Understanding Why Sensitive Emails Must Be Encrypted

The amount of shady emails being sent each year continues to rise. More people than ever before are becoming the victim of identity theft as a result of man-in-the-middle attacks, phishing, and spam. Data is becoming as valuable as any other type of currency to malicious individuals on the Internet.

The worst part is that many of the details that do get stolen are retrieved from emails sent to or from businesses.

To better understand the need for email encryption, it’s imperative to understand first how widespread the problem of information stolen from emails is and whom tends to be the target of such thefts.

Understanding the Threat of Email Data Theft

In the typical business environment, thousands of emails are sent to other employees, other businesses, and customers each day. While some of these emails are low-risk due to the information they carry, some things like trade secrets, marketing strategies, data sheets, important statistics, archives of sensitive financial data, and even passwords may travel in them.

The problem is that most of this information tends to be kept in plain text. A malicious individual need only intercept these emails to obtain the information they contain.

Furthermore, even stealing those seemingly innocuous emails between two employees discussing where to meet for lunch is a potential threat. Someone who intercepts this type of email now has the contact details of one or more people, which means that it’s viable for the attacker to spoof their details to act as one of the people related to that email.

It’s easy to see how these attacks can quickly become more than just a simple irritation.

The greater problem is that companies are generally the target of such attacks due to the likelihood that their systems aren’t secured like they should be. This, coupled with the valuable information contained on even the network of a small business, makes them juicy targets for cyber criminals.

Protecting Against the Threat of Information Theft

The main problem with encrypting plaintext data is that many methods only give a sense of security. They may not have the robustness that prevents a clever attacker from decrypting the data given enough time.

Asymmetric encryption is one of the few methods that can prevent information from being decrypted readily by attackers. It works by listing a public encryption key available from a public directory and a private key that only one person should ever have access to.

With regards to email, the OpenPGP standard offers one of the most robust ways of securely encrypting text communications. By using GnuPG (an Open Source implementation of OpenPGP), information can be encrypted by using the recipients public key that the sender has access to. Information is then transmitted publicly while encrypted, which the recipient can then decrypt using his own and according private key.

One of the better ways to implement asymmetric cryptography is by utilizing gpg4o, a plugin by Giegerich und Partner designed to be used in unison with Outlook. The seamless integration of this plugin with Outlook makes it optimal to use in both private and corporate environments.

Email Security is Essential in the Workplace

The bottom line concerning data communication is that encryption is an essential part of ensuring that data stays secure. Asymmetric cryptography stands as one of the best ways to ensure this happens in a way that prevents man-in-the-middle attacks and other types of attacks designed to spoof the sender of data.


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