Email is the most-used form of business communication — perhaps so commonplace that we take it for granted. Our 2020 Outbound Email Data Breach Report shows that 94% of respondents report increased email traffic since the onset of COVID-19.
It's vital that businesses don't overlook the risk email could pose if not handled properly. The last thing anyone wants is for sensitive information to be lost in transit, arrive in the wrong place, or be stolen by hackers along the way. The simple solution here is email encryption.
Understanding email encryption and how it works
The two primary methods of encrypting an email are Transport Layer Security (TLS) and end-to-end email encryption. While TLS protects email in transit and helps prevent man-in-the-middle attacks, end-to-end encryption protects any sensitive data if an email account is compromised.
End-to-end encryption makes your messages unreadable while in transit — meaning only the intended recipient can read what's been sent. That's achieved using public key infrastructure (PKI) that uses a public key and a private key to secure the email. For example, the sender uses a public key to encrypt their email while the recipient uses the related private key to open the message.
The business risks of going without encryption
Not encrypting your emails puts your business and its data at risk. Regardless of whether you're dealing with sensitive financial, medical, or other information, data breaches are severe and could significantly impact your business. Encryption is vital, no matter what kind of data your company handles. Here are examples of some of the risks of going without encryption.
Spam emails to the business can include phishing links that can trick a user into handing over sensitive information that could give hackers access to the entire business network. To achieve this, hackers might try to spoof another user's email address to appear trusted and genuine to plant malware or viruses.
Users can be trained to recognise dangerous emails to an extent, but email encryption software offers an additional layer of security. It allows users to see that the email they've received is from another verified account and not a spam account spoofing a trusted user's name.
All data protection laws either require or strongly recommend email encryption to remain compliant. Even if a data breach doesn't occur, this means you could face the repercussions of non-compliance if you don't take steps toward protecting your emails.
Hackers can easily access an unencrypted email while in transit, but that's not the only risk of plaintext emails. For example, anyone could read the content and access the attachments if an email is misdirected. Encrypting emails protects this information, even if they’re sent to the wrong person.
A data breach not only means you break data protection laws and regulatory standards, but your business could lose both money and standing, too. The costs of recovering from data breaches can quickly escalate. On top of this, a public data breach could harm your reputation and the trust your customers have in you, further affecting your bottom line.
The benefits of encryption for organisations
There are many benefits of this level of email security for organisations. Here are some reasons your business needs encryption.
Protect confidential information
Sometimes sensitive data needs to be sent via email. Both TLS and end-to-end encryption ensure your emails are safe and only the intended recipients can access the data within.
Comply with laws and regulations
Under data protection acts (such as GDPR), it's your responsibility to protect the data of customers, employees, patients, clients, and so on. If you are not taking clear steps to protect this data or are breaking policy, your business could be fined or face legal action. Encryption protects the information within your business, ensuring you stay compliant.
Avoid security breaches
A hacked email opens the door to attackers. They could steal data, passwords, and credit card numbers or use the email to place malware on a computer in the business network. Email encryption prevents these kinds of attacks by protecting emails from unauthorised access.
Encrypted emails help prevent an employee from falling for a phishing scam by verifying that the sender is whom they appear to be.
Emails are a convenient way of communicating, especially in today's working environment, with more people working remotely. As practical as they might be, emails are vulnerable to attack. Proper encryption is vital for your business as it protects every message — both in transit and at rest.
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Why is it important to encrypt emails?
It's essential to encrypt emails to protect the information contained within. That's especially true when sending confidential information, as a data breach could have severe consequences for your company.
Why is encryption important for a business?
Email encryption is vital for compliance and protects a business from potential attacks, data loss, and employee error. That ensures any sensitive information is kept safe and is only shared with the intended recipients.
Should a company encrypt its email traffic?
Yes. Both TLS and end-to-end encryption help ensure your confidential data stays safe. That's not only an essential part of compliance, but it'll help protect your business from hackers, accidental data loss, and other data breaches.