What are secure email gateways (SEGs)? What can it offer your enterprise, and how can it fortify your IT perimeter? How does it relate to more traditional endpoint security solutions?
We’ll dive into these questions in a moment, but the key takeaway is this—if your enterprise has email, you need a secure email gateway solution.
What are Secure Email Gateways?
According to technology research firm Gartner, secure email gateways “provide basic message transfer agent functions; inbound filtering of spam, phishing, malicious and marketing emails; and outbound data loss prevention (DLP) and email encryption.”
To put that in simpler language, a secure email gateway (also called an email security gateway) is a cybersecurity solution that monitors incoming and outgoing messages for suspicious behavior, preventing them from being delivered. Secure email gateways can be deployed via an email server, public cloud, on-premises software, or in a hybrid system. According to cybersecurity experts, none of these deployment options are inherently superior; each one has its own strengths and weaknesses that must be assessed by the individual enterprise.
Gartner defines the secure email gateway market as mature, with the key capabilities clearly defined by market demands and customer satisfaction. These capabilities include:
- Basic and Next-Gen Anti-Phishing and Anti-Spam
- Additional Security Features
- Customization of the Solution’s Management Features
- Low False Positive and False Negative Percentages
- External Processes and Storage
Secure Email Gateways in Depth
Secure email gateways are designed to surpass the traditional detection capabilities of legacy antivirus and anti-phishing solutions. To do so, they offer more sophisticated detection and prevention capabilities; secure email gateways can make use of threat intelligence to stay up-to-date with the latest threats.
Additionally, SEGs can sandbox suspicious emails, observing their behavior in a safe, enclosed environment that resembles the legitimate network. Security experts can then determine if it is a legitimate threat or a false positive.
Secure email gateway solutions will often offer data loss prevention and email encryption capabilities to protect outgoing communications from prying and unscrupulous eyes.
Much like SIEM or endpoint detection and response (EDR), secure email gateways can produce false positives and false negatives, although they do tend to be far less than rates found in SIEM and EDR alerts.
What Can Secure Email Gateways Offer Your Enterprise?
We here at Solutions Review have written time and time again about the dangers posed by social engineering attacks and phishing emails. Your employees are your largest and most porous attack vector, which is deeply concerning because in many ways they are your IT perimeter. After all, it is their behavior—what they choose to open, what they choose to click on, and the information they choose to share—that ultimately determines the security of your digital assets.
Secure email gateways are specifically designed to maintain your IT perimeter when your employees fail. These solutions can keep phishing attacks and spam from ever reaching your employee’s inboxes in the first place, reducing the chances they will fall prey to a social engineering attack. Furthermore, SEGs can detect when valuable, sensitive, or proprietary data—including credit card information, Social Security Numbers, and healthcare records—is being transmitted outside your network via data loss prevention. These emails are also stopped before they leave your network.
You can think of SEGs as an endpoint security solution for your people rather than your devices. Both work to prevent unwanted attackers in or damaging data movements out, each focusing on different vulnerabilities. Both focus on prevention as much as detection in their cybersecurity. Gartner says outright that enterprises can’t function without a secure email gateway solution in the modern digital marketplace. We agree with them.
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