The internet allows instant, worldwide communication, but how secure are the messages you send? Concerns about email security have been heightened in recent months by a number of high profile news stories involving hacking or snooping. Both businesses and private individuals are at risk, while both email software like Microsoft Outlook and web-based solutions like Hotmail and Gmail are vulnerable. Whether emails are targeted by criminals acting on their own or by organisations such as governments or news agencies, there are many reasons why email is best kept private.
It is tempting to assume that an email will go only to its intended recipient, and the convenience and ease of email mean that a great deal of sensitive content is sent in this way. Personal information like addresses and bank details, or simply an opinion intended to be for one person only, can present real-world dangers if they fall into the wrong hands. For businesses, the release of sensitive information at an inappropriate time can mean the difference between profit and loss, while the private, off the record thoughts of employees have caused scandal when published in the press. Email may also be intercepted and tampered with to change the content, so that what seems to come directly from a trusted individual may not actually do so.
The simplest and most secure method of ensuring IT security is to install email encryption software, which will run in the background and require no further action. Most mail encryption packages, like gpg4o by Giegerich & Partner, run PGP, Pretty Good Privacy, which makes use of several different cryptography methods and works across a wide range of email clients and operating systems. gpg4o supports the OpenPGP standard approved by the Internet Engineering Task Force, and is easily integrated with Outlook on a Windows server.
Do remember, however, that anything committed to a keyboard and screen can still be shared by forwarding, printing, or simply looking over the recipient’s shoulder.