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End-to-End Email Encryption With S/MIME

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06 Jan 2021

With the evolving digital world, emails have become an important source of communication. A lot of companies communicate, share data, and information through emails. With the increase in online traffic, the importance of privacy and data security is now more than ever. For this purpose, emails should be encrypted.

There are various ways of encrypting your emails so that they can’t be read by any third party. One of them is end-to-end encryption.

What is End-to-End Encryption?

End-to-end encryption is an encryption method in which only the sender and receiver can view the content of the email. In end-to-end encryption, the data is encrypted at the sender’s end so that no one can view it during transmission. It is decrypted at the receiver’s end so that only the recipient can read it.

The biggest advantage of end-to-end encryption is that data always remains confidential and high security is guaranteed.

Why End-To-End Encryption?

Protecting your data from third-party users is essential not only for big companies but also for casual day to day uses.

Here's why you should use end-to-end encryption:

Easy to set up: You can easily set up end-to-end using the steps described later in this article

Cost-effective: Setting up end-to-end encryption using S/MIME is free for non-commercial use.

Secure: End-to-end encryption ensures that no party can read the contents of the message during transmission. Only the sender and receiver have access to the content, which ensures high privacy.

Quick delivery: As the messages are encrypted at the sender's end and decrypted at the receiver's end, the transmission is quick and efficient. The time spent during encryption and decryption is minimal as well.

S/MIME Encryption

Secure/Multipurpose Internet Mail Extension allows you to encrypt your emails. It uses an asymmetric cryptography algorithm to secure emails from unwanted readers. It makes use of two keys, the public key, and private key. This method of encryption is secure as well as efficient.

Only the recipient that has the private key can decode the contents of the email and read it. This is an end-to-end encryption method and no data is compromised during transmission.

As S/MIME uses keys, we need a certificate from a trusted certificate authority in order to use it.

Setting Up S/MIME Email Encryption

Setting up S/MIME encryption is a bit different for different browsers and email applications.

Outlook:

1. Install a windows-based certification authority in order to get a certificate that will allow you to set up S/MIME encryption.

2. Set up public key infrastructure.

3. Publish the user certificates in your Active Directory Domain Services (AD DS) under the user Certificate option.

4. In order for Outlook to verify the signature on your email, set up a virtual certificate collection to validate S/MIME.

5. The last step is to set up an Outlook or EAS endpoint.

Outlook Web:

· For Chrome

Set up and configure the Chromium Policy named “ExtensionInstallForcelist”. This will allow you to install the S/MIME extension in Chrome.

· For Microsoft Edge

Set up and configure the Microsoft Edge browser policy named “ExtensionInstallForcelist”. This will allow you to install the S/MIME extension in Microsoft Edge.

Gmail:

In order to use S/MIME encryption in Gmail, you need G Suite Enterprise, G Suite for Education, or G Suite Enterprise for Education.

1. Sign in to your Google admin console and go to User Settings.

2. Select the domain/organization you want to configure.

3. Go to S/MIME settings and check Enable S/MIME encryption for sending and receiving emails.

4. In case you want to allow users to upload their own certificates, check the “Allow users to upload their own certificate” option.

5. If your organization requires Secure Hash Algorithm 1 (SHA-1), check the “Allow SHA-1 globally” option.

6. Click Save.

It might take up to 24 hours for the changes to appear on all user accounts. The messages sent and received meanwhile will not be encrypted.

Sending A S/MIME Encrypted Email

Once you have set up S/MIME encryption, follow these steps to send an encrypted email.

Outlook:

1. Obtain a digital ID or certificate from your organization’s administrator and install the S/MIME control.

2. Run the file and then restart the application.

3. Go to the more option in the message and select “Message Options”.

4. To turn on S/MIME encryption select the “Encrypt this Message (S/MIME)” option.

1. Obtain a digital ID or certificate from your organization’s administrator and install the S/MIME control.

2. Run the file and then restart the application.

3. Go to the Gear menu and select S/MIME settings.

4. To make sure all the messages are encrypted select “Encrypt contents and attachment of all messages I send”.

5. Add a digital signature to all the messages that you send.

Outlook Web:

Gmail:

Gmail automatically displays the level of encryption for a sender. To check if the email is encrypted:

1. Compose a new message and add recipients to the “To” field.

2. An icon appears in front of each recipient's name (in case of multiple recipients).

3. A lock icon shows the level of encryption that is supported by the recipient.

4. Click on lock to view the encryption settings. This setting can be changed to S/MIME if the recipient supports it.

To check the encryption level of the incoming messages:

On Android: Select “View Details” and then select “View security details”

On IOS: Select “View Details”

Conclusion

Using end-to-end encryption is now a necessity not only for big businesses but also for day to day users. Once you have set up end-to-end encryption using S/MIME you can send and receive encrypted messages with ease without worrying about your data getting into the wrong hands.

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