How Email Encryption Works

The increased use of the Internet as a primary means of communication has changed the way we live and work.  More companies are harnessing the power of the Internet to streamline communication processes and other business tasks.  This means that there is a massive amount of confidential and sensitive information being transmitted electronically which causes security concerns.

When your company staff sends messages to maintain communications with customers, shareholders, supply chain sources, and other important clients it is necessary to ensure that the information is being ; transmitted in a secure manner.  For this reason, encryption is used for email messages and in other instances where it is necessary to protect sensitive data.

So what exactly is encryption and how does it work?

Encryption Defined

Long before the Internet became widely used by the public, encryption was used by the military where the Internet originated.  The military referred to the concept of encryption as cryptography since encryption is based on this scientific concept.

To define encryption in layman’s terms the concept is accomplished using two different keys.  One key is known as the public key or asymmetric key and the other key is a private or symmetric key.  If an email message is encrypted with a public key the message can only be read using a private key.  For someone to send you a message that only you can read they must encrypt the message with your email messages so it can be decrypted by you with your private key.

How Encryption Works

When you encrypt an email message the contents become scrambled so they cannot be deciphered during transmission.  This prevents hackers from intercepting and reading the message before it arrives in the recipient’s inbox.  Once the message is received by the intended recipient they use their private encryption key to open the message and descramble the contents so it is legible.

  • Symmetric Key Encryption: As mentioned earlier, a symmetric encyrption key is a private encryption key.  When it is used to send and receive messages without a public key it is necessary for both the sender and the recipient to have knowledge of exactly which computers will be communicating with one another.  The private encryption key is then installed on each PC to enable both PC users to read the messages via secret code, so to speak.
  • Asymmetric Encryption: Since asymmetric encyrption involves a public key it is necessary for two different keys to be used for communication to take place.  The sender uses the public key and the recipient uses the private key.  The public key is distributed by your PC to any other PC that wants to establish communications with you.  When you distribute a public key the sender uses it to communicate with you but only you can read the message with your private key.
  • Authentication: Authentication is used in conjunction with encryption and provides verification that the information has not been modified in any way and originates from a trusted source.  Authentication is accomplished via digital signatures in public encryption key or password verification.

For companies that use encryption some find this an ongoing and daunting task because it requires the management of an on-site standalone encryption program.  For this reason many companies choose to use an encryption service provider to manage the responsibilities associated with email encryption.

If your company does not have the resources or time to manage email encryption contact Thrive Networks today for assistance with setting up a secure communications strategy which will provide your company with piece of mind.



Comments

  1. the phloidster September 26th

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    This does not even begin to address the topic of how encypted email works.

    There are a number of operational issues involved in encrypting email, including indentifying the keys and parties to the email exchange.

    Unless the ‘setup’ is simple and painless, and unless the actual usage is seamless, enctypred email will never catch on.


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Tech Blog

At Thrive Networks, it has been our long-standing goal to keep small businesses and their employees informed of changes in the technology landscape that could inhibit their ability to grow and prosper. The "Tech Blog" will offer you new and unique perspectives on technology and small businesses from people that are immersed in it day in and day out. With every blog entry, it is our goal to provide readers with valuable knowledge, information, and/or recommendations that will make a difference in their workplace. Blog contributions will come from employees throughout the Thrive organization, from the President and Directors to Network Engineers and Remote Support Technicians. This diversity will provide readers with different perspectives on technology and its influence in the workplace.