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E-mail Encryption


E-mail encryption technology is used to protect e-mail messages from unauthorized access. E-mail encryption can be deployed using e-mail encryption software, secure e-mail servers or secure webmail centers.

E-mail messages will be transformed using an algorithm, resulting in a text unreadable to anyone except those possessing special knowledge, usually referred as a key.

User Benefits

Information Security and integrity are becoming more important as we use e-mail for personal communication and business.

Encryption is critical for intellectual property protection and privacy regulatory compliance. From the regulatory compliance point of view, encrypting of sensitive information is mandatory.

Many modern solutions now use policy based encryption, which means that, user independent, the messages can be encrypted based on policies. This assures a level of confidentiality for sensitive information even if the sensitive content is sent unintentionally out of the organization.

Business Impact:

For any sizeable organization e-mail is probably the top, mission critical application used by the company. An e-mail carries sensitive data for organization and e-mail encryption should be a strategic concern for every organization.

Losing any kind of confidential information, for example credit card numbers, personal identification number, medical record, intellectual property and so on, affects market position and credibility among customers and business partners.

Current protocols governing e-mail dictate that all messages transmitted over the internet be sent in plain ASCII text characters. The problem caused by this requirement is that anyone with the right tools can read a message sent by anyone else. The tools, such as TCP or packet sniffers, can be freely downloaded from the internet. The tools not only allow hackers to read anyone's email, but also allow them to intercept and alter the messages before they are delivered to the recipient.

Organizations will have a better protection and will be compliant with standard regulation, both industry and internal standards because the confidential information will not be accessible to any kind of attack. Even if the communication is intercepted, the data are secured through encryption.

E-mail is exposed at various points along its transmission, via backups, by IT staff members, or during firewall inspection. The challenge is to protect the integrity of the text, as well as the attachments.

Products supporting this technology


There are various ways to use e-mail encryption, all with advantages and disadvantages. The main question to be answered is where to encrypt the e-mail traffic? Encryption can be done at the endpoint level or at the gateway level.

The easiest and most popular way for enterprises to secure their email is by using Digital Certificates.

These certificates allow two essential strategies for message encryption: client to client and server to server encryption.

In client-to-client encryption, Security Certificates are installed on individual workstations. The dominant benefit of this method is that the message is encrypted before it leaves the originator's computer and remains encrypted until it is received (protection from end to end).

Server-to-server encryption, on the other hand, requires Security Certificates be installed on the mail

servers. Messages are protected only from server to server, not from the client to the server. The Email

Gateway strategy provides the benefits of server-to-server encryption without permitting its drawbacks.

  Usually, gateway e-mail encryption products use encryption tools such as:

  •  SSL/TLS to create a secure connection to the recipient server or client and to deliver the message securely; requires support for SSL/TLS on the recipient server or client.
  •  Server-side S/MIME, one of two major secure key exchange standards, is used primarily to support legacy encryption systems.
  •  Server-side PGP, the other major secure key exchange standard, is also used mainly to support legacy encryption systems.
  • A Web interface  is used when a message must be delivered securely, but no secure connection can be established with the recipient server. This method emails the recipient that they have a message waiting in a secure, web-based mailbox. The notification provides a URL link to the secure web page where the message can be retrieved.
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