What to Know About an SSL Certificate for Your Mail Server

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Not only do SSL certificates secure your website but you can use them to secure your mail server, too

When people hear the term SSL certificate, they assume that it’s related to website security. Well, they’re not wrong. But what if we were to tell you that an SSL certificate is useful for your mail server as well? Many are not be aware that SSL/TLS certificates to secure mail servers.

A mail server certificate, also called an email server certificate, encrypts email communications the same way SSL certificates secure data transmission happening through a website.

But why is this extra security step necessary? Let’s cover just a few of the top reasons for why you should use an SSL certificate for your mail server:

Email Security Is a Must These Days

Although many organizations have moved to messaging apps for internal communications, they still rely on emails for important communication — whether it’s inside the organization or outside. In other words, information that’s sensitive in nature is transmitted through emails. And that’s where the cybercriminals come in.

In many cases of security failure, we’ve seen email acting as their entry-point. According to a survey conducted by Barracuda, it’s been found that the majority (74%) of businesses say email-borne cyber attacks have a significant impact, and 78% said the cost of email breaches is increasing. This is undoubtedly a good enough reason to take your email security seriously, isn’t it?

S/MIME Is Not Enough on Its Own

Now you might say, “But we already use S/MIME certificates (also known as email signing certificates) for encrypting emails, so we’re safe.” Well, not so much. It’s great that you’re using S/MIME. But relying on S/MIME alone can be an issue because S/MIME certificates aren’t installed on a web server; they’re issued to an individual account. Therefore, they might be useful in encrypting an email and sending it to the intended recipient. Still, they’re not helpful if you want to encrypt the entire communication taking place through the email server.

Why You Need an SSL/TLS Certificate for Your Mail Server

Do you know what would happen if you don’t have an SSL/TLS certificate on your email server? Well, without SSL/TLS, there’s no way to verify that the email server that you’re trying to communicate with is the intended server or not. This could lead to an attacker spoofing a web server and extracting the communications in the process. Now, this is quite a dangerous territory.

But, wait, there’s more.

If you haven’t encrypted your mail server, the emails transmitting through your server are in plaintext form, and attackers could easily execute a man-in-the-middle (MiTM) attack and see or tamper with your data. This is a big deal and can lead to data breaches and a litany of other security concerns.

Not to mention that SSL certificate for your mail server helps you to incorporate not only encryption but also identity checks into your protocol. When you use SSL, you can securely log in to your mail server and avoid sending your login credentials across the internet in plaintext.

The Limitation of SSL/TLS in Email Security

As we covered, SSL/TLS encrypts emails when they’re in transit. Well, what about when they’re not transmitting and are at rest? The thing is, SSL certs don’t encrypt emails that are resting on web servers. So, that leaves a big security hole in your system. This is why it’s important to incorporate both data in transit and data at rest defense mechanisms.

Now you must be thinking that email security is more complicated than you think. Well, it isn’t. As a rule of thumb, you need to secure your emails on two fronts — when they’re in transit and when they’re resting. In other words, you need to encrypt the emails themselves and you also need to encrypt your email communications channels.

To do so, you need two things — an SSL certificate and an S/MIME certificate. An SSL/TLS certificate will secure your email communications, and an S/MIME certificate will make sure that all emails remain in an encrypted format. Simple, isn’t it?

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