Do I Really Need an Email Encryption Certificate for Outlook?

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If you care about the security of your email communication, then yes, you need an email encryption certificate, or what’s also known as an email signing certificate or S/MIME certificate! This is not the same thing as an email server certificate, which encrypts the email server itself.

If you’re using emails for professional purposes or sending and receiving any sensitive information— which is too dangerous if it were to get leaked— an email encryption certificate is a must for your Outlook (or for any other email client). But if you are using emails just to share cute cat videos and your grandma’s pie recipe, you don’t necessarily need any encryption certificate!

In this article, we’ll cover the main components and benefits of an email encryption certificate and how it is implemented to sign the outgoing emails digitally on the Outlook.

Why Is an Email Encryption Certificate Necessary for Outlook?

Outlook is an email application that’s available as a part of the Microsoft Office suite. Although it’s available for both individuals and professionals, it’s more popular among businesses for internal and external communication.

Email communication is always an insecure component of an organization’s overall security posture. In 2019, the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) received 23,775 BEC complaints, and the organizations lost over $1.7 billion. It shows that the need for email security is an essential requirement for any business these days. An email encryption certificate, also known as an email signing certificate or S/MIME certificate, is a robust email security tool that’s easy to deploy on Outlook.

Main Security Components of an Email Encryption Certificate

These are the three main security pillars of an email encryption certificate:

1. Identity Assurance

An email encryption certificate allows you as the sender to insert a cryptographic digital signature on all outgoing emails. This digital signature can’t be modified, deleted, or manipulated by any other person. This gives your recipients assurance about your identity and helps them trust that the message came from you.

2. Privacy

An email encryption certificate encrypts the email content before you hit send and provides both in-transit and at-rest data protection. Encryption means scrambling the plain text data using a mathematical algorithm to make it incomprehensible. This means that no one can eavesdrop, read, interpret, or steal the content while the email is in transit and while it sits on the intended recipient’s server, waiting to be decrypted. 

3. Integrity

An email encryption certificate uses principles of the public key infrastructure (PKI) and hashes the entire content of the email, attachments, and the digital signature. An intact hash value is proof of the integrity of the email. This means that if anyone tries to tamper with the email after it’s been sent, the hash value changes, which informs the recipients that the email’s integrity has been compromised.

Key Benefits of Using an Email Encryption Certificate

These are the main benefits of an email encryption certificate.

  • Protects users from email spoofing scams.
  • Prevents any alteration in the email contents after it has been sent.
  • Helps people differentiate between a phishing email and an authentic one.
  • Prevents data leaks, data theft, and data loss in the transit.
  • Protects the business’s confidential data from eavesdropping.
  • Provides end-to-end encryption if both the parties have installed an email encryption certificate. This means, the email not only remains encrypted in transit but also when it is stored (at rest) on the server.

By now, you must have an idea of how important an email encryption certificate is for email security. What makes it even better is that it’s not even expensive! Furthermore, it’s very user-friendly and easy to install and use to sign emails. You don’t need any special technical expertise for either of these tasks.

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How Does an Email Encryption Certificate Work?

We now understand what benefits an email encryption certificate offers and how you can use one to digitally sign and encrypt emails on Outlook. But what goes on behind the scenes?

Let’s explore how an email signing certificate functions after you install it on your Outlook email client:

  • Email certificates are purchased and assigned to individual users.
  • Every email address that has a certificate gets a set of asymmetric keys, i.e. a public key and its corresponding private key. 
  • The public key is available to everyone, meaning that anyone can access it. The recipient’s public key is used to encrypt the email’s contents.
  • When the sender sends the email, the email encryption certificate creates a hash and uses the sender’s private key to create a digital, and it also encrypts the entire email using the recipient’s public key. 
  • The encrypted email travels via insecure internet and reaches to the recipient’s server.
  • The recipient’s private key is safely stored on their email server. When the content of the email is encrypted using the recipient’s public key, only the corresponding private key can decrypt the message and its attachments.
Email Encryption Certificate

Now that you know the benefits and technological features of an email encryption certificate, the next question is how much does it cost? You would be surprised to know that an email signing certificate won’t cost you an arm and a leg. If you get it from SectigoStore, you will get it in a discounted rate of $12.95/year only!