A secure email gateway (SEG) can help protect email inboxes from cyberthreats by filtering both inbound and outbound email before they’re delivered to the specified recipients. Email security tools like SEGs use a combination of technologies and utilities, such as email archiving, to protect against email-borne threats. SEGs are also likely to include protection against the following threats, all of which can put a business at risk:
How does a secure email gateway work?
SEGs are essentially firewalls for email. They reroute inbound and outbound email via proxy through its own agent, which then conducts a scan of the email. The scan examines different aspects of the email to determine whether it constitutes a threat. When the SEG scans emails, it determines whether they’re malware, spam, or phishing.
The email gateway will then either block, quarantine, or pass emails onto the email platform’s built-in security scanner—all of this happens before the email is delivered to the intended recipient. SEG activity happens in the background, often protecting your business and customers from email-borne threats without you even knowing it. This is the standard process for on-premises email environments, for which the SEG uses message transfer agent (MTA) functionality to filter through emails for potential threats.
To secure cloud email, the SEG connects outside of the email provider’s cloud environment via a proxy that reroutes the email through the SEG. If the email gateway marks the email as safe, the message is sent to the email provider, where the email is again scanned by the email provider’s built-in security functionality.
SEG’s filtering technology uses dynamic threat intelligence feeds to determine which emails are malicious. These feeds may include flagged keywords, blacklisted URLs, or other suspicious elements that might help indicate whether an email could contain a security threat.
Key SEG features include:
- URL and attachment blocking
- Quarantine management to allow users to investigate messages that are blocked
- Spam reports
- The ability to release, allow list, and block list messages
- Log search
- Email continuity
- Archiving and backup
Why is having a secure email gateway important?
As this guide has already briefly mentioned, email is a popular attack vector among cybercriminals. This is, in part, because email is used by more than 3.8 billion people every single day—and its popularity is only growing. As more cybercriminals choose to launch email-borne attacks, with increasingly sophisticated methods, SEGs have been invaluable email security tools.
Multi-vector attacks that use evasion techniques, such as anti-forensics and encryption, have become more prevalent in recent years. This prevalence is rendering the old core capabilities of anti-spam and signature-based anti-malware insufficient to fight modern email-borne threats alone. As a result, around 35% of client organizations that have migrated to Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365) are supplementing its native email security features with a third-party product that combines threat intelligence with traditional filtering, anti-spam, and anti-malware capabilities.
The benefits of using a secure email gateway
One of the key benefits of using a SEG is that it helps preserve email continuity. Even if the primary server is down—for example, if it was accessed by a hacker—an email gateway will still allow users to send and receive emails via a convenient web-based console. As you can imagine, this is an extremely attractive selling point for modern businesses that are laser-focused on maintaining productivity at all times.
A SEG also allows you to fill gaps in email security. It’s a common misconception that when you install email threat protection software like antivirus, your email security is foolproof. Sadly, cybercriminals have become very good at creating programs designed specifically to bypass software like antivirus. This is where a SEG comes in handy, because it’s able to prevent cyberattacks that could bypass the server. In other words, they provide an additional layer of protection.
Another benefit of using a SEG is they’re cost-efficient and require minimal maintenance. SEGs largely operate in the background, helping protect you on a continuous basis without the need for much manual intervention. There are even free email gateway services available, although these may not be especially suited to the needs of enterprises or MSPs.
Choosing the right email threat protection software
Choosing email threat protection software can be a long-winded and frustrating process, leaving many wading through feature lists and feeling overwhelmed by the sheer number of options available. To help guide you through your journey, we’ve done the research for you and have provided some key reasons why SolarWinds® Mail Assure is a great choice for your MSP.
Mail Assure uses SEGs to help maximize customer productivity and uptime. It uses an advanced threat detection AI engine to help prevent malicious emails, whether incoming or outgoing, and provides top-of-the-line security features with customizable options specifically designed for MSPs.
To help provide secure email protection for businesses, Mail Assure processes email data from over two million domains to help safeguard against even emerging threats. This threat protection software delivers a 99.999% filtering accuracy. It also features real-time pattern threat recognition, leveraging a variety of filtering technologies, and includes anti-phishing and impersonation protection. This is a versatile tool that offers support for SPF, DKIM, and DMARC, which are best used in combination.
Another advantage of using Mail Assure as a SEG service is it offers seamless integration with Microsoft 365, via an add-in or a sync functionality. Mail Assure also provides 24/7 email continuity by default through a web-based console. This means even if the primary server goes offline, employees can continue sending, reading, and receiving email as if nothing has happened. These email continuity features also apply to Microsoft 365, which goes a long way in keeping customers happy and productive.
Additionally, encrypted email archiving is one of the most valuable email solutions available. If you’ve ever needed to retrieve an important months-old email and been unable to find it, then you’ll understand the importance of effective and long-term archiving. With Mail Assure, you can store email for as long as necessary, helping to reduce customer data loss. This robust encrypted email archiving feature with an unlimited retention period is especially useful if you need to restore a deleted message.
Other SEG features provided by Mail Assure include URL and attachment blocking, quarantine management to allow users to investigate messages that are blocked, and log search. This highly flexible and customizable tool also provides comprehensive spam reports, which give you insights that can inform decisions to release messages and add senders to block or allow lists. You can help your customers tailor filtering rules and settings to their preferences, and you can even customize the multi-tenant web interface with your colors and logo to keep your brand at the forefront. You can take all these actions quickly and easily from within the console.
SolarWinds Mail Assure provides a SEG solution capable of meeting your email threat protection needs. To learn more, access a 30-day free trial here.