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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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