These days, email gets quite a bit of flack. It’s often insecure and can be messy. Despite this, It’s still a primary mode of communication in businesses and for personal use, so we should probably try to make the best of it. One way you can do that is to use end-to-end encryption with email to ensure that your messages can only be opened by the intended recipient. Today, we’ll look at the reasons why to encrypt, and explain how it helps secure a normally insecure protocol.
1. Encrypted email can be easy
Implementing encrypted email can be a bit of a hassle, depending on how your email is hosted. If your company doesn’t use one of the big providers, it could mean finding a new email server application to implement encrypted emails. This approach is becoming less and less relevant, though, because virtually everyone uses Microsoft and Google to host their emails these days.
If you use Microsoft 365 or Google Workspace for your email needs, then it’s fairly easy to set up email encryption. For instance, the setting to enable S/MIME encryption for (paid) Gmail accounts is in the Google Admin console. The Microsoft 365 email encryption options are a little more complicated, since they offer multiple ways to configure encryption: Microsoft Purview (MPME) gives you the greatest amount of protection by letting you send encrypted emails to external recipients; Information Rights Management (IRM) encrypts internal emails using permissions from Azure Active Directory; and S/MIME (Secure/Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions) uses digital signatures to authenticate the message just like an actual real signature.
If you’re only interested in using encryption on an individual (email to email) basis, you can do that too. As an Outlook user, you may be able to encrypt single emails simply by pushing the “Encrypt” button—this depends on your Microsoft 365 account. In Gmail, you can use “Confidential Mode,” which allows you to send emails that require a specific passcode, and can automatically expire at a specific date.
2. It protects your business’ information
All of these types of encryption use cryptography to make sure that only the intended recipient can open the message. In this way, there’s a password generated for each email that you send to a recipient, and if someone else tries to open the email, it will simply look like a bunch of gibberish. You can think of it like Multi-Factor Authentication for emails, where having the email is not enough to open it, because you need a second factor.
One of Microsoft’s offerings, for instance, make it possible to just set permissions for who can do what with the contents of your emails (using Microsoft Purview Message Encryption). This system makes it possible to email a .docx file to a recipient, and because of the permissions, only that recipient will be able to open the Word file. The point here is to have your private information protected even when it’s sitting in someone else’s inbox. An attacker will have to solve more than one problem to try to get at your information this way.
3. It prevents accidental leaking of sensitive data
This powerful tool helps keep your data from leaking, because it both gives you more confidence that only the recipient can see the email, as well as protects your data from attackers and your service provider, who both may be snooping on your emails. As we’ve discussed before, the data that is in a typical email should probably be thought of as public knowledge, because your email provider reads the emails for spam blocking purposes.
4. It shows your clients and vendors that you’re reliable
One way that email encryption can serve your company is by showing your clients and vendors that you’re serious about their security. Many email based scams are launched from company to company, using information that a vendor may know to pry away more sensitive information. When you take your own security seriously, you’re also protecting everyone you do business with.
-Written by Derek Jeppsen on Behalf of Sean Goss and Crown Computers Team