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What Is an Abuse Mailbox? Triaging and Remediating User-Reported Suspicious Emails

An Abuse Mailbox is the destination of user-reported suspicious emails sent to IT and security teams for further evaluation. It's a crucial part of tracking and stopping potential email threats.

Security Operations Center (SOC) analysts use the Abuse Mailbox to evaluate suspicious emails, confirm any threats, conduct triage, and remediate unwanted emails.

With a manual approach, analysis and remediation requires 15 to 90 minutes per message. It can take up valuable resources, especially for large organizations that receive numerous flagged messages per day.

Modern email security solutions can automate Abuse Mailbox email analysis to drastically improve productivity for overburdened security teams.

Keep reading to learn how the Abuse Mailbox works, the benefits and the downsides, and what could make the Abuse Mailbox more efficient.

How Does an Abuse Mailbox Work?

An Abuse Mailbox is where employees reported email threats like business email compromise (BEC) and credential phishing attacks are sent for analysis. SOC analysts use the Abuse Mailbox to sort, analyze, and respond to user-reported suspicious emails.

The Abuse Mailbox workflow generally follows this process:

  • Employees receive security awareness training on how to report potentially malicious emails to the Abuse Mailbox. This involves forwarding the suspicious email to a specific email address like AbuseMailbox@company.com, or clicking a "Report Phishing" button in an email banner.

  • An employee receives an email that looks suspicious and they report it to the Abuse Mailbox.

  • A SOC analyst manually investigates the email to see if it’s malicious or safe.

  • In the event of a malicious email, the entire email campaign is found and removed.

Depending on the result, a SOC analyst may alert the employee if an email is safe or find the email campaign of a malicious email using external tools. That’s not always the case: stretched SOC teams may not have the bandwidth to respond to individual reports.

Why Is the Abuse Mailbox Important to Email Security?

An Abuse Mailbox creates a centralized triage dashboard for email attacks. Security teams can assess user-reported emails, remediate attacks, and address any false alarms. Abuse Mailboxes are also helpful to identify large-scale email attacks and patterns–like a particular department or employee being heavily targeted.

The Issue With Abuse Mailbox

While the Abuse Mailbox helps organizations with identifying and addressing malicious emails, its current iteration comes with a host of issues:

  • Workflow is manual and not automated: Each step of the Abuse Mailbox workflow is a manual process, even if it's semi-automated with a "Report Phishing" button.

  • SOC analysts spend too much time verifying emails: Considering that 90% of reported emails are designated as safe, it's an inefficient use of a security team's valuable time. SOC analysts may spend thousands of hours evaluating employee-reported phishing attempts to determine if they are malicious and then remediating the issue.

  • Employees may ignore or forget to self-report: Employees need training on how to spot phishing emails. And then they need a simple and easy-to-remember way to report emails to the Abuse Mailbox. If any of these factors are missing, employees may not report suspicious emails they receive in their inboxes.

  • Employees may use the Abuse Mailbox inefficiently: Employees may decide to be overly cautious and send emails to the Abuse Mailbox to get a security professional's approval. Another potential issue is if employees never get any feedback about their reported emails. They may send follow-up emails and clog up the Abuse Mailbox.

  • Abuse Mailboxes can get overcrowded: Besides too many safe emails being sent to the Abuse Mailbox, many organizations can receive daily email attacks. If you have a large organization, your Abuse Mailbox could overflow quickly. Encouraging a healthy cyber security culture at an organization is a challenge when security analysts aren’t able to process and respond to employee-reported emails in a timely fashion.

Bottom line: an Abuse Mailbox without automation is inefficient at best, and vulnerable at worst.

How Abnormal Security Improves the Abuse Mailbox

Automation (without compromising on security integrity) streamlines SOC operations, allowing analysts to focus on other essential tasks. To help alleviate the submission and alert fatigue, Abnormal Security has an Abuse Mailbox built-in to the platform, and our AI-powered inbound email security analysis automatically evaluates employee-reported malicious emails.

If an email is determined to be malicious, then Abnormal will find the entire email attack campaign and then auto-remediate all unreported emails from employee inboxes.

Some other features of Abnormal's Abuse Mailbox include:

  • Ability to search through and filter user-reported emails.

  • Provides insights into the attack type of malicious emails.

  • Automatically remediates attacks.

  • Provides email notifications for users when an email is deemed malicious and about the remediation actions performed.

  • Keeps details of the reported email campaign. This includes relevant recipients, the email body, and the email header.

To summarize, Abnormal's Abuse Mailbox Automation saves time and costs by:

  • Compiling all user-reported emails in one place.

  • Determining whether the email is safe.

  • Collecting email attack campaigns.

  • Remediating malicious email campaigns.

  • Sending attack report emails to end users.

Want to enhance your email security capabilities and provide visibility into email threats that other solutions miss? Request a demo today of Abnormal Security.

 

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