Area 1 Security review and alternatives

Area 1 Security is a comprehensive defense service for email systems. It can detect a range of scams as well as damaging content and attachment. This SaaS platform can protect your enterprise from catastrophic hacker attacks and confidence tricksters by combining defense strategies.

There are many threats to businesses in the digital age. Though you might worry about sophisticated ransomware attacks, straight out lying in emails is far more effective as a method for extracting money from businesses. The FBI calls email scams “business email compromise” (BEC), and the Bureau estimated that this is the most profitable cyber threat in the world today, with a total haul of $1.8 billion in 2020.

Email scams can trick your employees into disclosing system credentials, downloading malware, and performing damaging actions, thinking that they are following the orders of a superior. Unfortunately, spotting what an actual business email is and a scam is difficult for human eyes, and it is a complicated issue for automated systems. This is why it takes a very sophisticated and specialized tool to block spam emails.

About Area 1 Security

Area 1 Security, Inc started in business in 2013. Its three founders are still running the company as Board Chairman, CTO, and CSO. The firm serves clients all over the world from its headquarters in Redwood City, California. The company is venture financed and is still private. The business has won many awards, including Google Partner of the Year for Security in 2019.

The Area 1 email protection system is called Horizon. It operates on a Cloud platform as a proxy, pre-filtering emails before they reach the email clients operating on the devices of the system’s customers.

The service configuration off-site means there is no danger of malware getting onto the target’s servers or endpoints. Additionally, keeping phishing attacks from arriving at their destinations removes the threat of any employee falling for their scams.

As well as filtering emails, the service can root out scams that are attempted via social media and chat apps.

How does Area 1 Security work?

The Area 1 Horizon system is a Cloud service. You get your email traffic to travel through that server before getting to your servers. Unfortunately, the system will also receive all messages coming in through Web systems. This diversion is achieved by altering the DNS records that point to your email server.

The Area 1 system scans all incoming messages.

There are two layers of checks that Area 1 performs. One is on the structure of the email and particularly its source address. The service registers all of the sources of phishing email and so will block any message from one of those addresses. Blocking just means that the Area 1 service doesn’t forward the message to the real email server of the destination.

Another trick that email scammers often use is to buy a Web domain that sounds similar to an honest company’s system. The scanner in Area 1 will spot and block those attempts as well. Area 1 has a long list of scammer tricks that it knows about, searching for evidence of those.

The second check involves scanning the content of the email. This looks for well-known text. Scam emails are usually formulated and follow the same sequence of tricks. Combinations of factors can also indicate a scam. For example, emails on a US corporate domain arriving from Thailand are suspicious.

Sometimes hackers get into the network and issue phishing emails from within the system. Area 1 combats that strategy by interacting with boundary-facing security systems, such as your firewall. The system can also communicate with SIEM, IDS, and DLP systems operating within your network.


The Area 1 phishing detection system, is called the Small Pattern Analytics Engine, also known as SPARSE. This uses the AI strategy of machine learning. The company maintains a database of known scammer’s email source addresses and fake origin email addresses. It also lists attack records, listing the strategies and infrastructure that each used.

The SPARSE system can search through this extensive list that occupies more than 5 petabytes. In addition, the records contain metadata on more than 250 billion previous emails.

There are specific strategies that work, and they all have a few elements in common. The machine learning processes in SPARSE work from this kernel of commonality and detect variations; this categorization and divergence recognition acts as an index to the masses of data in the central database. It also provides an ability to spot new attack campaigns by identifying the familiar elements in those emails.

Area 1 Sightline

Area 1 summarizes its constantly updated analysis of phishing email activity and shares that with other systems. The more that businesses are aware of attacks, the less successful they will become. Sightline is like a newswire service, and it explains some of the strange events in the world so that the general public can be informed when they are being manipulated.

Area 1 Security Consultancy

As well as offering its automated email protection system, Area 1 provides a consultancy service. This takes the form of a live discussion with an Area 1 technical specialist via Zoom. This service is charged for in 20-minute segments.

Area 1 Security plans

There are three plan levels for Area 1 Horizon. These are:

  • Horizon Advantage
  • Horizon Enterprise
  • Horizon Phishguard

These packages include different protection strategies.

Horizon Advantage

The Horizon Advantage plan is the base package of Area 1 Security, and it includes all of the email protection services of the platform. These are anti-phishing, anti-spam, anti-BEC, and sender authentication. The Web phishing blocking service, which includes alterations to DNS records, is also included in this package. This plan stores metrics relating to attacks on the account holder for 90 days.

Horizon Enterprise 

The Horizon Enterprise plan includes all of the services in the Horizon Enterprise plan but retains metrics for one year. This system also includes network phishing protection that operates through integration with network edge services. This plan also gives you an option to connect your corporate IDS through to data feeds from the Area 1 system. The plan allows for customization and includes consultations with Area 1 experts, who can conduct targeted investigations.

