How to Use S/MIME as an Extra Layer of Email Protection


It’s difficult to imagine life without emails - especially as a business. Even though the technology is quite simple and it’s been around for decades (literally) it still sits at the very core of business communications. After all, this is the technology that allowed business owners and employees to move from dusty offices to the beach or to luxuriant remote locations without worrying they’ll be out of touch!

The fact that you can send a complex message, with links, images, and attachments around the world in just a few seconds, for close to nothing, is still baffling. However, there is a downside.

If it’s used without proper protection, email can be used by third parties to invade and attack your organization. And this is why we are all here, today - to discuss proper email encryption using S/MIME.

What is S/MIME?

S/MIME comes from Secure/Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions.

In plain terms, this is a technology that allows users to encrypt their emails using asymmetric cryptography.

But wait, don’t email servers already use encryption? Why do I need another one?

Due to recent threats and attacks, people seem to understand the importance of using a proper email server (usually paid) that is encrypted. However, this only guarantees your emails’ safety in their trip to and from said server. Should they pass through another server, the protection is gone.

The same happens if the unit that stores the email is hacked. An encrypted server doesn’t protect the emails per se - it only ensures safe passage in the communication to and from.

An attack of this nature happened in 2016, during the US elections. During that fatidical event, hackers stole around 20,000 emails from the Democratic National Committee’ inbox and made them public on WikiLeaks. It is believed that this is the event that nudged the elections to the outcome we know today.

What’s sad, is that this could have been prevented if the DNC’s emails were encrypted using a piece of technology like S/MIME. What’s even sadder is that this was not the only attack that took advantage of the lack of emails encryption.

How Does S/MIME Work?

It Encrypts the Emails

The details behind the encryption system are a bit technical, but if you want to learn more about the technology and how it works and how to set this up in Gmail, please check my video guide here (for Google Workspace, previously known as G Suite users):

It Signs the Emails

This tech is not just about encryption; it also allows users to sign their emails, as an additional proof of authenticity. In short, S/MIME uses the private key generated for your encryption and applies a unique (to you) Digital Signature into each message.

This is a fantastic way to keep phishing attacks away from your organization and ensure partners and collaborators that your emails truly come from you.

In addition, it’s highly encouraged to use signed emails for internal communications as well (employee <-> employee and employee <-> managers). Again, this is a fantastic way to keep a safe distance from attackers that try to impersonate co-workers or managers and bully other employees into leaking sensitive information. Time to Make the Settings

As you can see from our short review, S/MIME is a great way to keep your emails truly safe and your organization away from attackers. It’s also a way to show partners and collaborators that your reputation and integrity are untouched (and you want to keep it that way).

So, have a look at the video guide above, talk to your network administrator, and start the implementation! S/MIME has become readily available nowadays so, it’s not difficult to set and implement.

Of course, our team is available for help and guidance, so don’t hesitate to give us a call today!