As businesses and the U.S. government struggle to defend networks from cyber attacks, it might be time for CIOs to take a second look at their secure email gateway (SEG) strategy.

SEGs provide "basic message transfer agent functions; inbound filtering of spam, phishing, malicious and marketing emails; and outbound data loss prevention (DLP) and email encryption," according to Gartner.

No doubt, it's a mature market. Nearly 100 percent of large enterprises already have SEG solutions in place, and the market is growing only about 2 percent to 4 percent annually, Gartner estimates.

Still, CIOs would be wise to check in with their IT administrators -- to make sure SEG solutions are updated and properly configured. The reason: Nearly 70 percent of cyber-espionage incidents from 2013 to 2015 involved phishing, Verizon estimates.

To fight back, organizations should look for SEG solutions that offer the latest targeted phishing detection methods -- such as so-called "time­of­click URL filtering" and "attachment sandboxing," Gartner says.

"Time­of­click URL filtering techniques double­check — or better, proxy — URL links in email at the "time of click" rather than the time of delivery," the researcher says. "These methods are more effective in detecting fast­fluxing, link­based malware/phishing attacks. Sandboxing is a technique that executes suspicious files in simulated PC environments to detect malicious behavior and provide forensic information."

On the flip-side, organizations are also striving to safeguard the networks and email systems from outbound problems -- leaning more heavily on data loss prevention (DLP) and encryption. Nearly 40 percent of companies now leverage some form of secure email gateway featuring DLP capabilities, while encryption has achieved 60 percent penetration, Gartner estimates.

Where do customers go from here? Increasingly, the answer involves SaaS-based secure email gateways -- which vendors maintain and enhance on their own, freeing customers up to focus on their businesses.

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