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Encryption Blog

The Critical Need For Encrypted Email

Created: 17 Aug 2009 • Updated: 05 Nov 2012
Robin Witty's picture
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Robin Witty-Senior Product Marketing Manager

Are your company's emails really secure? Do you know for sure when most email sent over the Internet is in clear text and can be read by anyone with simple tools and know-how. Similar to the old party line telephone systems where neighbors could listen in on your phone calls, unauthorized parties can obtain confidential information from unencrypted corporate emails including valuable intellectual property or third party data that may require protection regulated by law.

If you think email breaches can’t happen to your company, consider a couple of high profile email breaches. Sarah Palin’s personal emails were posted to the web and her password was changed by a hacker. A Twitter executive’s confidential business emails and documents were hacked, read and posted to the web. Twitter had to reassure their users that customer’s personal information was not compromised.

Encrypting email is a smart way to prevent email breaches. An important read for IT and business managers alike, Osterman Research delves into this topic with their "The Critical Need for Encrypted Email and File Transfer Solutions" white paper. From the white paper: “An email sent across the Internet is … like a message on a postcard that anyone can read along the way. However, an email or file sent in clear text offers much more exposure than a postcard because of the nature of transmission itself. … Hackers or others with malicious intent can intercept email messages and read them simply by placing packet sniffers on the network.” While email in transit is certainly at risk, it’s even more vulnerable while at rest on the internal, external recipient, and Internet mail servers where it resides before, during, and after delivery. You just don’t know where in the world that email goes before it reaches its destination but you can be pretty sure it’s not a straight line to the recipient.

When email is encrypted from end-to-end, the email and attachments are always protected - while stored and in transit, as well as both inside and outside the company. Encryption at the gateway protects email mainly from external threats. Other encryption solutions for disk, file, server, databases, etc. can also protect the data throughout its lifecycle. Some email encryption solutions can also interoperate or function alongside other email hygiene systems like antivirus so corporate email systems can be protected from other threats as well.

Encryption is quickly becoming a best practice to protect against unauthorized access to email contents and new email threats that you may not even know about yet. To learn more about protecting your email and email attachments, click here to download the Osterman Research, “The Critical Need for Encrypted Email and File Transfer Solutions”, July 2009 white paper.