It is impossible to imagine a business without an email solution – at least if it wants to remain in business for long. However, it is also unimaginable to be lenient with the security of email and gateways, especially when it remains one of the top ways hackers use to gain access to networks and steal data.
This post will look at the seven best secure email gateways for businesses, both small and large. But, for now, and for your convenience, here’s a brief list of the gateways:
- Cisco Secure Email Α leading network security company product that ensures security using advanced intelligence; it is highly flexible and integrates well into any architecture.
- Microsoft Defender for Office 365 Α native Microsoft solution that is cloud-based and helps reduce the cost of ownership of all Office 365 applications, including Outlook; it protects clients on collaboration sites using real-time reports and automatic threat mitigation responses.
- Avanan Αn email gateway that uses AI to protect against sophisticated attacks; it is an ideal solution for Office 365 and Google Workspace users and can also protect any email environment.
- SpamTitan Email Security and Protection Αn easy to set up, deploy, manage, and use email gateways solution; has features like blacklisting, whitelisting, and even offers antivirus protection.
- Proofpoint Email Protection Αn industry-leading solution that uses AI to defend against BEC; it has numerous features that learn and adapt to new threats, which keeps a safe business well into the future as it keeps evolving.
- Mimecast Α cloud-based secure email gateway that is ideal for larger organizations; it offers many features, including defense against malware, credential harvesting, impersonation attacks, and zero-day attacks.
- Forcepoint Email Security Solution Τhis tool has features that help defend against threats from high-risk or disgruntled internal users; a rather interesting part is its OCR capabilities that allow it to scan images for sensitive data.
The email security challenges
To begin with, let’s have a look at the security challenges posed by email solutions:
- Most advanced persistent threats (APTs) use email for the early stages of their attacks, followed by constant advanced attacks.
- A business email solution should constantly be monitored and secured to address data theft and insider threats, a continually evolving threat environment.
- Businesses are adopting Office 365 and other cloud-based communication services to expand and compete – which further broadens the scope of the challenge and its resolution.
- Risky user habits can easily lead to security breaches and data loss – meaning training and policies should also be considered a part of the solution.
A secure email gateway helps address these and more security challenges, as we shall soon see.
What is an email gateway?
An email gateway is a type of server that protects email servers; it acts as a “gateway” through which all emails – incoming and outgoing – pass through. And as it is passing through, each email is scanned for malicious content or harmful links, as well as any attached documents containing proprietary or confidential information that shouldn’t leave a business’ perimeter.
A gateway could be installed on-premises or run as a SaaS in the cloud. It doesn’t itself host any user email accounts or inboxes. Instead, it sits in the DMZ of a network to inspect and analyze all mail traffic before letting them through.
Only after the email gateway has done preliminary checks does a message leave it to go to the actual email server. These checks include finding out if there are any phishing links or if the email itself is spam.
Now, depending on its type, an email gateway can respond to malicious emails in some ways. Examples include:
- Changing links in suspicious emails to ensure safety.
- Using a whitelist or blacklist to decide which emails are permitted to reach the mail server and which ones aren’t.
- Running an antivirus or DLP to clean the email and its attachments or ensure no data is being leaked.
- Routing emails to the correct domain to ensure outgoing messages reach the right network and intended recipients.
It should be noted here that although an email gateway does have its methods of securing email, it is a secure email gateway (SEG) that does a more complete and in-depth job.
What is a secure email gateway?
A Secure Email Gateway is also a software or hardware gateway that works like a firewall to stop malicious or spammy emails from entering the network. But, in this case, it takes the security measures in the standard email gateway and amps it up to protect against more severe and complex issues and attacks.
Secure email gateways stop unwanted emails with spam, phishing links, attached malware, or fraudulent content. These emails can be quarantined, ignored, deleted, or simply bounced back with an error message.
They also scan outgoing messages and perform analyses to prevent sensitive data from leaving the business network. Alternatively, they can automatically encrypt emails containing sensitive information, rendering them useless to the malicious user.
Depending on requirements, secure email gateways can be deployed as a SaaS, as an on-premises appliance, or on Office365 and Google Workplace.
Our methodology for selecting a secure email gateway
Features and capabilities to look for in reliable, secure email gateways include:
- Scanning capabilities It should be able to scan emails on the go and identify threats.
- The ability to defend against multiple threats Should protect against most threats like phishing, malware, and malicious links.
- Advanced threat identification It should have AI technology that teaches it about evolving threat delivery methods and identify them.
- Deployment options Businesses should be able to deploy the solutions on any network architecture.
