How secure email works

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Red open lock with closed security locks nearbyLast updated Aug 1, 2017. 

If you’re an adult, then chances are you use email.

We all rely on email in our work and personal lives, but few of us stop to consider if our email is secure.

Email security is hugely important, especially if you are working with sensitive information.

Email was designed to connect people, not with security in mind. Although security issues with email have been around forever, the concerns about hacking have recently come under more scrutiny with many high profile stories in the news lately.

This is especially true for businesses in high-risk industries like healthcare, where lots of sensitive data is being sent over the internet.

At its simplest, email is essentially an open book and something that is certainly not ideal for companies and individuals working with regulations like HIPAA.

Secure Email Means Encryption

Email security depends on encryption.

Simply put, encryption creates secure email by scrambling the data so only someone with the right password or other authentication can decrypt the message. In many cases, this process of encryption and decryption takes place without users ever knowing.

For email security, the messages themselves can be encrypted, or your entire network connection can be encrypted via TLS, which protects email from being read while it’s in motion.

SEE ALSO: Free tool to check your email for TLS

The most common way messages are encrypted is through Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) data encryption. PGP features the use of a key that locks and unlocks data.

If you are working with this method, you will need that key for every single person you contact in order to ensure email security. Not exactly the most efficient method considering how much a workhorse email is in modern business.

An email portal can take care of complex encryption needs, but again requires extra steps for users.  Many healthcare providers use portal systems as a way to secure messages that contain sensitive information.

Unfortunately, portals aren’t practical for everyday business needs as it requires too much of a barrier for recipients of email, especially if they try to view messages on a mobile device.

Popular webmail clients like Yahoo and Gmail are also versions of an email portal. But consumer email providers can’t provide the security necessary for regulatory compliance.

The reason is the SMTP protocol all providers follow means they will deliver messages in clear text that anyone can read. In terms of HIPAA, this is unacceptable as covered entities must ensure messages are delivered securely inbox to inbox.

See also: Top 3 ways email gets hacked

A Better Way to Send Secure Email

Although there’s lots of ways to send secure email, the majority do not focus on making it a great user experience.

Portals and PGP keys can be cumbersome, enough that some encryption providers give you a choice to encrypt an email or not. They have to because to read an encrypted email is such a chore, they don’t want to annoy recipients if not necessary. But this creates a risk of accidentally not encrypting a message that should be.

READ MORE: Build A Rock-Solid Email Security Strategy

A service like Paubox’s Encrypted Email offers seamless encryption. Such a system provides all of the email security you need, but in a user friendly way.

Every single email is sent with a high level of security, but users just need to write and send email as normal from any device. There is nothing to click, enable, or remember in order to make your emails secure.

Recipients also have a friendly user experience and can view encrypted messages without having to login to a portal, download an app, or remember passwords.

The Benefits of Secure Email

When you are working with industry regulations like HIPAA, privacy is more than an expectation – it’s a requirement. Those working in healthcare are well aware of the steep penalties for failing to protect patient data.

But securing email isn’t just for healthcare providers. Other industries can benefit from securing their data, even the video game industry. Keeping proprietary information safe can make sure you keep your strategies and patents confidential.

By investing in a strong program for email security, you also protect your brand. Sony’s brand was damaged from their email hack, costing the company more than just bad press. Making security a priority can show your clients that you are committed to protecting their interests.

Not sure where to start in securing your business email?

Try Paubox Email Suite for FREE today.
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About the author

Hoala Greevy

Founder of Paubox. Kayak fishing when I can. Native Hawaiian CEO.

Read more by Hoala Greevy

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