How Does End-to-End Encryption Protect Your Email Data From Third Party Access?

end to end encryption

End-to-end encryption (E2EE) provides the best level of privacy for your email communication. But what is end-to-end email encryption?

End-to-end encryption is a way of sending data such that only the sender and the recipient can open and read an email message. This is done by encrypting the data on one side and decrypting it on the other.

With E2E encryption in place, no one can tamper with the message or read it, even if they somehow manage to intercept the data while it travels between the two parties.

Why End-to-End Encryption Matters for Your Privacy?

Why is end-to-end encryption important for your privacy?

Why is end-t0-end encryption important?

Without end-t0-end encryption, you don’t have a way to control who besides you can access your data.

This is the biggest privacy and security problem that plagues regular email providers such as Gmail.

While Google did stop scanning its users’ email messages for advertising after a significant backlash in 2017, the company never really stopped using its Google bots to access user’s email contents to communicate with other Google apps or for other purposes.

Furthermore, Google stores your emails in unencrypted form (plaintext) on its servers. This means that your data can be picked off at any moment and seized by law enforcement or the government.

However, the danger doesn’t only come from there.

As non-E2E email providers will only encrypt a message in transit (using TLS), but not on their servers, there’s also a high chance that a hacker can brute-force their way into the server and access your emails that are stored in it.

Even the biggest companies are not safe from a data security breach and some of the victims include:

  • Yahoo – 3 billion accounts (2013)
  • LinkedIn – 700 million (2021)
  • Facebook – 533 million (2019)
  • Yahoo (2nd time) – 500 million (2014)
  • LinkedIn – 165 million (2012)
  • Adobe – 153 million (2013)

Doesn’t My Email Provider Have Email Encryption Already?

Reading this article, you might be wondering, “wait, doesn’t my email provider already have email encryption?”

And it does, it’s just not end-to-end encryption (E2E.

What email providers like Gmail, Yahoo, Microsoft Outlook, etc, have is called encryption in transit.

This means that the data is protected while it travels (transits) between the sender’s and the recipient’s servers, but not on the servers or your device.

Email Encryption in Transit

There are two types of email encryption in transit, depending on whether both users use the same email provider (like Gmail) or different providers (for example, Gmail and Yahoo)

  • TLS/SSLIf both are Gmail users, their email message will be encrypted between the sender’s computer and the Gmail server using TLS (transmission layer security).
  • STARTTLS – In the case where the sender and the recipient are using different email providers, SMPT over TLS, or STARTTLS is used to encrypt and protect data between their servers. However, both servers will have decryption keys and access to your email contents.

How Does End-to-End Encryption Work?

So how does end-to-end encryption work in the first place?

E2 encryption uses a pair of keys to encrypt the email message before sending it and to decrypt it when it is received.

The message is first encrypted using a public key on the sender’s side. However, when the other person receives the email, they cannot use the same key to open and read the message.

Instead, they need another, private key, to do so that only the recipient has access to.

In other words, the message is first changed from plaintext into an unreadable ciphertext using the encryption key and then back into the readable plaintext using the decryption key.

Be Careful of Encryption Services That Use the Same Key for Encryption and Decryption

Never use one key for both encryption and decryption

What we explained above is asymmetric cryptography, using two keys (public and private).

However, this method is not perfect and has some drawbacks.

For one, it can be slow and computationally taxing.

This is why some providers use an encryption system where both parties have the same, public key for both encryption and decryption, called symmetric cryptography.

While this is a much safer method than having no encryption, the problem here is that the users have to find a secure way to share the key. If someone intercepts the key, they can access the data freely.

In addition, your email provider might also automatically share the key between senders and recipients. This is not a good idea as that would mean that they have the decryption keys themselves and if their servers are compromised, so is your email data.

What are the Main Types of Asymmetric End-to-End Encryption?

There are two types of asymmetric end-to-end encryption (E2EE)- PGP and S/MIME.

While these two encryption systems are similar in that they both use an encryption and decryption key, there is one key difference.

In PGP, or Pretty Good Privacy, the keys are exchanged between the users, whereas in S/MIME, or Secure Multipurpose Internet Mail Extension, a 3rd-party called a Certificate Authority (CA) provides a digital certificate that guarantees that the sender is authenticated and is who they say they are.

Both end-to-end encryption types are very secure and great ways to protect your email content from hackers, however, there are still certain problems that you should be aware of when using both PGP and S/MIME encryption.

PGP Encryption

  • Both the sender and the recipient must use the same PGP software in order to for it to work
  • PGP is not very user-friendly and can be too complex for an average email user to use. For example, if you’re using Gmail, you will need a 3rd-party encryption service to use PGP end-to-end encryption

S/MIME Encryption

  • It depends on the CA for renewing expired public certificates or revoking them. This means that almost all control is in the hands of the Certificate Authority and not the user
  • There is also the problem of centralization and trust. Many uses don’t believe that a centralized root CA can be entirely trusted and may worry about the integrity of the CA

How CTemplar Protects Your Email Communications From Hackers?

CTemplar is an end-to-end encryption email service that secures your email communications from hackers and other third-party intruders by using OpenPGP encryption protocol and zero-access encryption.

We aim to make email data security more approachable for the user by offering full end-to-end encryption, without a 3rd-party encryption service provider

This is why we encrypt all your email data, both in transit and at rest, including email body, subject and attachments. In addition, your emails are further protected thanks to zero data access, meaning that only you and the recipient can read the emails. Nobody else, including CTemplar, can read them!

Finally, we also offer full anonymity for our users as you can not only sign completely anonymously to your email account, but CTemplar also ensures that your outgoing emails are untraceable to you as we strip your real IP address from logs and metadata.

Are you looking for a good end-to-end encryption service to protect your email address? Sign up to CTemplar and secure your data today!

FAQ

What does end to end encryption mean?

End to end encryption means that the data that you send from your email address to another receiver are encrypted on both ends (yours and the recipient’s) with a public key and can only be decrypted and read using the recipient’s private key.

Can End-to-End Encryption be Hacked?

A: While it is extremely hard to hack end-to-end encryption like PGP, an attacker can still exploit its vulnerability if they intercept the data while traveling between the servers, or steal it from your computer or the server it is backed on.
Once in the possession of the (still) encrypted email, the attacker can insert custom HTML into it before sending the email back.
With this technique, hackers can trick both email clients such as Microsoft Outlook and Apple Mail, as well as PGP encryption tools like GPG Tools or GPGWin.

Is End-to-End Encryption Secure?

Despite some flaws, end-to-end encryption (E2EE) is by far the most secure way of transferring data online via email or an instant messaging app like Telegram and keeping your information private from government, hackers, advertisers, or big tech companies like Google trying to sell your data.