- Reporting Reports from these tools should give insight into present security health and serve as proof of compliance or audits.
- Additional features A good solution should integrate well into a network’s security and support it with its other Good examples could be encryption, archiving, and reports.
- Price The ROI should always be worth it.
We have sought these features in the seven best secure email gateway solutions that we will see next.
The seven Best Secure Email Gateways
It’s now time to have a look at the seven best secure email gateways in detail:
1. Cisco Secure Email
At number one, we have Cisco Secure Email (formerly Email Security) – a product from a leading network security company that was selected as Top Player in Radicati’s Secure Email Gateway – Market Quadrant 2020.
Let’s look at some features:
- This email gateway protects businesses and users against attacks using methods like phishing, business email compromise (BEC), malware attachments, and ransomware – it boasts industry-leading threat intelligence used to combat malicious links.
- It can be used to comply – or audit compliance – to government and industry regulations thanks to its robust data loss prevention capabilities and encryption capabilities that ensure data is safe at all times.
- Integration with SecureX – Cisco’s integration platform – gives enhanced visibility and automation across a range of the company’s security products; this ensures full-stack security coverage.
- It can spot fake email addresses using dynamic threat intelligence and stay up to date to tackle the latest BEC, phishing, malware, and domain spoofing attacks.
- Cisco Secure Email monitors inbound emails continuously to protect users from risky files no matter when they may get infected; it is immediately isolated once a threat is identified.
- This solution offers maximum flexibility to be deployed on-premises, in the cloud, virtually, or in hybrid architectures.
- Along with the tool, Cisco offers Secure Awareness Training to help businesses cover their weakest links – their users.
- Highly flexible cloud-based solution
- Provides a suite of quarantining and investigative tools
- Has a robust backend intelligence system to identify new and evolving threats
- Better suited for larger environments
Try Cisco Secure Email (including SecureX) FREE for 45 days.
2. Microsoft Defender for Office 365
Our second choice is Microsoft Defender for Office 365 (formerly ATP) – another product from a leading tech company that is also a leader in the Email Security market. This is primarily a good choice as it offers native protection for Office 365, including the popular Microsoft Outlook.
More features include:
- This is a cloud-based email filtering service; it helps businesses protect themselves from attacks across the cyber kill chain and allows for collaboration and, hence, quicker issue resolutions.
- It protects Office 365 against advanced threats like BEC, phishing, zero-day malware attacks emanating from malicious email messages, links (URLs), and collaboration tools; it automatically investigates and remediates attacks with no manual intervention required.
- This solution has rich reporting and URL trace capabilities that give administrators in-depth insights into the kind of attacks – in real-time; they gain visibility into the threat landscape and can leverage the actionable insights to mitigate threats immediately.
- It can identify and block malicious files in collaboration sites and document libraries like SharePoint, OneDrive, and Microsoft Teams.
- Defender is intelligent – its anti-phishing protection is powered by machine learning and advanced algorithms that can detect attempts to impersonate users or domain spoofing.
- It allows administrators to be more proactive in defending their users – they can run simulations of realistic attack scenarios to identify vulnerabilities.
- Its Threat Explorer is a real-time report that helps identify and analyze threats manually. At the same time, Defender’s Automated Incident Response (AIR) capabilities automatically tackle them, saving security operations teams’ time and effort.
- As this tool is built into Office 365, it cuts investments required to integrate third-party security tools; and with it being native, it doesn’t diminish the user experience at the endpoints.
Microsoft offers Defender to help its users boost productivity, simplify administration, and lower overall costs-of-ownership with its homegrown protection solution.
- Offers great default protection
- Ideal for MS365 environments
- Provides holistic protection
- Offers little flexibility in terms of integrations
- Not ideal for those who are looking to replace Defender
Try Microsoft Defender for Office 365 for FREE.
When it comes to Avanan, the keyword is “advanced AI”. This API-Based email security solution is powered by True AI, trained on comprehensive data sets to stop the most sophisticated phishing attacks before they reach the inbox.
Let’s look at some of its features:
- Being a cloud-based email security solution means Avanan can help protect inboxes in applications like Outlook and Gmail – for users of Office 365 and Google Workspace; but, it goes beyond that to implement security for applications for Microsoft Teams.
- Its advanced AI means businesses implement an accurate machine learning technology to stay on top of the latest, sophisticated attacks in real-time.
- These sophisticated attacks include email threats like phishing, malware, account compromise, and data loss.
- It is easy to deploy, and once done, it sits inside the email environment without requiring any MX record changes. In addition, because it is API-based, it integrates well into the environment allowing it to analyze archived emails that detect impersonators and fraudsters.
