How email encryption works
Email encryption is a process of encoding email messages in such a way that only the intended recipient can read them. The sender and receiver must use a shared secret key, which can be obtained in several ways, to encrypt and decrypt the message. Email encryption can be used to protect the privacy of email communications, as well as to ensure the authenticity of the sender and integrity of the message.
There are many different email encryption schemes in existence, but they all share some common features.
First, the sender uses their private key to encrypt the message. This encrypted message is then sent over an insecure network, such as the Internet. When the message reaches its destination, the recipient uses its public key to decrypt it. For this system to work properly, both parties must have each other’s public keys; these can be exchanged manually or retrieved from a trusted third party (such as a certificate authority).
Email encryption schemes typically make use of asymmetric-key cryptography, which involves using two different keys – one for encryption and one for decryption – that are mathematically related but not identical. One key (the public key) is made widely available, while the other (the private key) is kept secret by its owner. Any message encrypted with the public key can only be decrypted by someone with access to the corresponding private key; this ensures that only the intended recipient will be able to read messages encrypted with their public key.
Types of email encryption
There are several types of email encryption, each with its own strengths and weaknesses.
The most common type is Pretty Good Privacy (PGP), which uses a combination of public-key and symmetric-key cryptography. PGP is fairly easy to use, but it can be slow and is not always compatible with all email clients.
Another type of email encryption is S/MIME, which uses public-key cryptography and is often built into email clients such as Microsoft Outlook and Apple Mail. S/MIME is not as easy to use as PGP, but it is usually faster and more widely compatible.
The third type of email encryption is TLS, which uses symmetric-key cryptography and is often used to encrypt communication between email servers. TLS is generally the fastest type of email encryption, but it can be difficult to set up and may not be compatible with all email clients.
5 email security best practices
These are a few best practices to secure your email messages –
Create strong email passwords:
- Use a strong password for your email account, and make sure to change it regularly. A strong password should be at least 8 characters long and include a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols.
- Avoid using easily guessed words or information in your passwords, such as your birthdate, pet’s name, or favourite sports team.
- Don’t reuse passwords for other accounts – if one account is compromised, all of your accounts are at risk if you use the same password.
Use two-factor authentication:
- Two-factor authentication adds an extra layer of security to your account by requiring you to enter a code from a mobile device or physical token in addition to your password when logging in.
- This makes it more difficult for someone to gain access to your account, even if they have your password, as they would also need to have possession of your mobile device or token.
- Two-factor authentication is available on many email and online accounts and is well worth enabling if it is an option.
- Some companies also offer two-factor authentication for their employees, which can provide an additional layer of security for sensitive data and information.
- Be sure to keep your mobile device or token safe and secure, as losing it could mean that someone else gains access to your account.
Beware of phishing emails:
- Phishing emails are a type of online scam where criminals send fake emails. Often masquerading as a trustworthy company or person, in an attempt to trick victims into providing personal information or financial data.
- These emails can look very realistic. And may even include the logo or branding of the company they are pretending to be.
- If you receive an email that looks like it could be phishing, do not respond to it. And do not click on any links or attachments included in the message.
- Instead, contact the company directly using a trusted email address or phone number. And inquire about the legitimacy of the message.
- You can also report phishing emails to the proper authorities. Such as your internet service provider or the Federal Trade Commission.
Avoid accessing emails via public Wi-Fi:
- Unsecured public Wi-Fi networks mean that your data and information could be at risk if you access your email account.
- If you must use public Wi-Fi to check your email, be sure it has a secure connection. (one that uses HTTPS). And avoid entering any sensitive information into the website.
- You can also install a VPN on your device. This will encrypt all of the data that you send and receive while using public Wi-Fi.
- If possible, it is best to avoid accessing email on public Wi-Fi altogether. And instead, wait until you are on a private or home network.
- Remember that it is also important to keep your device’s security settings up to date. This is to protect yourself from potential threats while online.
Always log out when finished:
- If you are using a shared computer or device, it is important to clear the browser history and cookies.
- You can also set up your browser to automatically log out of websites after a certain period has passed. That can be useful if you tend to forget to log out manually.
- Remember that logging out of your email account is just one step in keeping your data and information safe online. Be sure to take other precautions as well!