What Is Email Encryption and How Does It Work?

Did you already know that the majority e-mail companies like Gmail and Outlook solely use primary e-mail encryption strategies, leaving your e-mail susceptible to information assaults? This tutorial discusses the assorted information encryption strategies you’ll be able to implement to safe your information.

What Is Email Encryption?

Email encryption is a method that disguises an e-mail in order that solely the sender and supposed recipient can entry its contents, stopping unauthorized people from intercepting the sign and studying the message.

Most e-mail doesn’t have this degree of safety. Content is shipped as common textual content and open to information safety dangers. However, you’ll be able to step in with correct end-to-end encryption, for example, to safe your confidential e-mail simply.

In this technique, e-mail is encrypted on the sender’s system utilizing a public encryption key that scrambles the e-mail and any attachments. The e-mail is then despatched to the recipient, who has a personal key that can be utilized to decrypt the message. This approach is so safe that the message can’t be learn by any e-mail companies, banking establishments, Internet service suppliers (ISPs), or hackers.

Why Is Email Encryption Important?

Privacy on the Internet is paramount for each particular person and enterprise. However, a cyberattack can very simply put your personal data in emails, resembling login passwords, recordsdata, footage, delicate paperwork, and OTPs, in danger.

The information you might be sending through e-mail could seem innocent, however even a mildly proficient hacker can extract your static or dynamic IP handle, which can be utilized to disclose your identify, handle, ISP, and a lot extra. Using this information, any motivated hacker can wreak havoc through the use of methods like phishing.

Phishing is likely one of the most outstanding types of cyberattacks. A lot of these assaults are attributable to unencrypted emails that reveal delicate information to malicious events and are fully preventable. Given this state of affairs, it’s in your greatest curiosity to encrypt your e-mail.

Types of Email Encryption

There are a number of protocols for e-mail encryption, each appropriate for various use instances, relying on implementation price, success charge, complexity, and varied different components. A couple of outstanding e-mail encryption protocols in use right this moment are lined beneath. They could be divided into two distinct sorts: transport-level encryption and end-to-end encryption.

Transport-level encryption handles the information throughout transportation from the sender to the recipient. This format is much less strong however cheaper than end-to-end encryption (E2EE)which shops the personal encryption key on the endpoints and makes use of a public encryption key to safe information. The further safety provided by this technique comes at a further value.


PGP or Pretty Good Privacy is taken into account one of the vital extensively used encryption protocols on this planet. It makes use of the end-to-end encryption strategy, offering cryptographic privateness and authentication with strategies like hashing, information compression, symmetric-key cryptography, and public-key cryptography to encrypt and defend datasets like emails, directories, and paperwork. S/MIME is used for e-mail that accommodates multimedia recordsdata.

It was developed by Phil Zimmermann within the 12 months 1991 and follows OpenPGP because the encryption key and normal (RFC 4880) for encrypting and decrypting information.


StartTLS is a type of transport-level encryption that makes use of both TLS (transport layer safety) or SSL, often known as secure sockets layer, to improve an unprotected system to a protected one. It asks the e-mail server to transform the unencrypted message into an encrypted one whereas the mail is being transmitted from sender to recipient.

This means, each the sender and recipient get pleasure from encryption with out having to encrypt and decrypt messages on their programs. However, this strategy can nonetheless go away the information susceptible to hackers, who might intercept the message between the sender and the e-mail server. These vulnerabilities could be overcome utilizing protocols like DANE and MTA-STS.


DANE (DNS-Based Authentication of Named Entities) or MTA-STS are related protocols and serve the identical objective. MTA-STS is definitely SMTP MTA-STS, quick for Simple Mail Transfer Protocol – Mail Transfer Agent – Strict Transport Security. That is a mouthful!

The solely obvious distinction between DANE and MTA-STS is that DANE makes use of DNSSEC for DNS authentication, whereas MTA-STS depends on certification authorities. Also, MTA-STS includes a testing-only mode, which lets you deploy a coverage in a check atmosphere earlier than adopting it.

These instruments can be utilized as add-ons for additional safety on prime of the StartTLS encryption protocol. They defend you from hackers and cybercriminals utilizing StripTLS assaults or stripping makes an attempt of TLS safety ranges, by implementing using TLS by each the sender and recipient. Therefore, these protocols supply an added degree of premium safety if a consumer finds that present StartTLS encryption protocols will not be sufficient.


Bitmessage is a comparatively newer element of on-line information encryption and safety. It was launched beneath the liberal MIT license in 2012 and is predicated on the mannequin of safety protocol utilized by Bitcoin. Bitmessage is a peer-to-peer, zero-trust framework that gained traction shortly after its launch when rumors of spying by the National Security Agency (NSA) surfaced. 

It presents some fairly superior information security measures, like decentralization, airtight encryption, hidden sender and recipient, and proof of labor (POW) requirement. The peer-to-peer encryption protocol makes Bitmessage virtually not possible to trace, which is likely one of the many causes for its reputation. 

GNU Privacy Guard

GNU doesn’t adhere to any single mannequin of knowledge encryption – transport degree or end-to-end codecs. It is, in actual fact, a posh hybrid of the 2. Also often called GPG or GnuPG, it makes use of public key encryption for ease and symmetric key cryptography for the swiftness of the method. 

It is open freeware and can be utilized, modified, studied, and many others. GNUPG continues to be susceptible to cyber assaults the place hackers might pose as both sender or recipient. This is as a result of exchangeability of the general public key used for encryption.

Third-Party Email Services That Offer Email Encryption

There are a number of third-party e-mail purchasers that supply various levels of e-mail encryption. These e-mail service suppliers may also help defend you and your system from cyberattacks, spam mail, doxxing, and many different methods hackers attempt to get by means of your defenses.

