According to data released by Ponemon Institute in 2014, 60% of companies experienced at least one security breach within the preceding two years, with cases costing businesses an average of $201 per stolen record. Yet, despite these alarming statistics, many businesses still take their IT resources for granted, particularly when it comes to everyday systems such as email.
Email remains one of the most important communication channels in the business world, but many users assume that security is automatically taken care of by their service provider or email client. Unfortunately, this assumption is false, and it can lead to disaster. You owe it to the reputation of your brand and the satisfaction of your customers to ensure that you have a secure email framework in place.
How Does Email Encryption Work?
Email encryption services provide a secure link between the sender and recipient. These services typically use the Public Key Infrastructure (PKI), where you are given both a public and a private key. The private key is for you alone and should never be shared, while the public key may be made accessible to anyone you share it with.
If you’re using an encrypted email service, you’ll need to provide your public key to anyone who wants to send a confidential email to you. With your public key at their disposal, they’ll be able to encrypt the email before sending it out. Should the email end up being intercepted by an eavesdropper, it will appear garbled and nonsensical. The would-be cybercriminal won’t be able to make any sense out of it, no matter what they do.
When the encrypted email reaches your inbox, you will need to use your private key to decrypt it. The process is analogous to when you sign for an important and confidential letter delivered by post. When sending an encrypted email, you’ll use your private key to encrypt it so the sender can be sure it has been sent from you. To view the contents of the email, the recipient will need to use their public key.
Why You Should Encrypt All Your Emails
By default, email is usually unencrypted with protocols like TLS (Transport Layer Security), making it an unsecure channel. If an attacker manages to intercept the email while it’s en-route between the sender and recipient, they’ll be able to view its entire contents in plain text.
Many businesses already understand the importance of encrypting sensitive data like payment information. On the other hand, most users aren’t too bothered about encrypting an email containing a completely innocuous message such as ‘happy birthday’ or ‘let’s meet for lunch.’ However, this is a big mistake.
Related article: Spectrumwise’s Ultimate Guide to Email Security
If an attacker manages to intercept your emails and sees that almost all of them are unencrypted save for one, that one message will stick out like a sore thumb. It’s basically an invitation to be hacked. The attacker will see an opportunity, since they’ll be able to home in on a single email and attempt to decrypt it.
On the other hand, if all your emails are encrypted, the attacker will be far less likely to keep on persevering after only seeing messages that don’t contain any potentially sensitive content. That’s why it’s better to make sure all your emails are encrypted.
How to Keep Your Company Email Safe
There are many things you can do to reduce the risk of falling victim to a data breach. At the very least, you should be educating your employees about the risks involved, particularly with regards to phishing scams, which most often arrive by email. In addition, you should enforce a strict password policy and restrict access on high-risk devices, such as smartphones and laptops.
Email encryption is an important addition to your corporate communication arsenal as well. After all, according to Nasdaq, two-thirds of all business email compromise (BEC) attacks involved spoofed emails. Encryption, however, provides a foolproof method of identity verification so that anyone who receives your emails can be sure where they came from.
Formerly, senders and recipients had to manually exchange their encryption keys. This presented a major obstacle for mainstream adoption. Fortunately, email encryption technology has become a lot easier to use than it once was. Nonetheless, while it’s undoubtedly important for employees to take responsibility over the security of your digital communications, there’s a strong case for leaving it up to the experts. Whatever path you choose, you should never underestimate the importance of email security.
Unsure about how to secure your business email? Read our comprehensive blog, Spectrumwise’s Ultimate Guide to Email Security and eliminate your fears of costly security breaches.