- What’s more, it covers multiple layers. For example, this tool offers threat protection inside the email inbox, and it can also monitor and secure incoming, outgoing, and internal emails as they are in transit.
- Machine learning technology allows it to identify zero-day phishing attacks using more than 300 indicators of compromise like sent time, location, and domain name – to flag suspicious emails.
- Meanwhile, machine learning algorithms allow Avanan to detect BEC by flagging logins made from unusual locations or pointing administrators towards any unusual behaviors that indicate accounts having been taken over. Then there is protection against malicious attachments and URLs that link to harmful content.
- Avanan offers advanced reporting for all inbound, outbound, and internal emails while providing real-time and historical visibility into all users and email threats.
This technology allows it to protect inboxes better and even identify threats that other similar solutions might miss.
- Simplistic dashboard makes viewing top-level insights easier
- Can automatically deactivate or delete inactive accounts
- Uses behavioral analysis to detect account compromise
- Additional protection such as anti phishing is a paid add-on module
- Could use a longer trial period
Schedule an Avanan demo for FREE.
4. SpamTitan Email Security and Protection
Next, we have SpamTitan Email Security and Protection, a solution built on a powerful spam filtering platform that boasts a market-leading catch-rate of 99.99 percent and a false positive rate of 0.0003 percent.
- SpamTitan is easy to set up, deploy, manage, and use, and yet, it offers antivirus protection on top of the spam blocking to create an environment that is twice as secure.
- Administrators can use whitelists and blacklists to handle permissions, recipient verification to curb spamming, and monitoring of email flow for malicious content.
- Allows whitelisting and blacklisting, advanced reporting, recipient verification, and outbound scanning of email; the tool itself comes with specialist Real-Time Blacklists (RBLs) and email content filtering to create rules depending on security requirements.
- Meanwhile, the tool also makes sure the business’ IP address isn’t blacklisted because it is mistaken for a spamming domain by scanning all outgoing emails.
- Administrators can create custom policies to create block lists at the user, domain, domain group, and total system levels.
- SpamTitan offers security against infected attachments by blocking specific attachment types like .exe .bat files – and by domain, if need be.
- It uses predictive technology to anticipate new attack methods and also offers advanced threat protection using an inbuilt Bayesian
- A secure solution for email needs the ability to anticipate new attacks using predictive technology; it also offers Advanced Threat Protection – an inbuilt Bayesian machine learning and heuristics.
- SpamTitan also has powerful data leak prevention (DLP) rules to prevent internal data loss on top of the ability to prevent whaling and spear-phishing by scanning all inbound emails in real-time.
This tool protects businesses by blocking spam, viruses, malware, ransomware, and links to malicious websites.
- The dashboard is simple, yet informative with key email metrics
- Provides protection against both malicious links and attachments
- Can “detonate” payloads in a sandbox environment to uncover hidden viruses
- Not ideal for resellers or MSPs
Try SpamTitan FREE for 30 days.
5. Proofpoint Email Protection
Proofpoint Email Protection is an industry-leading email gateway security solution that can be deployed on-premises or as a cloud service. It is powered by Nexus A.I. – an advanced machine learning technology platform – which makes it powerful enough to identify both known and unknown threats that other security solutions can’t even sense.
Looking at more features:
- Proofpoint offers the Advanced BEC Defense – backed by Nexus A.I. – that can classify various types of email accurately and stop a wide variety of email fraud, including payment redirects and supplier invoicing fraud.
- This threat detection engine is specifically designed to identify BEC attacks by analyzing metadata like message header data, sender’s IP address – including the origin and reputation analysis – and scanning the message body for keywords, phrases, etc.
- It can detect various BEC tactics, including reply-to pivots, malicious IPs, and domain spoofing; suspicious emails can be automatically tagged with clearly legible warnings to reduce the chances of compromise due to end-users not being aware of threats.
- Proofpoint’s AI means it offers dynamic protection that continues to evolve and defend against new malware, threats, and other malicious technology; it can also perform reputation and content analysis.
- It can help reduce IT overhead by identifying graymail – like newsletters, bulk mail, and other low-priority emails – and filtering them out to help recipients bring them under control and deal with them as they deem fit.
- Administrators can use the log data to help with troubleshooting – searches are made easier with the help of dozens of search criteria.
- Combines email archiving and security into one package
- Can retain emails for up to 10 years, great for compliance
- Ideal for small to medium-sized businesses
- Offers URL validation to help stop phishing attempts
- Could use more customization options
Request a 30-day trial of Proofpoint Email Protection for FREE.
