Are Private encrypted emails the only solution for confidential communication?

Lately there has been a furore about secure communication over the internet. A lot has been talked and discussed about government snooping around our web based communication channels and this has raised potent security concerns. The obvious question is there always someone keeping a check on our messages which we send and receive through emails and other forms of internet based messaging services? Besides diplomacy there is another kind of spying which is corporate espionage. The critical data of an organization which is shared over the web is being targeted by competitors and is always at risk of falling into unauthorized hands.

Cloud Computing: What are Public Private and Hybrid Clouds ?

There is no doubt that internet is not a very secured way of communication however there are certain steps which can ensure the safety and privacy of your communicated information to a great extent. Encrypting a message is considered to be the best way to make sure that even if the message is intercepted the information within the message cannot be comprehended. Encryption solutions for emails are broadly classified into two categories. Following paragraphs will throw some light on this concept of encrypted emails.

Two ways of encrypting an email are:

  1. Self encryption: This is an encryption method which involves encrypting an email at the senders’ end. The person who is sending the email is supposed to encrypt the email. This process involves two keys Public and Private key. Each key is a long string of characters known only by you. The user is supposed to publish the public key however private key is kept secured with the recipient and once he receives your email he can decrypt the email using the private key. This makes sure that anybody who gets access to your email won’t be able to fetch information from it.
  2. Software assisted encryption

These private encrypted email solutions provide the necessary technical and logistical support while assisting you in encrypting your emails. Browser extensions like Enigmail work as an extension with your internet browsers and help you generate keys for a PGP communication. Also, there are email encryption software’s provided by companies like Hp, Symantec, Datamotion etc which are highly reliable when it comes to securing the privacy of your emails using encryption methods.

Now we know a bit about both the kinds of email encryption. I have pointed out a few challenges faced while encrypting your email and also the question is encryption is a sure shot method to secure the privacy?

  • Even if you use encrypted email. The subject line, To, and From fields are generally sent unencrypted.
  • In case of self encryption you need to understand the way public-private key encryption works, generate a key pair, and provide your public key to the person you want to communicate with.
  • Other people you want to communicate with also need to understand and do all these things.
  • Both people need to keep their private keys safe so they don’t become compromised or lost — in which case you’d lose access to the emails. You also need to keep your revocation certificate as it can invalidate your public key if you ever lose your private key.
  • You need to use a third-party solution — either a browser extension, smartphone app, or email client plugin. If you opt for the best-supported option, you’ll need to install an email client, an extension, and an encryption software package separately.