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Is encryption available for email messages?

Last Edit: 10/01/12

(Encryption is the process of converting plain text into scrambled cipher text)

Most free webmail services and some free email clients provide encryption. When sending an email without encryption, it is possible for someone to intercept the data packets and read the data within the message. Therefore, encryption is a vital option for ensuring a confidential message can only be read by the intended recipient. However, due to a number of reasons, the uptake of email encryption by users and companies is fairly low.

It must be stated however, that privacy is still a considerable problem when it comes to email; the majority of email messages are still not encrypted (2012). The reason why email is insecure is that email messages have to be passed through a number of mail transfer agents (like postal sorting offices): this makes it possible to intercept the message. Likewise, backup copies of email messages can remain on mail servers for months, which is again a security issue if the message is not encrypted.

There are a number of email encryption protocols and systems available. However, many of these encryption systems require both sender and receiver to exchange their identities, such as:

  1. Digital ID
  2. Public Key Certificate

Once the sender and receiver have done this, it makes the exchange of encrypted email messages a simple process. However, the complexity and time consuming nature of this process is probably why email encryption is not extensively used.