Mimecast is a cloud-based secure email gateway. It offers a high level of threat protection and granular admin policies that fit a corporate environment.
- This is a versatile tool – it stops malware, credential harvesting, impersonation attacks, performs deep inspection for zero-day attack protection, performs DNS-based authentication, and includes DMAARC, SPF and DKIM
- It uses machine learning technology to protect against BEC and targeted attacks from outside and inside the organizations.
- Administrators can set policies and scan for keywords indicating malicious attachments trying to bypass security or proprietary content that shouldn’t be leaving the business’ confines; Mimecast DLP can detect and block emails containing personal information.
- They can also automatically encrypt authorized messages sent to confirmed recipients and contain some of these keywords to ensure the safety of sensitive data without requiring the users to log into a new portal or use encryption keys.
- Mimecast also offers Secure Messaging, which can respond to triggered alerts by encrypting messages as they go out and then recalling or expire emails to prevent recipients from reading them after they have been sent.
Mimecast is as powerful as customizable to accommodate specific needs in unique environments – making it strong protection against email threats.
- Acts as a full email gateway for completely mail security
- Uses pattern recognition and behavior analysis to detect unregistered threats
- Can help identify traffic not using proper DNS security measures (DKIM, SPF, DMARC)
- Only available as a cloud product
Request a Mimecast demo for FREE.
7. Forcepoint Email Security Solution
Finally, we have Forcepoint Email Security Solution – a secure email gateway that helps identify and prevent targeted attacks, high-risk users, and insider threats. It also empowers remote and mobile workers by allowing the safe integration of third-party cloud technologies like Office 365 and Box Enterprise.
Let’s look at more features:
- Forcepoint has Optical Character Recognition (OCR) scanning to help spot sensitive data hidden in images like scanned documents or screen grabs; it has advanced capabilities to detect data leaks using images or custom-encrypted files – even when attempting to transmit them using small amounts, spread over time to evade detection.
- It has encrypted file detection to recognize custom encrypted files intended to bypass identification screening and offers advanced analysis of macros embedded in MS Office files.
- Conditional security access – it curbs full access to sensitive email attachments on risky mobile devices, for example, while allowing them to be still accessible on more secured devices.
- Reports can be generated for auditing proposes to assess current overall security status, check for vulnerable systems, infected devices, and those showing suspicious behavior – including “disgruntled employee” activities.
- Forcepoint can be deployed in the cloud, with pre-filtering services to conserve bandwidth, in addition to being installed on-premise as a local threat protection tool. There is no compromise on performance necessary.
- Supports automated failover through multiple interfaces
- Uses AI-powered malware detection to prevent zero-day attacks
- Can inspect a large volume of traffic quickly for threats
- Can monitor and record cloud data usage across the enterprise
- Not the best option for smaller networks
Request a customized Forcepoint Email Security Solution demo for FREE.
Where can email gateways be installed?
Ok, we have just seen the seven best secure email gateways. Now, let’s briefly look at where they can be installed. There are several setup options to choose from:
- They can be installed on specific servers; they can, for example, be solutions dedicated to Exchange servers only.
- As an on-premises hardware device – a dedicated hardware appliance sitting on the organization’s network; all email traffic, inbound or outbound, is routed through it for analysis and filtering.
- As an on-premises VM – a virtual appliance for email security that could be part of a private cloud controlled by the business; alternatively, it can run on on-premises servers without necessarily being part of the cloud architecture.
- On public cloud platforms – there are email security gateways that are available as public cloud-based services.
- A hybrid setup involves combining a public cloud setup with an on-site presence; this is a typical hybrid deployment that combines public cloud-based service with an on-premises deployed hardware or VM.
Regardless, it is up to the business to find the ideal configuration that works well with their network architecture.
Every business needs secure email gateways
Apart from the fact that emails are the most commonly exploited business process, there are a few more reasons for installing secure email gateways, including:
- They protect employees from email threats like spam, viruses, and phishing attacks, which protects businesses.
- Secure email gateways allow businesses to improve security for employees by blocking malicious emails and stopping phishing attacks – factors that could affect their productivity.
- Secure email gateways also allow businesses to meet compliance requirements – companies that need to handle specific data will always need to install secure email gateways.
- Many secure email gateways offer email archiving capabilities – this helps businesses secure their confidential data; archiving, along with encryption, also helps with meeting compliance requirements as copies of emails may need to be stored for legal reasons.
The bottom line is: businesses can dramatically reduce their vulnerabilities, exposures, and threat levels by installing one of the seven best secure email gateways we have seen above.
We would like to hear what you think. So please, leave us a comment below.