Technology Unwrapped

The most important technology concepts, strategies and actions uncovered for your business.

Email Encryption 101: What it is, How it Works, & Why Your SMB Needs it

Background with media email icons on blueEmail is one of the core connectors for both internal and external communication. Millions of emails are sent daily to update, inform, advertise, and more. But security measures, such as email encryption, must be instilled when the email contains confidential information. 

Email encryption was created to prevent anyone other than the intended recipient from successfully viewing the contents of the email and stealing it for their purposes. Because of encryption’s importance to email security, we explain what it is, how it works, and why it might be important for your business to use it. In doing so, you can be more confident in applying an email encryption policy for your business.

What is email encryption?

Email encryption disguises the content of email messages to protect sensitive information from readers who are not the intended recipient. To the reader, your emails look like plain, readable text because they have a private key that deciphers the message. Anyone who does not have the corresponding key will see indecipherable text, rendering any chance of reading the email’s contents impossible.

Known as encryption keys, they are created to scramble and unscramble data with the appropriate algorithm. The longer the key, the harder it is to break the code. There are two kinds of encryption algorithms:

  • Symmetric- secret key encryption that utilizes a single key for both encryption and decryption
  • Asymmetric- public or private encryption that uses a pair of keys; the public key encrypts, and the private key decrypts

Types of email encryption

There are different forms of encryption standards that can be used:

  1.       Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) is a free software widely used to protect individuals and organizations through online communication. PGP combines cryptography, data compression, and symmetric and asymmetric keys to encrypt the email as it is in motion. When the user sends the message using their public key, PGP will decrypt the data when the recipient’s system unlocks it with their private key.

  2.       Secure Multi-purpose Internet Mail Extension (S/MIME) is an Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) used to send public-key encryption and digital signatures, most commonly built into email services such as Gmail and Outlook.
  3.       Transport Layer Security (TLS) is another IETF standard commonly used for email, instant messaging, and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP).

How does email encryption work?

Email encryption solutions rely on software that enables policy-based encryption implemented by your business. It provides clear definitions of which emails are allowed into the user’s inbox and which emails are encrypted when sent out.

When sending an email with sensitive information, you are able to type a specific keyword that automatically encrypts your message or you can select a button in Outlook to encrypt the email. From there, the CoreScreen protection system ensures complete protection with asymmetric encryption as it is delivered to the intended recipient. Be aware that our threat protection program includes encryption as an additional charge for another layer of security. 

Why does my business need email encryption?

Encrypting your email is crucial to keeping both company and personal information safe. Your staff and email recipients will experience peace of mind knowing their medical, legal, and financial information is secure without having to take time-consuming additional steps.  Also, many compliance guidelines, such as HIPAA, CJIS, and CFPB, require encryption to uphold high cyber security standards. 

Keep your confidential messages private

CoreScreen powered by ProofPoint is one of the many layers of security we offer at CoreTech. The cybersecurity landscape is constantly evolving so it is important for every small to midsize business to examine their channels of communication for exposure, and we can help. Take advantage of our IT Security Scorecard to find out how secure your network is, and then contact us to learn more about safeguarding your business. 

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Topics: Security Threats, Microsoft Products, Unified Communications