The state of email encryption

Secret Letters

Article from Issue 257/2022

Email encryption is not that difficult – and it is more important now than ever before. We take a look at some important tools and trends in email encryption.

From the point of view of a mail server, and therefore also its administrator, emails are simply ASCII text files that are transferred from server to server. They end up on the filesystem both in transit and at the destination as a text file that is freely readable for the administrator. Reading mail is no problem for administrators, even if the individual message is quickly lost due to the huge numbers. But if you know what you are looking for, you can read whatever you want. Cyber criminals often hack email inboxes and systematically analyze the messages they find.

Email has existed for a generation, and the problem of email security is nearly as ancient. This article offers some thoughts on the state of email encryption today, including what works and some complications you might want to know about.

SSL/TLS and Beyond

The first step in securing email is securing the communication channel. Most well-known and responsible providers now provide secure connections to and from their mail servers by means of SSL/TLS encryption, so that the data crosses the Internet in an encrypted format.


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