Email, although convenient, is not always a secure method of communication, especially when emails are sent over unsecured, or public, Wi-Fi networks. Even if you only send emails over your secure company or home network, they can still be intercepted. Email encryption essentially disguises the content of an email message so that it is indecipherable to anyone other than the intended recipient and for that reason, often includes authentication. With email encryption software, even if someone intercepts your email message, they can’t read the content.
Email encryption isn’t just for those who may email sensitive information such as credit card numbers, social security numbers, or passwords. Using email encryption can protect your entire inbox should a hacker gain unauthorized access to your account and try to access your messages and attachments. Using encrypted email is one of the smartest (and easiest) steps you can take to protect your digital privacy.
Email Encryption Software: Thwarting Threats to Your Digital Privacy
We all need and have a right to privacy. Whether you’re the CEO of a multinational corporation, the proud owner of a prize-winning blueberry pie, or just a regular law-abiding taxpayer with an email account, someone wants into your inbox.
You may think you have nothing to hide, but the truth is, there is likely plenty of data that you want to keep between you and the intended email recipient. Maybe you’ve been working on a novel for years, and email it to yourself each time you make significant progress on your word count. Maybe you’re working on a patent for a game-changing product. You might not have dastardly secret plans, but you probably have secrets. Email encryption can keep them secret.
Plus, anyone with the ability to access your email can easily piece together bits of information to crack into your bank account, or gain enough data to commit medical identity theft. Name of your first pet? Your high school mascot? Given the thousands of emails you have likely sent using your personal account, there’s a good chance the answers to your security questions are buried somewhere in that inbox. If you’re using email encryption, that puts another wall between you and any bad actors.
3 Reasons You Need Email Encryption Software
Protection from Cyber Criminals
Cyber criminals have gotten very sophisticated in their ability to target consumers. These attacks often go way beyond simple identity theft—they may use information about your schedule, contacts, and interests to rob your bank account, attack your friends and family, target your employer, or all of the above. Email encryption prevents hackers from intercepting and exploiting the content of your emails.
Protection of Your Civil Liberties
Both the government and your email provider may have access to your communications. Many email service providers routinely harvest data from users’ emails in order to show ads. They’ll scan your emails for info such as your interests, purchases, opinions, or even health issues to market products to you. For some users, this might seem pretty innocuous—after all, it’s not like someone is actually reading your emails, right?
The problem is, there’s really no way to know. The government has vast power to scan the emails of innocent people—power they’ve abused before. In 2015, U.S. intelligence officials made Yahoo! build a program to scan all incoming email for a set of keywords. Any Yahoo! user whose emails contained one of those keywords had their messages read by intelligence officials — even if they (like the vast majority of users) had done nothing wrong or illegal. Without email encryption software, all your private messages are an open book.
Not only does encryption software protect your individual messages, it also helps stop the normalization of surveillance. The more individuals use email encryption software, the harder it is for government agencies to treat it as a dangerous or subversive activity.
You Can Undo a Mistake (If You Pick the Right Solution)
Everyone makes a big email mistake sooner or later. Mistype an address, or press send without thinking, and you’ve messaged a coworker about your medical problems instead of your doctor, or accidentally forwarded a private conversation to the wrong person. While some email providers do allow you to undo an email send, you often only have a few seconds to do so. Some email encryption providers (such as Virtru) allow you to revoke access to an email at any point, even if the email has already been read.
How Email Encryption Works
From a high level, the concept of email encryption is simple:
Plain text content—such as an email message or attachment to be protected so that only the intended recipient(s) is able to access and read.
In order to do this, a key is required to jumble plain text into indetectable ciphertext. Depending on the type of encryption used, recipients will need an encryption key to convert that ciphertext back to its original plaintext form. There are two common forms of encryption used today:
- Symmetric: Symmetric key encryption uses the same key to encrypt and decrypt the data. A simple example is a password-protected PDF. The creator of that PDF uses a passcode to secure the document, and authorized recipients use that same passcode to view the PDF in plain text form. Symmetric encryption can protect data at-rest, but it is not typically seen as an effective way to send encrypted data securely across different platforms. After all, how can the sender ensure that the key gets safely transmitted to the recipient?
- Asymmetric: Asymmetric encryption was created to address this concern. Asymmetric encryption uses two keys: one to encrypt data, and one to decrypt it. It’s often referred to as public-key encryption, because people who use it make the encryption key public but keep the decryption key private.
With asymmetric encryption, anyone can send out an email or file encrypted with the recipient’s public key, but only the recipient can read it, since only he has the private decryption key. The creation of multiple keys in asymmetric encryption adds complexities to key management.
Sounds simple enough, right?
Email Encryption’s Usability Problem
Encryption has been around for decades but has yet to garner wide-spread adoption. Usability issues surrounding key management and poor workflows have forced many to forgo encryption altogether. Traditional approaches to encryption such as PGP or S/MIME require complicated key exchanges that simply aren’t doable for the average email user.
As you go about your day, multitasking and stealing time wherever you can find it, do you really want to be knee-deep in encryption keys? What users need isn’t security at the expense of ease-of-use, they need user-friendly encryption that fits seamlessly into their inbox. This is where Virtru comes in.
Finding the Right Email Encryption Solution
With complex technology and multiple options, it can feel overwhelming to navigate through the encryption solutions market. Legacy approaches to encryption are complicated: difficult to use, update, and securely manage keys. Modern solutions, however, address the complex demands of encryption in a simplified way.
The secret to finding effective encryption software is to look for a solution that protects the privacy of your email messages and attachments while providing features—such as access control and granular audit—that help also meet overall security requirements for organizations in highly regulated industries.