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What Is Email Encryption?

Email continues to be the predominant business collaboration tool, despite the rise in text messaging, instant messaging, social networking, and other forms of communication. Email encryption is the process of converting the contents of emails into code to protect against the inadvertent or malicious exposure of sensitive information.

Why is email encryption necessary?

It has become best practice in businesses to encrypt all email--not only those with sensitive information included. This prevents hackers from gaining access to any part of your email (for example attachments and URLs) or finding a way to take over your account. Encryption ideally covers the full journey of the email. Messages should be encrypted before they are sent, which ensures that they are protected and unreadable to hackers from the outset. After delivery, an archived email is safest if it is encrypted. If your credentials are ever compromised, a hacker won't be able to gain access to your actual messages.

How does email encryption work?

Email encryption, or converting data into a code, prohibits the contents of the email from being seen by any unauthorized recipients. The email encryption process uses keys to lock and unlock the code that result from the encryption. Public-key cryptography allows the sender to encrypt the email when it is sent. A private key is used by the receiver to decode the encryption upon receipt.

Types of email encryption

Transport Layer Security (TLS) 1.2

TLS 1.2 encryption secures communications over a a computer network.


SAN encryption

This encryption model is used to secure archived data.


AES 256-bit encryption

An encryption method that applies the same key for both encryption and decryption.


S/MIME (Secure/Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions)

A protocol for sending digitally signed and encrypted messages.


Pretty Good Privacy (PGP)

PGP is used to increase the security of e-mail communications and protect sensitive files.