Email is one of the most widely used forms of corporate communication, but it is also a common cyberattack vector. Phishing attacks are a common means for attackers to gain initial access to an organization’s environment, deploying malware or compromising credentials.

Email scanners are email security solutions that have the ability to inspect emails, and can identify phishing, malware, and other common email-borne threats.


The Importance of Email Scanning

Phishing is one of the most common cyberattacks, and it’s popular because it’s effective. While many organizations have cybersecurity awareness and anti-phishing training, it doesn’t always work. Phishing attacks are growing increasingly sophisticated, increasing the probability that a malicious email that reaches an employee’s inbox will successfully get them to click. A click on a malicious link or attachment can have a significant impact on an organization. Successful phishing attacks can lead to data breaches, ransomware infections, and other expensive and damaging security incidents.

Email scanning solutions are vital to reducing the risk that email poses to an organization. By identifying and blocking malicious emails before they reach an employee’s inbox, email scanning reduces the chance that an employee will inadvertently fall for a phishing attack and place the organization at risk.

How Does Email Scanning Work?

Email scanning solutions can work in a couple of ways. One of the main differences is how they interpose themselves into the email communication stream. Two of the most common approaches include:

  • MX Records: Some email scanning solutions will change the DNS MX record of an organization to point to its cloud-based email scanning solution. All email will be routed to the scanner first, allowing it to inspect the emails and filter malicious content before routing it on to the company’s email server or mail transfer agent for delivery.
  • API-Based: API-based email scanning solutions use the APIs provided by common webmail solutions (G-Suite, Microsoft 365, etc.). Email traffic is routed normally but is inspected before it is delivered to users’ inboxes. Additionally, API-based integration enables additional functionality, such as the ability to recall emails from inboxes if they are discovered to be malicious after delivery and to inspect outbound emails for sensitive content.

When emails pass through an email scanner, it can use a variety of techniques to identify malicious content. These include scanning for signatures of known malware variants and using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to detect novel threats or email content that indicates a potential social engineering attack.

What Kinds of Threats Can Email Scanning Identify?

Emails can contain a wide variety of potential threats to the organization. Some of the threats that email scanners can identify and block include the following:

  • Phishing: Email is commonly used in social engineering attacks where users may be tricked into taking actions that hurt the organization. Email scanning may identify business email compromise (BEC) and other social engineering attacks.
  • Malware: Email is a common delivery mechanism for various types of malware, including ransomware and infostealers. Email scanning solutions can inspect email attachments for potentially malicious content, including malicious executables, ZIP archives, and documents. Scanners with Content Disarm and Reconstruction (CDR) functionality can dissect malicious documents, excise malicious content, and rebuild a sanitized document for delivery to the users,
  • Malicious URLs: In addition to malicious attachments, emails can also use malicious URLs to direct users to phishing pages. Email scanning solutions can block email containing known bad domains or links to sites that are believed to contain phishing content upon inspection.
  • Data Leakage: In addition to carrying threats into an organization, email can also be used to carry sensitive data out of the organization. Email scanning solutions may include data loss prevention (DLP) functionality that identifies and blocks emails carrying sensitive data to unauthorized recipients.

Secure Email with Check Point

Email is a common tool that attackers use to deploy malware on an organization’s systems, steal sensitive information, or perform social engineering attacks that cost the company money. Even the best employee training program doesn’t guarantee that users will correctly identify phishing threats and will avoid clicking on malicious links or attachments.

With the right email scanning solution, an organization can dramatically reduce the threat posed by email-borne attacks. However, some email scanning solutions and approaches are more effective than others. Learn why API-based email scanning solutions are the right choice in this report by Gartner.

Check Point and Avanan’s email scanning solution provides robust protection against a wide range of email threats. Learn more about how Check Point is a leader in the email security space in this report by Omdia. Then, see the capabilities of Check Point Harmony Email and Collaboration for yourself by signing up for a free demo today.