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Karen Cohen

By: Karen Cohen on April 22, 2023

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What Is Email Encryption? Does It Keep Business Communication Secure?


Every business leader and IT professional understands the need to keep business data safe. One of the best tools to keep business communication secure is email encryption. 

In this article, I’ll explain what encryption is and how it works to keep data safe in transit and at rest. 

Thousands of emails are sent every day. While many may not contain sensitive information, we often take the safety of information sent via email for granted. When looking for secure email solutions to protect information such as credit card numbers, passport or social security numbers, encryption is a must. 

What Is Encryption? 

Encryption uses algorithms to convert data into “ciphertext” which scrambles data to help protect information from hackers or other unauthorized people. A decryption key (which can consist of a password or series of numbers) is required to decode the data when it arrives at its destination.

Any business that stores or transmits sensitive personally identifiable information (PII), such as health care information or financial information, should use encryption to keep the data safe.  

How Does Email Encryption Work? 

The two main types of encryption are symmetric and asymmetric.

Symmetric encryption which secured data with one private key, while asymmetric encryption uses a combination of public and private keys to protect messages, ensuring they are not tampered with in transit and are visible only to the sender and recipient.

The most common form of symmetric encryption is advanced encryption standard (AES). 

Why Is Encrypting Email Necessary? 

Allow me an analogy. 

When sending personal correspondence via the U.S. Postal Service, (aka “snail mail,”) you have several options:

  • a post card (which anyone who comes into contact with can read)
  • a letter sent in a traditional envelope (which someone with determination might be able to see through)
  • a document enclosed in a security or safety envelope (which protects the contents from prying eyes)

We all assume that the mail service is safe, but when sending important or sensitive documents, most of us take the extra step of using a security envelope instead of a post card or a traditional white envelope.

The same can be said for email. We all assume that it is safe for general correspondence, but the truth is that standard email messages that are sent in plain text can be viewed and read by third parties. Encrypted emails are difficult for people to read unless they have the decryption key. 

Sending confidential information via email without encryption is like sending personal information in a see-through envelope (or on the back of a post card). The information you send could be seen and acted on by any third-party without your knowledge or permission. 

Email is one of the most common cybersecurity threat vectors. Hackers can use unencrypted email to gain access to sensitive information and use that information to interfere with your business.

Encryption protects your data and keeps it from being changed, compromised, or pilfered.

Related article: Top 10 Cybersecurity Tools To Protect Business  

How Much Do Encryption Tools Cost? 

Many computers come with encryption tools already installed. They may need to be manually enabled. 

In addition, a variety of encryption tools are available as add-ons on the open market at a variety of price points. There are even some effective encryption solutions offered at no cost. 

Does My Business Need Email Encryption To Keep Data Secure? 

Only you can decide if email encryption is right for your organization. But, after reading this article you have all of the information you need to confidently decide whether encryption is right for you. 

You know what encryption is, how it works, why it is necessary, and how much it costs. 

Many businesses are subject to regulatory or contractual requirements for encryption. But, even if you aren’t required to encrypt all email messages, it is considered best practice for any organization looking to enhance their cybersecurity efforts. 

Adding email encryption to your company’s email platform is an effective way to ensure that hackers can’t gain access to sensitive data through email. If it sounds difficult to use, it’s not—users would never know it’s there and it can be set up relatively easily by your internal IT staff or an external IT provider. 

If you are thinking of exploring external IT support and services, learn the differences between break/fix and managed IT support.  

Related article: What Is A Break/Fix IT Provider? The Pros & Cons

While there are differences between the two approaches, either option can be a viable solution for businesses. 

Related article: Managed IT Support: The Pros & Cons

When evaluating external IT support, it’s critical to find a provider that is the right fit for your organization. The best way to do that is by doing your due diligence and interviewing several before selecting your technology partner. Learn the 10 best questions to ask any IT provider

If managed IT support sounds like a good option and you are exploring providers, click the button below so one of our advisors can schedule a call to discuss your pain points and explore whether we are a good fit to work together. 

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If you prefer, click the button below for a free checklist you can use to see if managed IT support services are a good solution for your organization. This checklist will help you:

✔️Evaluate your current IT infrastructure and processes
✔️Identify your current IT gaps versus what your business needs
✔️Ensure that your organization has the technology it needs to be successful

Get Your Managed IT Support Checklist

Still not sure? Find out more what’s included in managed IT support services and how much they cost. 

About Karen Cohen

Karen brings unending curiosity to her role as Kelser's Content Manager. If you have a question, she wants to know the answer.

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