What is an SSL Certificate for Your Mail Server?

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SSL certificates aren’t just for your website — a mail server certificate secures your email server

Servers that host websites aren’t the only ones that need SSL certificates. You need to have an SSL certificate for your mail server, too. But what kinds of SSL certificates work with mail servers? We’ll get to that in just a moment.

First, we want to address what seems to be a bit of a misnomer about email security and encryption. Email signing, or S/MIME certificates, are handled on an account-level basis. With S/MIME certificates, a given account is issued a certificate and can use it to sign and encrypt email. This method encrypts the email itself, but the transmission of the email is not encrypted.

This is only part of the equation when it comes to truly secure email. You want to make sure the email is being SENT securely, too. That involves using an SSL certificate on your mail server to ensure that all incoming mail is received via a secure channel. But why would you need to encrypt the connection an email is sent via if the email itself is encrypted?

Why You Should Use an SSL Certificate for Your Mail Server

There are two reasons important reasons for why you need to install a mail server certificate:

  1. Avoid mail delivery exploits. There are still exploits that can be used against mail delivery, even if the message itself is encrypted. Think about it, an attacker couldn’t read the message, but they can certainly see what route its traversing, who it’s being delivered to, what size it is, etc.
  2. Log in to your email securely. The other reason is you have to log in to your mail server. Everyone does. Otherwise you can’t check email. Without an SSL certificate installed on your mail server, you’re sending your login credentials across the internet in plaintext. That’s right, any ne’er-do-well eavesdropping on your connection at one of the dozens of points it routes through now has access to your account because they have your ID and password.

So, install an SSL certificate on your mail server to ensure that not only your messages are secure but the channel you send them through is as well.

Types of Certificates That Work for Microsoft Communications Servers

As you likely know, SSL certificate come in different validation levels and types — everything from single domain certificates to multi domain and wildcards. However, there is an SSL certificate that are designed to work specifically with Microsoft Exchange and Communications servers. These are known as UCCs, or unified communications certificates. They’re compatible with about 99.9% of email clients and web browsers.

UCC certificates come in two varieties: multi domain and multi domain wildcard certificates. Depending on the number of domains you wish to secure and your validation needs, UCC certificates come in domain validation (DV) and organization validation (OV) capabilities.

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