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Using External Email Indicators to Help Protect Your Bank

September 15, 2017

Using External Email Indicators to Help Protect Your Bank

Phishing emails are nothing new to the banking industry. Consumers falling victim to phony emails purporting to be from their bank is a common occurrence. Now, thieves are getting more creative by targeting bank employees rather than customers. Everyone receives many emails every day, and unfortunately, we are not able to take the time to thoroughly examine every one that we receive, especially if we believe that it is from an internal source. Because of this, employees are often mistakenly providing sensitive information to criminals without even realizing it.

One of the latest phishing scams involves what looks like an internal email, but is really from someone outside of the bank impersonating an employee. For example, an employee may receive:

  1. An email from the HR department asking for payroll information.
  2. A ‘rush’ request from a bank officer to approve a wire transfer.
  3. A notice from the IT help desk indicating an immediate password change is required.

These emails look legitimate. They have the bank’s email format, extension or other identifiable characteristics. However, upon closer inspection, there are subtle signs the email is a fake.

External Email Indicator [E!]

In addition to training bank employees to look out for phishing clues such as an unofficial “from” address, a request for immediate action or a generic greeting, banks can also employ another tool to help employees recognize fraudulent emails. An “external email indicator [E]” can be activated to an existing email system. When external emails are delivered, there will be some type of indication, such as an “[E]”in the subject line, that alerts the employee that the email is coming from an external source. Should they receive an email that looks like it’s from an internal source but has the external indicator, it will alert them of the probability that it is unsafe.

Costs and ease of installation of the external indicator will vary depending on the type of indicator, but could prove to be a worthwhile investment. In fact, some email systems already have the capability to implement an external email indicator through the creation of a “transport rule”, which can be added at little to no cost. Adding an external indicator has proven to be effective in efforts to defend against malicious emails by alerting employees of an email coming from an external source. Even the most diligent and thoughtful employees can make mistakes, and the external indicator can offer an additional layer of protection for your bank.


This article is provided for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal or risk management advice. Readers should consult their own counsel for such advice.