How to Encrypt Email in Gmail, Yahoo, and Outlook

Contrary to what many people believe, email was not designed with privacy and security in mind. To protect your personal information against malicious hackers, learn how to encrypt email in Gmail, Yahoo, and Outlook.

What Does Encrypted Mean?

Humans have been encrypting sensitive information since Roman times. Even though Roman ciphers are a far cry from modern encryption algorithms, they accomplish the same goal: convert information into secret code that hides its true meaning.

Imagine that your inbox is as safe and your emails are important documents that you don't want anyone else to see. Without email encryption, all that cybercriminals need to do to read the content of your emails is to know the right password to your inbox.

Unfortunately, large-scale data breaches are becoming increasingly common, and there's a chance that cybercriminals already know the password to your inbox. Even if they don't, they can attempt to intercept your emails while they're being delivered.

By converting messages from readable plain text into ciphertext, email encryption introduces another layer of security and ensures that only authorized parties can read them. While the technology behind encrypted email is incredibly complex, its practical implementations by major email service providers are easy to use.

How to Encrypt Email in Gmail?

If you're a Gmail user, we have good news for you: Google automatically encrypts all emails in transit using Transport Layer Security (TLS), the standard means of performing this type of encryption.

TLS, a set of cryptographic protocols designed to provide communications security over a computer network, makes it impossible for unauthorized third parties to snoop on your email communication when sharing the same network, such as the WiFi at your favorite coffee shop.

You can imagine TLS as a magical envelope for messages. Even if someone steals this envelope, the person won't be able to read your email unless they know how to unlock it.

Besides TLS, Gmail also supports S/MIME, which is an advanced encryption standard that encrypts the actual message, instead of simply providing an encrypted envelope for it. S/MIME is only available with G Suite Enterprise, G Suite for Education, and G Suite Enterprise for Education, and each sender and recipient must have it enabled for it to work.

To enable S/MIME:

  1. Log in to your Google Admin console.
  2. Go to Apps → G Suite → Gmail → User settings.
  3. Select the domain or organization you want to configure.
  4. Check the Enable S/MIME encryption for sending and receiving emails box.
  5. Click Save.

How to Encrypt Email in Outlook?

Just like Gmail, Outlook.com uses TLS encryption to protect the connection with a recipient's email provider. The problem with TLS is that it protects messages only while they're in transit and doesn't guarantee that they'll stay encrypted after they reach the recipient's service provider.

Microsoft implemented its own Outlook email encryption system, which ensures that your messages always remain encrypted and don't leave Microsoft's servers. Outlook email encryption is available to Office 365 Home or Office 365 Personal subscribers, and it could hardly be any easier to use.

To send an encrypted email message in Outlook.com:

  1. Log in to your Outlook.com account.
  2. Click the blue New message button in the top-left corner.
  3. Select the encryption option from the ribbon.
  4. Click Encrypt or Encrypt & Prevent Forwarding (the latter makes it impossible for your message to be copied or forwarded).
  5. Compose your message and click Send.

Outlook.com users can read encrypted email messages just like regular messages. The users of third-party email services receive a message with instructions for how to read the encrypted message.

How to Encrypt Yahoo Email?

Yahoo protects your messages in transit using TLS, but you need to use a free email encryption browser plugin to enable end-to-end encryption. There used to be a first-party encryption plugin for Yahoo Mail, but the project seems to be abandoned now.

Instead, we recommend you use Mailvelope, which adds missing encryption features to the user interface of common webmail providers, including Yahoo Mail, Gmail, and Outlook.com, among others.

To encrypt a Yahoo email message using Mailvelope:

  1. Download Mailvelope for Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox.
  2. Configure Mailvelope to get started.
  3. Open a new message in Yahoo Mail as usual.
  4. Click the Mailvelope icon in the top-right corner.
  5. Write your message and click Encrypt.
  6. Send the encrypted email message.

Improve Your Email Management to Increase Your Security

Password theft or email snooping are not the only two traps users can fall into. Experts estimate that phishing (a type of social engineering attack that occurs when an attacker posing as a legitimate institution or someone else tricks the victim into giving up personal information) accounts for 90 percent of data breaches.

Since phishing email messages are essentially just malicious spam emails, you can effectively protect yourself against them by keeping your inbox organized and well managed.

Instead of wasting hours every week manually sorting new emails, we recommend you use an automatic inbox cleaner like Clean Email. This powerful tool works with Gmail, Yahoo, and Outlook, and has multiple features that can take your email management to the next level.

You can quickly organize older emails into easy-to-review bundles to free up storage space and make your inbox less cluttered, instantly unsubscribe from mass emailings, and automatically apply selected actions to future emails. All features Clean Email has to offer are intuitive and work the same way regardless of which email service you use.

Conclusion

Email encryption is a must-have when it comes to sending highly sensitive email messages over public networks. When combined with a strong password and a well-thought-out email management strategy, it greatly improves the usefulness and reliability of email as a communication tool.

How to Encrypt Email in Gmail, Yahoo, and Outlook - FAQs

1. What is an encrypted email?

An encrypted email is any email message whose content is protected from being read by unauthorized third parties. Some email messages are encrypted only in transit, while others are also encrypted at rest. The latter form of encryption is more robust since it makes email messages unreadable even if an attacker manages to obtain the device on which they are stored.

2. Can I encrypt an email in Gmail?

Yes, you can encrypt an email in Gmail. In fact, the email service automatically encrypts all email messages in transit using Transport Layer Security (TLS), so you can rest assured, knowing no one will be able to read them even if you send them over a public Wi-Fi network. What’s more, you can also digitally sign your email messages using the S/MIME standard for public key encryption.

3. How can I encrypt an email for free?

You can encrypt any email message for free using the OpenPGP standard and its numerous free and commercial implementations, which provide both cryptographic privacy and authentication for data communication.

4. Is Yahoo Mail encrypted?

Yes, Yahoo Mail email messages are encrypted in transit using Transport Layer Security (TLS). Unfortunately, the email service doesn’t provide any solution for encrypting emails at rest, which is why Yahoo Mail users have to rely on third-party solutions such as Mailvelope, a web browser add-on for end-to-end encryption of email traffic.

5. What is the best email encryption software?

That depends on whether you’re looking for an enterprise-grade email encryption solution like the one provided by Barracuda Networks or a simple web browser add-on like Mailvelope that lets you send encrypted emails regardless of which email service you use. That said, the best email encryption is typically provided end-to-end encrypted email services, such as ProtonMail or Tutanota.

6. What happens when you encrypt an email

When you encrypt emails, an encryption algorithm disguises their content in a way that’s not readily possible to reverse. There are many different encryption algorithms, such as Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), which is widely used by US federal government agencies.

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