Why Do I Need an Email Digital Certificate?

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You need an email digital signature certificate even if you don’t yet know it — here’s why

We’ll talk about email digital certificates in this post — but, first, we have a question for you: Do you know why do sharks migrate to another place? Yes, you guessed it correctly — because they’re in search of new prey. Now remember this fact for later — you’re going to need it.

Let’s travel back in time, say, 10-15 years. The workplace was an environment of suits and neckties. You’d sit at your desk, surrounded by piles of paper files and documents. Now, return to the present. While some things change (like the adoption of digital file storage and cloud technology), some things remain the same — namely the prevalent use of work email communications. And this is something that hackers — the digital world’s version of sharks — are after.

Even in the age of super convenient messaging applications and software, 86% of business professionals prefer to use emails when communicating for business purposes. As a result, a major portion of important and sensitive business communications occur through email — something that hackers are always after.

Yes, hackers migrate places or roam in search of sensitive data the way sharks do for prey. Okay, this is not the best of the analogies but you’re not here for it, are you? You’re here to learn whether you need an email digital certificate or not, right? So, let’s start learning.

Where’s the Fish in Email Security?

Think of a really important email that you’ve prepared on the behalf of your organization. This email contains vital, sensitive information that you’d never want to get in the hands of your competitors. Now, if your competitor hires a hacker to steal this information, where would he/she attack? What are the weak points where your information could be stolen?

Trust us, you don’t need to be a geek to understand this. It’s common sense that a hacker will most likely attack when the email is on its way to your server to the recipient because that’s when it’s most vulnerable. And another most likely possibility is that a hacker could get control of your web server and steal the email from there. In the context of our shark-hacker analogy, these are the two places where a hacker could find prey in the easiest and quickest way.

Does it make sense? We think so.

How an Email Digital Certificate Keeps Sharks Away from Your Fish

An email digital signature certificate — most commonly known as an S/MIME (secure/multipurpose internet mail extensions) certificate, an email signature certificate, or an Outlook S/MIME certificate (for Outlook users) — is used to protect your emails from hackers and fraudsters. Essentially, it’s an X.509 digital certificate that operates using public key encryption — like an SSL/TLS certificate.  But unlike an SSL/TLS certificate, it provides end-to-end encryption that protects your data both while it’s in transit and at rest.

An email signing certificate has three main functions:

  1. authentication,
  2. encryption, and
  3. integrity.

Let’s explore each one a bit more in detail.

Authentication

Email certificates ensure that the email is read only by the intended recipients of your email, nobody else. It also helps them to know for certain with whom they’re communicating (and that you’re not an imposter). This is done through the use of digital signatures.

Encryption

Email security certificates turn the data of your emails into an undecipherable format so that no unauthorized entity steals and/or tampers with the data. Specifically, they provide end-to-end encryption that secures your email metadata so that the contents of your emails (your messages and any attachments) are encrypted before you ever press the “send” button.

Integrity

An email digital certificate also helps your email recipients verify that your email hasn’t been altered in any way since it left your outbox. This helps you increase trust in the email ecosystem.

Sign Your Emails Using an Email Digital Signature Certificate

With an email digital signature certificate, you can protect your document’s integrity and not allow anyone tamper with your documents. Whenever you sign your email, the private key of the email signing certificate is applied to your email in combination with a hash to create a digital signature.

On the other end, when the recipient receives the email, the digital signature is verified using the public key related to the private key of the certificate. This way, it tells the recipient that the email was sent by you only. When sending sensitive information, such assurance establishes trust in the recipient’s mind.

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Our Two Cents

Just for the record, we love sharks — they’re an important part of the world’s ecosystem and we hope they find food whenever they go in search of it. There’s only one type of “shark” that we don’t wish the same for — and you know who they are! That’s why we always recommend that you remain secure in your email communications by using email security best practices, even if they cost you a little bit at first. It’s not truly just a cost — it’s an investment in your business.

Having said that, it’s up to you to decide whether you need an email digital certificate or not for your security; we can’t make that decision on your behalf. Our job is to help you see the “why” and value behind them.

What is S/MIME? How does it work? Do I need S/MIME?
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