Email remains one of the most common methods for enterprises to communicate both internally and externally with partners, suppliers, and customers. Figures show that as of 2022, over 333.2 billion messages are sent via email every day around the globe. Emails are often used to issue invoices, contracts, personnel records, and other important business documentation. However, email is not a secure channel by default.

Company email accounts can be invaded by attackers employing social engineering and phishing tactics, rendering sensitive data included in communications vulnerable to theft. Additionally, messages and their attachments may be intercepted during transmission. By default, email communication is not encrypted as messages move from your email servers to their intended recipient. As a result, should hackers access this data, company emails and attachments can be viewed and abused.

Fortunately, when emails are encrypted, their contents are efficiently scrambled, ensuring that only their intended recipient can gain access to them. In this blog, we’ll take an in-depth look at encryption for email and how it works.

Understanding email encryption

The two main encryption protocols today are Transport Layer Security or TLS for short, as well as end-to-end encryption.

TLS encryption is utilised by well-known email providers like Google and Microsoft to protect emails as they transfer from sender to the desired recipient. TLS stops the reading of messages by other entities after they’re sent, but not before emails are delivered.

In the days before TLS encryption was introduced, cyber-criminals often intercepted emails and read them, as communications were not secure during transit. This type of tactic is often referred to as the ‘man-in-the-middle’ attack and has a history of causing serious harm to organisations.

Although TLS gives strong protection from this specific attack type, it provides only limited protection as emails only remain safeguarded during transit. As a result, if a threat operator can compromise a company email account, they can still view messages and attachments at rest in the various mailboxes (Sent items, inbox, drafts etc).

The bottom line is that companies sending sensitive information and private business emails will find TLS encryption does not offer an adequate protection level. Thankfully, another solution exists, known as end-to-end encryption.

Unlike TLS, end-to-end encryption makes certain that emails are encrypted by the message sender and cannot be decrypted by anyone other than the intended recipient. End-to-end encryption ensures that emails have total protection at every stage of transmission, including delivery, and can never be read by an unauthorised party or even an email server. This solution makes it exceptionally difficult for malicious operators to compromise confidential information, whether it is in the body copy of an email or within its attachment.

In simple terms, end-to-end encryption employs “keys” to protect emails. The sender will encrypt messages using their recipient’s public key. The intended recipient can then decrypt the message via the use of a private key.

Points to consider when selecting email encryption

As you can see above, not all types of encryption offer the same level of protection for firms handling sensitive data. When selecting a product for your company, always check that it has been approved for use by a governmental department and that it will deliver end-to-end encryption to both your email’s message body and any attachments you include. Also make sure that there are no limitations on the size of an attachment regarding whether encryption will remain possible or effective.

Every industry has its own specific regulations and legislation, so make sure that the encryption solution you choose can keep you compliant with the GDPR or even HIPAA if you work if you operate in the healthcare sector.

While many robust solutions are available to purchase, be wary of overly complex systems as these can be difficult for your teams to use. When staff have trouble with technology they can use it incorrectly or avoid employing it entirely, creating a security risk for your firm. Fortunately, it is possible to purchase an encryption solution that is exceptionally strong but simple to use.

Are you ready to start using email encryption?

If you need an end-to-end encryption solution that ticks every box above, we can help. At Galaxkey, we have developed cutting edge encryption that is based on the three-layer onion model. Approved by Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) our solution allows you to encrypt emails, attachments and data files of unlimited sizes without ever compromising security.

For ease of training and to ensure safe deployment, our system is also user-friendly. While delivering robust encryption, our solution can be added with a single-click and is entirely compliant with all major regulations governing the protection of private, personal and sensitive data.

We can provide you with a sandbox to try out encryption for yourself, free of charge. Contact us now for a complimentary two-week trial of our solution and protect your emails today.