Secure E-mail Gateway - Appliance
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 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, secure email gateways 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.
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How Does a Secure Email Gateway Work?
A secure email gateway offers a robust framework of technologies that protect against email-borne threats. It is effectively a firewall for your email, and scans both outbound and inbound email for any malicious content. At a minimum, most secure gateways offer a minimum of four security features: virus and malware blocking, spam filtering, content filtering and email archiving. Let's take a look at these features in more detail:
Virus and Malware Blocking
Emails infected with viruses or malware can make up approximately 1% of all email received by an organization. For a secure email gateway to effectively prevent these emails from reaching their intended recipients and delivering their payload, it must scan each email and be constantly kept up-to-date with the latest threat patterns and characteristics.
Believe it or not, spam filtering is where the majority of a secure email gateway's processing power is focused. Spam is blocked in a number of different ways. Basic spam filtering usually involves a prefiltering technology that blocks or quarantines any emails received from known spammers. Spam filtering can also detect patterns commonly found in spam emails, such as preferred keywords used by spammers and the inclusion of links that could take the email recipient to a malicious site if clicked. Many email clients also allow users to flag spam messages that arrive in their mailbox and to block senders.
Content filtering is typically applied to an outbound email sent by users within the company. For example, you can configure your secure email gateway to prevent specific sensitive documents from being sent to an external recipient, or put a block on image files or specific keywords within them being sent through the email system.
Email services, whether they are in the cloud or on-premise, need to be managed efficiently. Storage has been a problem for email administrators for many years, and while you may have almost infinite cloud storage available, email archiving can help to manage both user mailboxes and the efficiency of your systems. Compliance is also a major concern for many companies and email archiving is a must if you need to keep emails for a specific period of time.