1. ProtonMail

Developed by CERN scientists in 2013, ProtonMail has emerged to be one of many main safe e-mail companies out there right this moment. It is greatest suited to private, non-institutional use by particular person customers, and encrypted e-mail despatched utilizing this service could be accessed by recipients throughout all e-mail servers.

ProtonMail includes a strict no-logs coverage, which means it doesn’t log any consumer data that passes by means of its systemn to make sure full safety and anonymity on the Web.

It makes use of end-to-end encryption to greatest defend your information between nodes. One of essentially the most distinctive options of ProtonMail is PGP encryption, which only a few e-mail purchasers supply.

The service is supplemented by a fluid, user-friendly cell app (Android | iOS) for use at the side of the online consumer. However, it doesn’t supply a devoted desktop app, which could be a problem for some.

2. Mailvelope

Mailvelope is a freeware e-mail service supplier powered by a German enterprise, Mailvelope GmbH, since 2012. It makes use of end-to-end encryption to supply safety to customers and takes benefit of the OpenPGP normal to encrypt and signal digital messages and corresponding recordsdata in emails. 

The distinctive factor about Mailvelope is that it options neither a desktop nor an online app. Rather, it’s a free browser add-on that integrates itself with virtually all net e-mail companies and encrypts your e-mail with out forcing you emigrate to a distinct app ecosystem. 

Mailvelope has been adopted by customers throughout all utilization sorts. It is suited to enterprise, institutional, and particular person customers and has been built-in into the workforce of a number of firms. It is appropriate with e-mail companies like Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo, 1&1, Freenet, and GMX.

3. CipherMail

CipherMail caters particularly to firms and related establishments and has been adopted by dozens of multinational firms throughout verticals. 

It includes a slew of superior options aimed toward defending customers from hackers, cyberattacks, insider leaks, and the cyber threats firms cope with every day.

CipherMail’s highly effective e-mail encryption gateway helps all main encryption protocols, like S/MIME, PGP, TLS, and PDF encryption. On prime of that, it’s appropriate with all SMTP-based companies and could be simply built-in into the prevailing workforce of an enterprise.

It additionally presents a Webmail Messenger that may defend information in instances the place S/MIME or PGP can’t be used.

CipherMail permits customers to speak efficaciously and securely with exterior recipients who don’t use any e-mail service supplier. In such a state of affairs, the recipient can set up and use CipherMail’s webmail messenger to securely obtain messages and recordsdata throughout the Web. CipherMail will also be accessed through Android gadgets.

4. Startmail

StartMail is a safe e-mail service provided by the creators of the privacy-focused Startpage search engine. It integrates PGP encryption requirements into the encryption protocol.

The factor to notice right here is that PGP is carried out with solely the server and is subsequently not true end-to-end encryption. However, you’ll be able to allow two-factor authentication to safe your account, defending it even when your password is compromised.

BeginMail presents customers the power to make the most of burner e-mail addresses with out dropping the encryption privilege, thus including further comfort to day-to-day operations. It additionally allowsmultiple aliases for fast throwaway utilization and presents full IMAP and SMTP help to customers. 

BeginMail has an online consumer and desktop app. However, it lacks cell help.

5. CounterMail

CounterMail makes use of OpenPGP to encrypt your information with 4096 bits encryption keys.

It is the one recognized e-mail service that may defend your e-mail from man-in-the-middle (MITM) assaults. To obtain this, it makes use of a hypercomplex system comprised of 4 layers of added safety, together with:

  • SSL encryption
  • Session encryption
  • OpenPGP encryption
  • Server aspect disk-encryption

These layers are based mostly on normal algorithms, however their unbiased operational potential makes them impenetrable to assaults.

CounterMail is out there as an online app and cell app (Android | iOS). The net app design isn’t nice, however the app itself is dependable when it comes to supreme safety and anonymity.

The service additionally presents two-factor authentication for added safety and comes with a seven-day free trial. Even the cost gateways supply an nameless cost choice to additional defend your identification.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can hackers intercept encrypted emails?

Yes, it’s attainable for hackers to intercept your encrypted emails. However, they will be unable to learn the content material of your e-mail, as will probably be distorted and jumbled. The solely approach to make it readable once more is to decrypt it utilizing the encryption key.

What are the commonest strategies of e-mail hacking?

The commonest are:

  • Email phishing: hackers ship emails that look like they’re from a legitimate company or individual within the hopes that the recipient will click on on a malicious hyperlink or attachment.
  • Malware: malicious software program is embedded in an e-mail attachment or hyperlink, and as soon as opened, it offers hackers entry to your laptop or community.
  • Spear phishing: this focused e-mail phishing assault makes use of data particular to the recipient to make the e-mail appear extra official.
  • Domain spoofing: a hacker spoofs the area identify of a official e-mail handle, making it appear like the e-mail is coming from a trusted supply.
  • Email forwarding: hackers arrange e-mail forwarding guidelines to ship copies of all incoming and outgoing messages to a different e-mail handle with out the consumer’s information.

Does encrypted e-mail assure encrypted attachments?

Not all encryption strategies can robotically defend recordsdata which might be hooked up to a message. Encryption strategies that cowl attachment encryption are normally end-to-end based mostly. If they aren’t, you’ll want a separate program to encrypt your file earlier than attaching it to the e-mail.

Image credit score: Mikhail Nilov through Pexels.

Ojash Yadav
Ojash Yadav

Ojash has been writing about tech again since Symbian-based Nokia was the closest factor to a smartphone. He spends most of his time writing, researching, or ranting about bitcoin.

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