The Danger of a Free Business Email

Whether in a personal or professional setting, you have probably had first-hand experience with the consequences of sacrificing quality for a lower price. Though some businesses opt for consumer-grade emails to save money, this is a mistake that could compromise business, employee, and client security in more ways than one. What is a consumer-grade email exactly? If your email looks like This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. instead of This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., you're probably utilizing a consumer-grade email account. Though it may be free, it doesn't come without cost. 

How a Free Business Email Can Harm Your Company 

Part of the reason consumer-grade emails can be so detrimental to businesses is because there isn't just one risk to using them. There are a plethora of ways that these accounts can be hacked, controlled, or misused in a way that will put the company's reputation and confidential information in harm's way. Here we will discuss three major reasons why free business emails can cause issues. Keep in mind, even if you pay to eliminate ads from the otherwise free email service, you're still using consumer-grade email! 

Minimal Customer Support

If a free email account is compromised, you have few to no resources for regaining control of your accounts, emails, and personal information. Though it may not be impossible to accomplish, the process is extremely difficult, especially if you are navigating it yourself. Business-grade, or enterprise email systems, give you more customer support and control so you can regain access to your email account. 

No Central Management 

Consumer-grade email accounts belong solely to the person that has credentials. If you have to let go of an employee, they can walk off with that email, the credentials, and any confidential information that may be within that account. In this scenario, there is no central management to control access for employees. Enterprise emails, on the other hand, give you and your IT team the power to disable email accounts and have them forwarded or re-assigned to the specified person. Additionally, this central management allows for our team to get to work on your account if it becomes compromised. 

No Control of Domains 

Maintaining control of your domain makes it significantly harder for an imposter to pose as someone within your company. For example, if your company has the email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., someone could create an email that says This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. What's the difference? Check the spelling of the second example again. It looks identical, but the latter example contains an "rn" instead of an "m" in the word "company." Now, one of your clients or employees thinks they're being requested potentially sensitive information from you, but it's actually someone that's up to no good. 

It's important to note that having an enterprise email doesn't eliminate all possibility of an account being compromised. If your boss, employees, or co-workers are asking you for unusual or sensitive information through email, it's best to give them a call and ask them if this request is legitimate. To keep confidential information or credentials safe, it's extremely important that you send that data as an encrypted email. 

What are the Risks of Free Business Emails? 

As previously stated, if a consumer-grade email is compromised, there isn't much anyone can do. Even if you change your password and "boot" the intruder out of the account, they likely were able to do some damage while they were in your email. They may have already emailed your contacts, deleted emails, created forwarding rules to an account they control, downloaded an offline copy of your emails, or even collected replies with confidential information in them. What's worse is that they may have done all of this and you may not even know it. Here are some examples of damage they can do while in your email: 

  • Banking Access. If your email is associated with your bank account, the intruder can easily search through your email to find which bank you use. They can then reset your password through that email and before you know it, they have access to everything in your bank account including account and routing numbers.
  • Shopping Spree. Similarly, intruders can also search for companies you have previously shopped with online. The intruder can visit those sites and use your already added credit card information to buy anything and everything they want.
  • Security Access. Sometimes gaining access to an email account can also mean gaining access to office security cameras, alarms, and smart-lock accounts. This means that the intruder could commit cybercrimes and physical theft.

Why Two-Factor Authentication is Important 

Whether you have a consumer or enterprise email, you should absolutely be using two-factor authentication. No exceptions. This serves as an extra layer of security and is vital to keeping your accounts out of harm's way. Not only does it require a second code for login, but it also alerts the account owner that someone is trying to log in to their account, giving them time to change any passwords if the request isn't legitimate. This brings up a final warning about consumer-grade email: even if a 2nd factor is added to an account after access by a 3rd party, there is no way to kick them out of their already active session, allowing them more time to continue the damage. 

We cannot stress enough the importance of two-factor authentication and using enterprise emails in the office. We have seen far too many companies suffer major damages because of unsecured emails in the office. Our goal is to help our clients invest in technology that will help, not harm them. If your business is still using consumer-grade emails, now is the time to make the switch! 

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