This year, thousands of people transitioned to remote work. The amount of sensitive data shared online skyrocketed. Employees exchange sensitive information, such as login credentials and customer data, via email and other online communication platforms. It has opened up new security risks both for businesses and their employees.
Most people focus on the tasks at hand, and not on the security aspects of online communications. Without an IT team overlooking all network activities, it can be challenging to fight off the growing number of threats.
Corporate emails are to blame for the majority of accidental cyber security incidents. Therefore, it’s crucial to enhance your email security. And by far the best way to secure email content and prevent data breaches and data theft is email encryption.
What is email encryption?
Most email providers filter out all the spam and junk mail their users receive. But your inbox can never be 100% clean and secure. A lot can go down in the email space, from the spread of malicious malware to phishing and romance scams.
Email encryption is the practice of locking email content and making it unreadable to third parties. Once encrypted, the content becomes incomprehensible. Whoever gets access to it cannot actually make sense of it without the correct decryption key.
Most email encryption services are based on PKI or public key infrastructure. This system operates like a puzzle. The receiver of the email gets a private decryption key they can use to unlock the content while no one else has access to it.
Here are four different ways you can use encryption to protect corporate emails and prevent data theft.
1. Encrypted email provider
Start by using a secure email provider instead of opting for lesser known alternatives.
Gmail, for instance, has an encryption system built into the platform that any user can take advantage of. All you have to do is enable encryption when composing a message:
- Click on the lock icon located next to the email recipient’s address.
- Then click on “View details” to change the S/MIME settings and the level of encryption.
Keep in mind that for this method to work, both the sender and the recipient must enable this feature within Gmail. Therefore, you have to communicate with the recipient and ask them to enable encryption.
Once done, a colour code indicates the status of the encryption on the email:
- green stands for “protected by S/MIME encryption,”
- gray means protected with TLS or Transport Layer Security,
- red means no encryption used at all.
2. Browser extensions
Another way to encrypt corporate emails is to use browser extensions, such as FlowCrypt for Google Chrome. This extension allows you to send encrypted messages to anyone and ensure end-to-end security on a daily basis.
What’s great about this method is that you don’t have to share keys and passwords with the recipient before sending the encrypted email. But browser extensions often require multi-factor authentication via SMS as an extra layer of security.
The fact that both parties don’t have to download any software adds to the convenience of using this method.
3. Encrypt messages in a file
The next method is encrypting email attachments instead of email itself. It’s convenient because you can choose any file encryption software you like. If you already have file encryption software, you don’t need anything else. Otherwise, you can download free encryption software; you’ll find it useful for many things, including email encryption.
How to use this method for email encryption?
- Put the message with the sensitive information in a file (or folder) and then encrypt it.
- Attach it to the regular email without encrypting the actual email.
Of course, the only problem is, the recipient needs the password to unlock the attachment. So you also need a secure way to share the password.
Fortunately, more advanced encryption software for business, such as NordLocker, solves this problem. It enables sharing encrypted files between employees without the need of exchanging passwords.
Keep in mind, it only works if both the sender and recipient use the same encryption solution. But it shouldn’t be a problem when you share files with co-workers. Plus, it eliminates the need of sending data via email in the first place.
4. Use IOS encryption
The last method is for iOS users, as it refers to activating the iOS email encryption. Most up to date iOS email applications have built-in support for S/MIME encryption. All you have to do is activate it to send encrypted files.
Go to advanced settings on your device and enable the S/MIME function.
Change “Encrypt by Default” to “Yes.”
It is a great way to maintain security while on the go, as you can send encrypted emails via an Apple smartphone.
Email encryption might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of cyber security measures. However, with the frequency of email breaches and data theft, encryption proves to be the best way to keep critical data safe.
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Encrypting messages in a file is by far the safest way to ensure no intruders can get access to your information. But you can also opt for other methods such as using S/MIME on Gmail or relying on safe browser extensions.