Email encryption is the process of encrypting or disguising the content of email messages, protecting sensitive information from being read or accessed by anyone other than the intended recipient. With email remaining a key digital collaboration channel in our personal lives and for business, encryption has become a popular security tool to protect sensitive information and is being employed by individuals to small businesses, right through to corporate conglomerates across the globe.
Why should you encrypt your email?
Email can be a vulnerable medium as it's subject to many of today's evolved information borne threats. Not only are cyber criminals working out new ways and means to penetrate networks and steal information, human error is also a predominant risk. How many people have sent an email to the wrong person? Or regularly email documents containing sensitive information? Do your staff work over unsecured networks such as public WiFi in cafes and restaurants which is often weak and a known vulnerability that hackers exploit? In fact, even emails sent within a secure company network can be intercepted by other users that can access your login credentials or the sensitive information attached to your email.
If you are posting a check to pay a bill, or perhaps posting a document or parcel of high value, you would most likely invest in a security envelope or at least a more secure method of post, such as signed-for and tracked delivery. So, why would you not do the same with your email?
The email messages and attachments you or your staff share may include customer data, staff payroll information, confidential corporate assets amongst other sensitive data. Let's not forget that personal identifiable information (PII) and personal credit card information (PCI) that by law, must be protected.
Email encryption offers the highest level of security to keep information safe from risks and threats as it renders the content of your emails unreadable as they travel from origin to destination. So, even if anyone else but the intended recipient intercepts your messages, they can’t read the content.
What encryption options are available?
There are a variation of email encryption options and tools available today including Transport Layer Security (TLS), Password Protected zip files (also known as AdHoc encryption) and hosted email portals to name a few, but the most commonly used email encryption relies on a Public Key Infrastructure (PKI). In most cases, a combination of a private key (known only by you) and a public key (known to those you choose to distribute it to or even made publicly available). Those sending emails that they want to encrypt would use the public key, while the intended recipient would use the private key to decrypt those messages into a readable format. In the PKI model, anyone can use a public key to encrypt email, but each encrypted message can only be decrypted by a unique private key. This means that someone else's private key would be worthless, as the email would make no sense.
When you encrypt all email messages as a standard practice, the risk of data breaches occuring is mitigated as the chance of human error is removed, and hackers have a more substantial task in front of them. Decrypting email messages one-by-one in search of a single message containing sensitive information is a daunting and tedious task that even the most dedicated hackers may feel is not worth the effort. A task that may not even be worthwhile, if after completing, there is nothing worth seeing.
How do you implement email encryption?
The best way to implement email encryption is through an email security solution like the Clearswift SECURE Email Gateway (SEG) which offers multiple encryption options to suit different business requirements. The solution can be configured to encrypt messages based on content, senders or recipients, or a mixture of all. It can automatically decide what is the best method, rather than allowing the user to make the decision which could result in an error.
The Clearswift SEG scales for SMBs to global enterprises across every vertical and different encryption methods can be deployed to suit the varying user communities within an organization. In addition to multiple encryption options, the solution offers an unprecedented level of cyber-attack protection and outbound data loss prevention for secure email collaboration including a multi-layer spam defense mechanism, advanced security features including DMARC/DKIM (anti-spoofing), deep content inspection control on size and types of attachments and Adaptive Redaction features.
With the continual evolution and enforcement of data protection laws, email encryption is more necessary than ever before to protect sensitive data from being exposed unauthorized and to mitigate the risk of data breaches occurring. The Clearswift SEG offers a holistic information security solution for email that can be deployed on-premise, as a Hosted solution, to protect Cloud email, or as a Managed Service.
Download our Email Encryption & Secure File Transfer Best Practice Guide to learn more.