E-mails are no longer the novelty they used to be a few years ago. Apart from enabling social communication, e-mails have also become integral to businesses. Environmental concerns have also contributed to the commonality of e-mails. In an effort to conserve the environment computer users are exhorted to use e-mails instead of paper correspondence. All these factors have contributed to the acceptance of electronic messaging.
We have gotten so used to e-mailing that we send them across an insecure internet without a second thought. We attach private testimonials, sales figures, marketing plans and other confidential files to our e-mails, hoping that no one opens them. Sending these unprotected emails is usually convenient in the short-term. However this insecurity can be very costly in the long-term.
Ensuring that only the intended recipients are able to receive your e-mails requires secure e-mail transmission technology. The average computer user can employ various solutions and one of the most effective is S/MIME (Secure/Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions) that is installed on individual PCs. This is a protocol that secures your emails by using digital signatures and encryption.
By digitally signing an e-mail it is possible to prove who the sender of that e-mail was. However this does not stop anyone from reading it as it transits through the internet. Encryption then comes in handy by making sure that the e-mail is unreadable during transit. The signing works in tandem with the encryption and this makes it extremely difficult to intercept and read the e-mail.
For free to use web-based emails PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) is another appropriate solution for that ordinary computer user. It is a signing and encrypting software that works well with the popular browsers like Firefox, Mozilla and Netscape and is widely used for encrypting and securing e-mails. The fundamental difference is that it embeds with your browser.
Another solution would be to implement centralized encryption protocols that shift the encryption functionalities from the individual desktop to a dedicated e-mail gateway. An e-mail gateway is a server that connects two or more electronic mail systems and transfers messages between them. Encryption technology is integrated into these servers with other security components such as virus scanners and firewalls. This solution is however highly complex and expensive and would be unsuitable for the ordinary computer user.
Whichever security solution you opt for remember that e-mails are increasingly targeted by hackers nowadays.