Email is Here to Stay: Let’s Secure It

This post is a response to Alexis Madrigal’s piece in the Atlantic “Email Is Still the Best Thing on the Internet”. Madrigal does a great job capturing the reality of email and reaffirming the importance of email as a technology that is here to stay. This Madrigal quote captures the gist of his piece:

 You can’t kill email! It’s the cockroach of the Internet, and I mean that as a compliment. This resilience is a good thing.

Email is everywhere, and while you’ve likely heard that email is under siege from a collection of mobile messaging apps like WhatsApp and Snapchat we’re not convinced. Email is still the way businesses communicate, and everyone still has an email address. Email is based on open standards, and there are few barriers to entry. Madrigal sees email as an “exciting landscape of freedom amidst the walled gardens of social networking and messaging services.”

We agree that email is here to stay, and this is why we’ve decided to secure it. With Virtru, all you need is an email address to send a secure message and all your recipients need is an email address to read a secure message. Virtru is designed as a thin layer atop email providing encryption without requiring someone to install a new app to send or read a message. But, before we get to security, let’s compare email with a few of the proposed alternatives.

Email vs. The Alternatives

When you compare email to the proposed alternatives they just don’t stack up, especially for a business. Let’s take a look at the proposed alternatives:

  • Social Networks – A non-starter for business.  Sure, you’ll have some professional connections on Facebook, but established professionals know better than to connect all of their personal and professional contacts together for one big, privacy-invading newsfeed.
  • Professional Networks – We use LinkedIn and you should too by clicking on our LinkedIn profile and telling the world how great Virtru is, but LinkedIn’s messaging capabilities are just not email. I’ve sent and received a few messages on LinkedIn. It’s a great way to connect, but the conversation always moves back to email.
  • Persistent Chat Rooms and Instant Messaging – Every workplace should have a persistent chat room for groups that work together. Skype conversations, Atlassian’s HipChat, and a new, emerging platform called Slack are great tools to communicate, but they don’t replace the need for email.
  • Snapchat, Yo, Twitter – Don’t get me wrong: these apps are important for certain kinds of interactions, but they aren’t sufficient for some of longer messages we have to send. These applications are not replacing email as much as they are providing another avenue for communication. Yes, these apps reduce demand for email in a younger demographic, but that demographic is going to grow up and have both a work and personal email address.

One thing we’d change? The security of email

Email is entirely insecure, and that’s one thing that hasn’t changed in more than 30 years since email was invented. While email providers and companies creating new email interfaces have gone to great lengths to secure the networks that transport our email messages, the messages themselves are still unprotected. Emails are not encrypted by default and even though every email message has a sender and a receiver associated with it, these identities are not verified.

If you send an email you are placing a bet that your colleague’s inbox is secure. If your recipient’s email inbox is hacked the attacker can read every message and attachment you’ve ever sent because email doesn’t have concepts like: message expiration, encryption, or cryptographically verifiable identity built-in. If you send sensitive attachments or an email you don’t  want shared with the world, email provides you with no protection – no way to limit the audience or any ability to take back a message sent to the wrong address.

Use Virtru to Secure Email

Virtru adds security and control to email, and our service doesn’t aim to replace email. Virtru builds upon the open standards of email and extends it.  It’s time to secure email because email is going to be around for a long time.  We encourage everyone to try Virtru it allows users and businesses to communicate with email in way that is secure and encrypted providing senders with control of the emails and attachments they send.