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How Secure Is Your Email?

by Linh Schladweiler |

Have you ever worried about the security of your email? If you have, you are probably not unlike many people who transmit sensitive data electronically.

Some of the most widely used types of email services use Transport Layer Security (“TLS”) to encrypt your message (Gmail, Yahoo!, Outlook.com, Exchange 2010, and Exchange 2007). This “automatic” encryption dates back to around early 2014. 

But what does this mean for you?

By definition, “TLS is a protocol that ensures privacy between communicating applications and their users” and the successor to the Secure Sockets Layer (“SSL”). It means that your message is being sent using the latest version of end to end internet security as long as the TLS feature is activated for both the sender and the recipient.

If you are using TLS, your email server will always first try to make a secure connection to the recipient server before sending the message.  If a secure connection is not possible, then your server will send the message without using this feature.

It is possible to set your server to only send messages if it is able to make a secure connection using TLS.  It is also possible to specify the domains you want TLS communications enforced to.

TLS communications are already enabled if you use the “Big 3” email services (Gmail, Yahoo!, and Microsoft). If you or your company use Exchange 2010, TLS is enabled by default at installation.  For Exchange 2007, you would need to turn on this feature manually, typically done at installation.

Firms that use Exchange can verify with your Network Administrator to see if TLS has been enabled. You can also verify end-to-end TLS communication with a recipient by looking at the properties or header information of an individual email.

Verifying this end-to-end TLS connection can help you feel good about having a basic level of secure communication for your sensitive emails.

For more information regarding additional encryption related topics (laptops, flash drives, smartphones, etc.) check out Encryption Made Simple for Lawyers written by Ries, Nelson, and Simek from the Lawyers Mutual lending library.

About the Author

Linh Schladweiler

Linh Schladweiler has been with Lawyers Mutual since 1997 and currently fills the role of IT System Manager. You can contact Linh at linh@lawyersmutualnc.com or 800-663-8843.

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