As more commercial activities are done through email, small businesses and enterprises alike should take an interest in email security, specifically encryption.
So how can email encryption protect businesses and their clients? Encryption disguises the contents of an email so that only the intended recipient will be able to read the message. Email encryption empowers businesses by:
- Securing critical information
- Enabling email recall
- Mitigating data leaks
- Protecting customer communication channels
- Ensuring regulatory compliance
- Preventing cybersecurity attacks
What Is Email Encryption?
One misconception many people believe is that an email only passes from one computer to another directly. However, an email actually has to travel from the sender to multiple mail servers and proxy servers before it reaches a recipient. During an email’s journey, anyone who has access to related servers can intercept these messages and read them without the knowledge of the sender or recipient.
This makes emails vulnerable to hackers, especially when they are sent over an unsecured or public WIFI network.
Aside from gaining access to confidential information such as login credentials or bank account numbers, a hacker can also hijack an email thread and its attachments.
Email encryption is one form of email security that prevents these risks. Encryption is the process of sending an email that is “scrambled” until it reaches the intended recipient. By disguising the contents of the email, an unwanted third-party won’t be able to read the message easily. Aside from rendering the content of the email unreadable, encryption usually includes an authentication feature to ensure the recipient is authorized to read it.
As a business, you may assume that you only need a firewall to protect your emails. A firewall only works to protect a specific network; it has no control over the emails entering or leaving your company network. Once an email leaves the firewall’s protection, it will be vulnerable to hackers and other third parties.
How End-to-End Email Encryption Works
The safest and most common type of email encryption is end-to-end encryption. End-to-end encryption means that an email is secured at each delivery stage — even email servers won’t be able to read them. This works by using Public Key Infrastructure (PKI).
The PKI model relies on a public key and a private key. A user can have a public key, which is either publicly available or known only by those whom you chose to give it to. Whenever someone wants to send you an encrypted email, they can use this public key.
Once the email is sent to you, you can use a unique private key to decrypt the message and make it readable. This private key is like a password that is only known by you, the intended recipient of the email. With end-to-end encryption, cyber criminals can be deterred from compromising any sensitive information and attachments within an email.
6 Ways Email Encryption Can Protect Your Business
It’s hard to persuade many businesses to adopt email encryption. It sounds like an additional, burdensome step because you have to encrypt and decrypt every message you send or receive on your computer.
However, cybercriminals have become more adept in mining business communications for valuable information, especially small, unprotected companies. This alone should motivate businesses to add an extra layer of security to their email.
End-to-end email encryption is necessary as more and more transactions are conducted online. There are six ways email encryption can help keep your business safe:
- Encryption secures critical information.
In our digitally connected age, data is king and every business has unique data that is worth protecting carefully. Hackers would love to get their hands on invoices, bills, pay stubs, and other information transmitted over electronic mail. Insignificant as these tidbits may seem, hackers can do serious damage with the information they get. They may guess at passwords, send phishing emails, or hold client data hostage.
Encryption prevents all of these cybercrimes from happening by making your emails unreadable, even if you get hacked. You can also set up automatic email encryption in case you forget and send something unencrypted. With encryption measures in place, you keep critical information from reaching the wrong people.
- Encryption enables email recall.
As a business, you often deal with many people: employees, suppliers, and other third-parties. It’s easy to get flustered and send a confidential email to the wrong person. While some email services allow you to recall an unread email, it’s out of your hands if an unintended recipient has already opened your message.
Encryption is a fail-safe for these instances as the recipient might not have the key to decrypt your email. Some encryption service providers also include an email recall feature you can retrieve a secured email at any time. With only a few clicks, you can avoid any issues that may arise with missent mail.
- Encryption can mitigate data leaks.
Every business should accept the reality that no security solution can protect confidential data entirely. The most secure companies operate with the mindset that their data can and will be compromised at some point in time.
While strong encryption won’t be able to prevent a data breach, it can mitigate the aftermath. Encryption can prevent cyber criminals from accessing the information since encrypted data cannot be decrypted without a private key.
- Encryption protects customer communication channels.
Trust is one of most important components in establishing customer relationships. Unfortunately, any news of data leakage can easily shatter the trust you have cultivated in your clients. You need to invest in information security to protect your image and reputation.
Encryption enables you to protect your customers who may not know or have access to safe communication channels. Aside from protecting emails, you can also encrypt your portable devices to protect customer data even if a device gets lost, stolen, or destroyed.
- Encryption keeps your business compliant with regulations.
In the US, there are several policies for data protection. This includes the GLBA, a law covering information security in the financial security and the HIPAA, which sets privacy rules for health care providers and similar entities. Depending on your industry, you may need to comply with a lot of other NDAs, contracts, and other security requirements as well.
Failure to comply with these metrics usually leaves you to run the risk of being sued or your company getting shut down. Email encryption is a versatile solution that meets most regulations. In every case, encrypted emails can prevent communication accidents and secure data if a hacker infiltrates your system.
- Encryption prevents email cybersecurity attacks.
A compromised email can be a powerful tool for hackers as they can use it for different scenarios. They can steal information on vendors and clients that they can sell to others or attempt a phishing campaign that targets decision-makers with lookalike email addresses. Hackers may also gain login credentials for certain systems and ask your colleagues for sensitive information.
Encrypting your emails can help you protect any available information and allow you to verify if a sender or recipient is truly who they claim to be. This will lessen potential cybersecurity attacks and prevent full-blown data breaches from occurring.
How To Encrypt Your Emails
Implementing email encryption as a standard practice is difficult but it also makes the task harder for hackers and third-parties to find anything of use to them. They would have to decrypt each and every message to find important information. The extra layer of protection may not be enough of a deterrent against the most persuasive hackers but it’s a good protection against random hacking and lends your clients peace of mind.
The simplest way for any organization to encrypt all their emails is by subscribing to an enterprise encryption solution. These services automate end-to-end encryption so that admins won’t have to set up and manage encryption keys.
Many of these encryption services also allow users to withdraw sent emails, stop content forwarding, and prevent emails from being printed or copy/pasted. Some providers even include features that let you request a signature for encrypted attachments.
Aside from protecting unsent email content, encryption solutions will help you encrypt past emails and secure the connection to your email provider. Unauthorized users in your network won’t be able to capture emails as they travel from your provider’s server. And even if they obtain access to your stored, cached, or archived emails, hackers won’t be able to read them.
Before you choose a vendor for your encryption needs, it’s important to keep the following things in mind:
- The solution should keep the keys and data separate: Your encryption keys are a valuable secret. If it was readily available on your local server or your cloud service provider, your security efforts become useless. You have to secure the keys are stored somewhere only you and a select number of people would have access to.
- The solution should have a simple interface: An encryption solution will come with a dashboard for managing keys and other security settings. If the interface is poorly designed or its features are confusing, there is a chance you may incorrectly configure the keys and cause a security problem.
- The solution should offer flexibility with key management: Depending on your situation, you may want to keep control over your keys rather than entrust them with your provider. You might also want to automate your key management rather than doing it manually, especially if you’re in a large, enterprise-level company. Find a solution that allows you to be flexible in your approach so you can scale your system easily.
Secure Client Information With Abacus Managed IT Services
Since 2001, Abacus has been providing IT solutions and products to businesses who want to keep their client information safe. Among our top services are unique, comprehensive security plans that address threats at every level. Consult with Abacus to learn more on how you can secure your data today.