checking known email issues, scrutinizing attachments, and scanning web links. With the help of rules set by your email administrator, the SEG identifies and removes dangerous content from your emails before they even reach your company’s email servers or your inbox. Suspicious email content can then be quarantined, deleted, or marked as unsafe.

SEGs are usually based in the cloud, but you can also set them up in your data center or take a hybrid approach. To make this approach work, email admins must change settings in your email system to ensure all emails pass the SEG’s safety checks before they land in your inbox. This extra step adds an essential layer of protection against harmful emails.

Key features of SEGs often include:

  • Protection against harmful email content across all email platforms
  • URL filtering
  • Adjustable admin policies and controls for email filtering
  • Integrated email security tools, such as DMARC, encryption, and archiving
  • Attachment sandboxing

Features and benefits of secure email gateways:

  • Predictive Threat Deterrence

    As primary defenders, SEGs proactively deter recognized or newfangled e-mail menaces by scanning all incoming and outgoing mail. This protects your business from malware attacks, phishing attempts, spam, and more.

  • Anti-Spoofing Measures

    To counteract spoofing, SEGs use DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail), SPF (Sender Policy Framework, and DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication Reporting Conformance) to protect businesses like yours.

  • Dynamic URL Protection

    Apart from static URL analysis, SEGs may offer dynamic link protection that verifies each hyperlink at the user interaction point. This protects against encryption and other common evasion methods.

  • Gateway Sandbox Attachment Scanning

    Another pivotal feature is gateway sandbox attachment scanning, which identifies and neutralizes harmful payloads or active content within email attachments. This prevents malicious files from being opened by end users.

  • Uninterrupted Email Service

    SEGs can ensure seamless communication even during downtime of your primary email platform, ensuring continuity.

API/Cloud Integration: A Different In-App Option

While SEGs remain the trusted email security option, API deployments (a.k.a. Cloud-native email security) are also common.

What are API deployments for email security? Basically, it’s when an organization uses Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) to integrate email security solutions with popular platforms like Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace. Instead of routing emails through gateways (SEGs), API deployments are accessed within the email environment.

This approach provides real-time protection that can quickly adapt to emerging threats. It also reduces the complexity of email security management. Admins don’t need to change DNS settings or deploy additional hardware. With cloud-based API solutions, you can centrally manage and enforce security policies across your organization, giving you the ability to have more control over your solution.

However, an API-based approach to email security also has downsides. One significant drawback is the post-delivery nature of detection, which allows the email payload to be accessed by the end user before any security measures can be applied. This delay in detection can be problematic, as it leaves a window of opportunity for attackers to exploit vulnerabilities. API-based solutions also require a greater dependence on configuration to ensure they are effective. While this leads to more control for admins, it also makes them more vulnerable to configuration errors, mismanagement, or human oversights.

Additionally, by exposing MX records to attackers, API-based email security can inadvertently disclose valuable information about an organization’s email infrastructure. Malicious actors can use this exposure to launch targeted attacks or gain insights into an organization’s email systems. Companies must weigh these downsides carefully and implement supplementary security measures to mitigate risks.

Where Do ICES Solutions Fit in?

Integrated Cloud Email Security (ICES) Solutions operate seamlessly in the cloud and represent the best of both SEG and API-based email security. They convey the benefits of an SEG with the ability to directly connect with cloud-based email platforms like Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace using APIs, leading to faster implementation.

ICES solutions use machine learning to inspect internal email traffic for signs of a compromised account sending out malicious emails, known as indicators-of-compromise (IOCs). Suspicious emails can be automatically detected and removed from all users’ inboxes, even after they’ve been delivered.

What Do the Experts Say?

Independent security experts like Expert Insights strongly recommend organizations consider implementing a multi-layered approach like ICES that combines a secure gateway with a cloud-native inbox-based email security solution. This layered strategy helps provide comprehensive protection across various email threats.

Libraesva’s Award-Winning Email Security Solutions

With Libraesva ESG, companies get a comprehensive email security solution with multiple layers of protection. It provides all the power of an ICES with the unique addition of our Adaptive Trust Engine. Powered by Artificial Intelligence, this engine offers proactive threat blocking to ensure that only legitimate messages reach your Microsoft 365, Exchange, or Google Workspace inbox. This protection spans across the gateway and API levels, effectively blocking email threats such as email fraud, Business Email Compromise (BEC), and phishing attacks well before they can ever reach their intended recipients.

Libraesva ESG also supports inline deployment with Microsoft 365, meaning there’s no need to change the MX record on your DNS because all the configuration is performed through transport rules. Using the Inline mode, Libraesva ESG acts as an intermediary between the email transport system and the cloud-based mail storage, ensuring that emails are comprehensively (but quickly) evaluated before they land in a user’s inbox. In this setup, all reputation verifications are carried out by Microsoft 365’s transport services directly.

 Here are some additional benefits of using Libraesva ESG:

  • Spoofing protection using SPF, DKIM, and DMARC
  • Active URL protection for real-time threat detection
  • Gateway sandbox attachment scanning to remove dangerous payloads
  • Advanced email encryption with end-to-end AES 256 for securing sensitive data
  • Email continuity to maintain communication during email platform downtime

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