Virtru Security Insights

How to Encrypt Email Attachments, And Why You Should

Whether you’re sending a confidential message to your employees or a personal note to your spouse, it’s natural to want your emails to stay private. However, sometimes the most sensitive info in an email is not the message itself, but the attachment. Tax documents, business spreadsheets, and even personal photos can be stolen if your message is hijacked on the way to its destination. Likewise, even if your recipient deletes the attachment after they’ve saved it to their computer, there’s no guarantee that it still won’t be sitting on a mail server somewhere.

Want to have complete control over your attachments? Read our guide below, and you’ll learn how to encrypt email attachments with the TDF (Trusted Data Format), and why using TDF is so crucial to protecting your data from prying eyes.

Why It’s Important to Learn How to Encrypt Email Attachments

Email programs usually only put one restriction on attachments: maximum file size (25 MB in the case of Gmail). Anything smaller than that is fair game, whether it’s an animated GIF or a multimedia PowerPoint presentation. Outside of that single restriction, there aren’t a whole lot of measures in place to protect your data — and limiting file size certainly doesn’t protect your inbox in any way.

When you hit send, your email and attachment have to travel through multiple Internet servers, where hackers could intercept and read your data. This could be very damaging if your attachment contains professional data, which could range from legal advice to private healthcare information — even intellectual property that might be crucial to your business. On top of that, there’s all of the personal data we share — including some embarrassing things we probably don’t want many people to know about.

There’s a huge range of consequences, depending on what attachment is compromised, and what the criminals decide to do with it. Exposing professional data could result in stiff fines, professional censure, or even legal consequences. The risks of a hacker intercepting a personal attachment can be just as bad — or even worse: theft, fraud, blackmail, or even physical harm to you or your family.

How Attachment Encryption Works

The Trusted Data Format was invented by Will Ackerly, CTO and co-founder of Virtru as a way to protect and control access to highly-sensitive intelligence information for the government. Before TDF, most encryption programs were designed to protect one type of data, such as images, Excel spreadsheets, or emails. TDF is different, because it can safely encrypt any type of file.

When you send an attachment with TDF, it encrypts the file into a format that is unreadable without a digital key. When the recipient clicks on the attachment, Virtru’s server checks to make sure you’ve given them permission to access it. The intended recipient can save and open the file just like any other attachment — provided they can decrypt it. Anyone trying to intercept the file along the way, however, will be stuck with the unreadable data, instead of a photo, spreadsheet, or other sensitive document.

How to Use TDF to Encrypt Email Attachments

Before Virtru, there was no easy email attachment encryption, and only security pros knew how to encrypt email. Now, you can do it with the click of a button. Once you install Virtru on your browser, mobile device, or email client and activate it, you’ll have the option to encrypt every email (and attachment) that you send.

If the recipient has Virtru installed, they’ll be able to read it and respond like they would with any other message. There’s no hassle, no juggling encryption keys or certificates, and no need to hassle your recipient with setting up PGP or S/MIME.

How Virtru Gives You Control of Your Data

While Virtru can help protect your privacy by encrypting your attachments, that’s not the only way it gives you more control over your data. The revoke feature lets you rescind an email even after it has been read — meaning that you never have to worry about accidentally sending an email to the wrong address ever again. Additionally, for short-term or extremely sensitive information, you can set a time limit on emails, so that they won’t sit in the recipient’s server forever.

It doesn’t matter if you’re looking to just encrypt your tax documents before you send them to your account, or if you’re looking for an enterprise-ready email encryption solution, Virtru has you covered. If you’re interested in protecting your data from thieves, download Virtru, and see how easy true client-side encryption can be.