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Gil Friedrich, CEO of Avanan: wherever there is a business, there will be hackers

Malicious emails and phishing attempts are not new, with hundreds of thousands of yearly attacks recorded by the FBI. And if you think the situation will get better any time soon, there is little hope for that. According to Gil Friedrich, CEO of Avanan, wherever there is a business, there will be hackers. 

As the transition to remote work accelerated, the need for secure collaboration and communication apps surged too. Avanan, an enterprise solution for cloud email and collaboration security, uses sophisticated AI to identify and block attacks that might not be visible to other scanners.

We sat down with Gil Friedrich, CEO of Avanan, to talk about phishing as a significant threat and discuss how Avanan helps users keep their inbox secure. 

At Avanan, you provide both email services and collaboration app security. Could you tell us more about how hackers can take advantage of apps like Slack or Teams?

Hackers target Slack and Teams just like they would target email software. They send phishing messages and malicious links to users. They do account takeovers and try to do credential harvesting. Wherever there is a business, there will be hackers. As collaboration apps rise in popularity, hackers will venture there as well. We’ve noticed that hackers will wait within the collaboration environment a lot longer than email, waiting for the perfect moment to pounce.

When talking about security breaches, internal threats are often being overlooked. What are they, and what measures can be implemented to prevent such attacks?

Internal threats are overlooked because many security solutions can’t protect against them. Insider threats can come in the form of data breaches; they can be accidental or malicious; it can come from a compromised account sending phishing emails. The best way to protect against internal threats is to install an app and scan all emails, including internal ones. The scan should be done with a specialized AI model for scanning internal traffic, including indicators relevant for an internally-originated attack. Avanan blocks these insider threats. As hackers infiltrate internal accounts to send malicious content to partners, customers, and other employees, Avanan identifies those emails as phishing and blocks them.

What is the most common type of phishing email, and why do many solutions struggle to identify it?

According to our research, credential harvesting is the most common phishing attack. This is when a hacker tries to steal someone’s password or other personal information. It can be difficult to detect for a number of reasons. Hackers have come up with various ways of obfuscating their intent, so a phishing email may look legitimate to some scanners. The best way to prevent credential harvesting is through advanced AI that knows what a phishing email should look like.

Did you implement any new features because of the COVID-19 pandemic?

Yes. At the beginning of the pandemic, we introduced consumption-based billing. This measures daily usage to calculate the billing amount. It allows companies to pay only for the security features they actually use. 

You often stress that Secure Email Gateways (SEGs) do not cut it anymore. Could you explain, what is this technology lacking compared to other available options?

When email was on-prem, SEGs were the preferred method. When email moved to the cloud, SEGs have proved an awkward fit. Since they were not built for the cloud, it’s like putting a square peg into a round hole. SEGs disable default security, can be easily bypassed, scan only incoming email, and don’t have the internal context needed to stop Business Email Compromise attacks.

Besides providing security solutions, you also analyze various attacks and compile reports. Which industries are targeted the most and why?

The three most targeted industries are IT, healthcare, and manufacturing. These industries are the most targeted because they hold incredibly valuable data from health records to social security numbers, combined with the fact that healthcare and manufacturing tend to use outdated tech and often have a non-technical board of directors. The healthcare industry, in particular, is largely unprepared. Though every industry gets attacked, the ones that hold the most data are the most at risk.

What email security solutions should businesses have in place to avoid such threats?

The best email security solution will connect via API, be cloud-native, leverage AI and ML trained on the best data, and protect the full cloud suite. 

Let’s say a malicious email did slip through the cracks. Could you give us a few tips on how to identify a phishing attempt?

Some good tips to follow are: look for any obvious spelling or grammar errors. Ensure that the domain is going to its marked destination. Be wary of unfamiliar senders. If unsure, it’s best to report the email.

Tell us, what’s next for Avanan?

Avanan will continue innovating and coming out with new features to keep enterprises more secure. 

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