How to Encrypt an Email to Protect Your Enterprise?

While email has lost its appeal in private online communication somewhat to social media, instant messaging, chat and VoIP, in business communication, it still rules.

In fact, according to a Kinsta report, email is the 2nd largest organic content distribution channel B2B marketers used in 2020, behind only social media platforms, with 87% and it is the 3rd largest for B2C marketers as well at 79% use.

As you can see, email is not going anywhere soon, especially not when it comes to business.

Business Email Security Vulnerabilities

The opponents of email as a business communication tool are right in one thing.

Email is not always the most secure way to send and receive data. Businesses face a multitude of threats when using email as a communication tool, not the least of them being different forms of phishing email attacks or more sophisticated email attacks like business email compromise or CEO fraud.

Why are hackers attacking your business email?

Much for the same reason they would attack your personal email, to steal money and data.

Except that there's usually a bit more money and data to be had in an email belonging to an organization than there is in one belonging to an individual.

For instance, the FBI has reported over 166,349 BEC reports for a total loss of more than $26 billion between 2016 and 2019 and the BEC is one of the fastest-growing cybercrimes now.

At the same time, smaller organizations, (1-250 employees) are more likely to receive a malicious email (1 in every 323), according to a Comparitech report.

How Encrypted Email Can Help Companies Protect Their Sensitive Information?

So how can you encrypt and protect your organization from hackers?

The best way to do this is by using email encryption.

What does email encryption do?

There are, first of all, two main categories of email encryption - transport layer security and end-to-end encryption.

The difference here is that transport layer security, or TLS as it is commonly known, only protects the data in transit, so while it is moving from the sender to the intended recipient.

For example, Gmail uses TLS by default to ensure the integrity between the client and the server. However, if one side is not using TLS, the message will not be encrypted and secure.

That's why TLS is not enough in a business communication setting, where the risk of data theft is much greater. Organizations should use end-to-end email encryption in addition to TLS.

The two most common types of end-t0-end email encryption are PGP and S/MIME.

PGP stands for "pretty good privacy" and when it originally came out in 1991, it was released as freeware. However, as Symantec acquired PGP Corp. In 2010, PGP itself became a proprietary software.

However, since the source code was made available to the public, an open-source version, OpenPGP is available for free today.

How PGP Uses Public Key and Private Key to Encrypt an Email?

PGP encrypts email using a combination of two keys - public and private key. The public key is used for encrypting an email, while the private or secret key is needed to decrypt it.

We'll give you an example of how public keys and private keys work in action:

  1. The sender wants to send a secure email to the recipient.
  2. The recipient now needs to generate a public key and a private or secret key.
  3. They then send the public key to the sender and keep the private key for themselves.
  4. The sender then uses the recipient's public key to encrypt an email from plain text to ciphertext and sends an encrypted email to the recipient.
  5. Once they get the message, the intended recipient can use their secret key to decrypt the message.

Why are there public keys and private keys?

PGP uses both public and private keys for added security. While using only one key type is admittedly faster, using a private-public key combination is much less likely to lead to a data breach.

What is S/MIME Encryption and How it Works?

The other popular type of secure email encryption is S/MIME encryption, which stands for "Secure Multipurpose Internet Mail Extension.

S/MIME also uses asymmetric or public-key cryptography, where the public key is used to encrypt plaintext into ciphertext and a private or secret key decrypts the ciphertext back into plain text.

However, that is not to say that PGP and S/MIME are the same when it comes to email encryption.

There are a few reasons why your company might benefit to use S/MIME:

  1. It will protect your sensitive data from data leaks (accidental and intended)
  2. MIME also protects email from hackers in transit, much like TLS
  3. It also verifies the sender via a digital signature, so there's no spoofing
  4. Since the sender must digitally sign the email, they can't deny sending it
  5. S/MIME will also tell the recipient if someone has tampered with the digital signature
  6. For enterprises, S/MIME ensures that emails are HIPAA and GDPR-compliant

Why Email Encryption Should be Easy to Use?

One big problem with encrypted email is that it's often not easy to use, especially when we're talking about end-to-end encryption.

This can lead to a business avoiding email encryption altogether out of worry that its employees won't know how to use it properly.

And in some way, they are right.

Email encryption should not be hard.

Users should be able to easily send encrypted emails and attachments and recipients to decrypt them without going through much trouble.

CTemplar is an end-to-end encrypted email service that makes it easy to encrypt/decrypt messages.

Messages are encrypted using OpenPGP standard on the client-side, using a 4096-bit RSA encryption key with the recipient's public key.

How encryption with CTemplar works?

What's great about CTemplar is that if you want to send an encrypted email with sensitive information to a non-CTemplar recipient, they don't need a CTemplar email account. Instead, you can set an encryption password with a hint for it.

That way, the new private/public RSA keys will be generated. The message will then be encrypted using the public one, while the private key is protected with a password.

When the recipients gets the email, a link in it will redirect them to the CTemplar web client where they can use the password hint to use the private key and decrypt the message.

This way, CTemplar offers full end-to-end encryption even if both sides don't have a CTemplar email account.

Ready to encrypt & protect your organization? Sign up now for your CTemplar email account.