Wondering how to send secure and encrypted emails?
It's no secret that emails today have become a critical communication tool for individuals and businesses alike. They are fast, convenient, easily replicated, and above all — they offer some level of privacy.
In this post, we’ll be focusing on the latter.
Because, some emails also have limits to their privacy and security despite their apparent safety.
From data leaks and breaches to cyberattacks, it’s easier than ever for sensitive and confidential information to get stolen.
The consequences for which could range from financial loss and theft to reputational damage.
Point being, email encryption remains the industry standard for data security.
As such, it is only natural for businesses to learn the necessary steps they can take to truly safeguard their emails.
This means hiding the content of the email from prying eyes—making sure only the intended recipient can read your message or files.
Below, we will discuss how to send secure and encrypted emails to keep your communications more secure.
Here’s what we’ll cover about sending encrypted emails below:
- What Is a Secure Email, Exactly?
- Secure vs. Encrypted Email: What’s the Difference?
- 4 Types of Email Encryption Types You Need to Know About
- 4 Methods to Send Secure and Encrypted Emails (in Gmail, Outlook, iOS, and More)
What Is a Secure Email, Exactly?
Before we talk encryption, what IS a secure email, exactly?
A secure email is exactly what it sounds like: an email that anyone can't read except the specified recipient(s). In simple terms, it’s a regular email with a few security enhancements added on.
If you have an email address, then you're probably familiar with using a secure email service provider. You simply send an email to a known address with an @ sign and a domain.
When we’re talking about secure emails, there are 2 important things we need to cover:
- Sending safe, encrypted emails that only the recipient can read.
- And making sure your email attachments are properly encrypted for the right person.
So, before we cover the actionable steps on how to secure your emails, let’s take a look at some more info on this.
Secure vs. Encrypted Email: What’s the Difference?
You may have heard the terms secure and encrypted emails used interchangeably.
That's because these two terms are closely connected but mean very different things.
What’s the difference between a secure and an encrypted email?
The word "secure" implies protection from unauthorized access.
While the word "encrypted" means an email that has been transformed into a form unreadable by anyone except the sender and the recipient.
Encryption emails use cryptography techniques to prevent unauthorized access, and they are designed to avoid interception, forgery, or modification while in transit. In most cases, you will need to enter a code or a password to gain access.
But encrypted emails can mean different things.
So, let’s take a look at the types of encrypted emails you might come across.
4 Types of Encrypted Emails You Need to Know About
There are several types of encryption protocols, including:
- Secure password authentication (SPA) - This is a cryptographic protocol that allows an email user to use their existing e-mail account and password. The web server, which stores the credentials for authenticating users, can be configured to accept encrypted session keys instead of ordinary passwords.
- S/MIME - This is an open standard for encrypting and authenticating data in emails and other forms of online communications. S/MIME uses public-key cryptography to provide confidentiality, integrity, and authentication of electronic information using digital signatures.
- OpenPGP - OpenPGP is an open standard that describes how messages are encrypted and signed for secure communications.
- SSH - SSH stands for Secure Shell. This is a cryptographic network protocol for secure data communication, remote shell services, and port forwarding. SSH is used to access computers in a network without needing prior knowledge of their IP address or other details beforehand. The fact that all communications between client and server are encrypted means that any transaction over the internet is secure from eavesdropping.
Now, let’s take a look at how to send secure and encrypted emails across different platforms!
4 Methods to Send Secure and Encrypted Emails (in Gmail, Outlook, iOS, and More)
2 Ways to send encrypted emails in Gmail
If you want to encrypt and send safe emails in Gmail, you can:
- Send secure emails with third-party encryption tools.
- Send secure emails with Gmail's in-built S/MIME
Let’s cover each method in detail.
Method 1: Using third-party encryption tools
When it comes to third-party encryption tools, you have a lot of choices for plugins compatible with your email service provider.
Some of the most popular plugins may include Virtru, SendSafely, Mailvelope, and more.
These tools are usually available on Chrome or Firefox—and they are compatible with most ESPs like Hotmail, Yahoo, Outlook.com, etc.
Before you choose an add-on, just make sure to check if it’s compatible with your ESP.
For the purpose of this tutorial, we will use Virtru.
However, if you're worried you’ll get lost, the good news is that all processes of sending a secure, encrypted email are pretty much the same—even with the other tools!
Here’s how to send encrypted emails with Virtru.
Step 1: First, you need to add the Virtru extension to your Chrome. The easier way to do that is to follow this link: Virtru. Once you're in, click the “Add to Chrome” button. When a pop-up window shows up, click on “Add extension” to install.
Once installed, you can pin the extension on your dashboard for easier access.
Step 2: Open the extension and click on the “Control Center” button to set up your account. Then, log in with your email. In this case, your Gmail address. You’ll see a dashboard that looks like this:
Step 3: Once the above step is done, you can now open your Gmail. Then, click “Activate” on the pop-up window.
Step 4: After enabling Virtru, you can now see an option to activate “Virtru Protection” when you click the “Compose” button in Gmail when you’re drafting a new message.
Here, enable the “Virtru Protection mode.” For other settings, click on the “Settings” icon and enable your preferred settings.
Step 5: You can now compose your email message as you normally would and send it to anyone.
On the other end of the recipient, receivers who have installed Virtru will access the message and read it from the Virtru platform.
For those who haven’t, there will be a link redirecting them to where they read and access the secure message/file.
It is worth noting that this method is for email providers/devices with no in-built PGP/MIME or S/MIME protocols.
Gmail has a S/MIME in-built app, but it is only exclusive to Google Workspace email accounts. These are emails that don't end with @gmail.com. An example is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Another email provider with no in-built S/MIME or PGP/MiME is Yahoo Mail. Also, to send emails via Android, you would need to install a third-party tool.
Now, let’s cover how to send safe and secure emails with Gmail’s in-built protection.
Method 2: Sending encrypted emails with Gmail S/MIME
As mentioned above, this method will only work with Google Workspace accounts.
For more on how to get a Google Workspace account, use this link.
This method is more straightforward because all you have to do is activate/enable the hosted S/MIME.
Here’s how to enable S/MIME to send encrypted emails within Gmail:
Step 1: Sign in to your “Google Admin console” > You’ll be required to use your administrator account and not your Gmail account.
Step 2: From the “Admin dashboard,” navigate to “Apps” > “Google Workspace” > “Gmail” > and then “User Settings.”
Step 3: Under “Organizations” on your left, click the organization or domain you want to configure. But first, you must enable S/MIME.
To do this, navigate to “S/MIME setting” > the check the box reading “Enable S/MIME encryption for sending and receiving emails.”
Step 4: The other steps—such as uploading certificates—are just optional, and you can do them only when you want to.
Step 5: You can also check the “Allow SHA-1 globally” box, but only your organization or domain must use SHA-1 (Secure Hash Algorithm)
Step 6: Click “Save.”
Step 7: Once the changes are saved, compose a message/file as you normally would. Navigate on the lock icon on your right > Click on the “view details” icon to adjust the S/MIME settings or change the level of encryption.