Email is inherently a malicious traffic stream
It’s something many people don’t think about, but the majority of the traffic coming into the SMTP port is malicious. Spam is passively malicious, in that it just uses resources and bothers people. But there is a lot of actively malicious traffic coming into the SMTP port. Email is used as a vector to spread viruses and other malware. Email is also used for phishing and scamming. Many of the major hacks we’ve heard about over the last few years, including those in the email space, started with a single user getting infected through email.
We talk a lot about delivery here with clients and primarily focus on making sure their mail looks as unlike malicious mail as possible. We focus on spam filters, but every piece of mail goes through filters that also look for viruses, phishes, malware and other malicious traffic.
Mail servers are under attack constantly. The only reason our inboxes are useful is through the hard work of many people to filter out the bad and keep users from seeing the bulk of the mess attacking them.