Horizon Phishguard

The Horizon Phishguard plan is a managed service. Area 1 Security technicians watch over your email protection system, which is operated with all of the features offered in the Horizon Enterprise plan.

Area 1 Security prices

The pricing structure of Area 1 bucks the trend for Cloud systems. Most SaaS systems work through a subscription, which requires a flat-rate fee per device or per user. Area 1 Horizon is charged for on a pay-per-phish basis. These charges for each successfully blocked phishing event.

For those who worry that the metered system will end up running up a large bill, Area 1 offers a capped service. You set the maximum you are prepared to pay during a year, and the charge per action won’t run over that.

The pay-per-phish strategy makes the Area 1 Security system scalable and accessible to businesses of all sizes.

Area 1 Security doesn’t publish its price list. Instead, it offers discounts for non-profits and political organizations.

Area 1 Security free trial

You can try the Horizon system from Area 1 Security on a 15-day free trial.

Area 1 Security strengths and weaknesses

Area 1 Security’s Horizon system has won awards for its ability to block far more malicious emails than other email protection systems. In addition, the system is easy to install and is affordable to all sizes of businesses.


  • Scalable pricing with a metered rate
  • Three plans, all of which include email filtering
  • A cloud service with no need to install on-premises software
  • An option for a managed service
  • AI-processes that detect new email scams


  • Requires all emails to be diverted through the Area 1 Security servers

Alternatives to Area 1 Security

Area 1 Security is very comprehensive. It blocks spam, phishing attempts, impersonation, and malware delivery by email. However, this is not the only email security system available on the market. Therefore, no matter what method you are looking for, it is always good to trial a few alternatives before committing to a specific service.

We have searched through the current market for email protection systems and found several services that you should consider.

Here is our list of the six best alternatives to Area 1 Security Horizon.

  1. N-able Mail Assure This package aims at MSPs who can add email protection as a service to their clients. The system operates as a proxy server that channels all incoming and outgoing emails. It scans all incoming emails for spam, malware, and phishing attempts. The system uses AI methods to identify zero-day attacks, operating as an anti-malware system. The outbound checks offer an opportunity to enhance your on-site data loss prevention strategies. You can get a 30-day free trial of N-able Mail Assure.
  2. Trend Micro Email Security This edge service scans all incoming emails and looks for malicious content. It will isolate attachments suspected of containing malware, and it verifies links in emails as uninfected before allowing them to become active. The cloud-based service also acts as a continuity service. If your leading email service goes out of action, users on your network can still send and receive corporate emails by accessing the Trend Micro server instead. Trend Micro offers its Email Security service in two plans: Standard and Advanced. Email Security Advanced is available for a 30-day free trial.
  3. Proofpoint Email Protection Suite One of the leading providers in SaaS-delivered system security, Proofpoint offers an email protection service that can be used as a standalone system or taken in conjunction with its threat protection products. This system identifies malicious emails but passes them through with an indicator rather than blocking them entirely. The purpose of this strategy is to educate users. The service also includes a spam filter and a bulk email spotter. There is a 30-day free trial available for the Proofpoint system.
  4. Mimecast Secure Email Gateway This is a cloud-based email filtering system that offers the option to allow phishing emails through but flagged for user awareness training. The system will block malware as attachments as well as spam and phishing emails. The system uses DNS authentication to spot spoofed source email addresses, and it is also able to spot impersonation attacks. The Mimecast system has a huge subscriber base. This gives the company a large internal source of shared attack information to identify common hacker strategies and harden detection systems. Unfortunately, the pricing structure of Mimecast is not so friendly towards small businesses as Area 1 Security’s pricing strategy. There is no free trial for the Mimecast service.
  5. Symantec Email Security .cloud Broadcom now owns the Symantec brand, and its email security system is part of a more comprehensive network of system security products. As well as providing a spam filter, this system can detect impersonation fraud and tricks such as source address spoofing. In addition, the content of emails from infrequent correspondents is sandboxed, and all links in emails are verified before they become active. This system will also scan email attachments for malware, including ransomware. Unfortunately, Broadcom doesn’t offer a free trial for Symantec Email
  6. FortiMail Fortinet is a leading firewall provider, and the company also produces an email protection system. This is a SaaS platform that pre-screens all emails before forwarding them to your actual mail server. The service blocks spam, BEC, phishing attempts, and malware in attachments. The FortiMail service can be acquired on a network appliance as part of the Fortinet security fabric, including a SIEM system. It is also possible to take out the FortiMail system as a service on AWS and Azure. You can request a demo of FortiMail.