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End-to-end email encryption is the only way to communicate safely on the webKeeping your digital correspondence safe is crucial. Learn how to get the ultimate protection with end-to-end encryption email service!
Email is the cornerstone of online communication. You can’t effectively exist in the digital world without an email address—you need it to sign up for digital services like Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook, make online payments, and conduct business communication. Necessary as it may be, email is susceptible to interception and security breaches. Since internet correspondence often involves sensitive information, ensuring complete protection of the shared data is crucial.Encryption helps keep the content of your electronic messages safe from unauthorized third parties. While different encryption methods exist, not all of them are equally effective. End-to-end encryption gained traction recently thanks to the level of protection it provides.In this guide, we will explain how end-to-end encryption for email works and why it's crucial for protecting your data and identity. You’ll also discover the best way to ensure your emails are fully encrypted and safe from prying eyes (and fingers).
Secure your online communication with SkiffAs a security-first email service, Skiff guarantees safe web communication
What is end-to-end encryption?End-to-end encryption (E2EE) is a security standard where information shared between two users is completely protected during transit and while “resting” on a server. This ensures that nobody can read the content of any messages, not even:
- Internet service providers
- Application service providers
- Network administrators
- Hackers with access to databases or network traffic
- Read your email—Since only the sender and the recipient have the keys for decrypting the message, nobody else can read it during transit. The message may be visible to the intermediary platform enabling its transfer, but it won’t be legible
- Change the content of the message—If someone intercepts the encrypted message during transfer and attempts to alter its content, the tampering will be obvious as the intended recipient won’t be able to decrypt it afterward. This protects you from fraud attempts
How is E2EE different from other encryption types?End-to-end encryption provides higher security than all other data protection options. You can determine its effectiveness according to two factors:
- How complex it is
- Who the encrypted message keyholders are
Symmetric vs. asymmetric encryptionMany services use symmetric encryption, widely popular for being easy to set up and implement. Symmetric cryptography is also faster in terms of encryption and decryption because the keys are shorter than in asymmetric encryption. Asymmetric or public-key encryption is the basis of end-to-end encryption and provides greater security by ensuring that only the intended recipients can access certain information.Symmetric encryption, otherwise known as single-key encryption, protects the transferred data all the way from the sender to the recipient. Nobody besides the intended recipient—not even the email service enabling the transit—can decrypt the message as the recipient is the only person holding the key.The shortcoming of this type of encryption is that it uses a single key to encrypt and decrypt messages. The key must be shared among the intended recipients, and if a third party gets ahold of the key, the security of your data is no longer guaranteed.Asymmetric encryption uses two separate but corresponding keys—one for encrypting and the other for decrypting the message. Since the decryption key is stored on the recipient’s device, it is never transmitted via the internet, so third-party interception and message decrypting is impossible.The most advanced systems typically use a combination of symmetric and asymmetric encryption to yield the best results—ease of use and efficiency of the former combined with the highest security standards of the latter.
Encryption in transit and encryption at rest vs. E2EEMany services promise complete data protection, but your cybersecurity depends on the decryption key holder. Some encryption methods entail a service provider having access to the content of your messages.Two practical examples are encryption in transit and encryption at rest. Many non-E2EE platforms often advertise as being E2EE-protected because they encrypt your data both:During transit—via HTTPS/TLSWhile resting on the device—via a key owned by the technology providerThe major difference is that in E2EE, the user creates the encryption and decryption keys (instead of the server, like with the other two types).Check out the table below for a detailed comparison of these methods and E2EE:
|Types of encryption||Details||Weaknesses||How E2EE resolves them|
|Encryption in transit||Encryption in transit provides data protection while it’s moving from network to network or from a local storage device to a cloud storage device||The platform implementing encryption in transit still holds the key to your documents. Your data is only protected from a man-in-the-middle attack but vulnerable on the sender’s, server’s, and recipient’s side||With E2EE, your messages remain encrypted all the way during transit, and their content is unavailable even to your email service provider|
|Encryption at rest||Encryption at rest ensures the sensitive data already on the server is encrypted, and nobody without a decryption key can read it||Cloud storage providers typically hold the decryption keys in a centralized location, making them potentially vulnerable to attackers||E2EE services don’t have access to your decryption key, which means neither they nor anybody else can decryptr your messages when at rest|
The importance of end-to-end email encryptionYou should go for maximum security of your data because of:
- Ensured confidentiality—Emails often contain sensitive data, such as personal information, business documents, and confidential contracts. They are often targeted by hackers, and you can protect them with end-to-end encryption. Other data often exchanged via email that should be encrypted includes:
- Tax returns
- Application forms for loans and rental agreements
- Photographs, which could contain location info or other metadata (if your smartphone has a default setting to embed location information)
- Compliance and governance—Email encryption is necessary in specific industries for compliance reasons. Some institutions require email senders to forward sensitive data via encrypted communication. Even if encryption isn’t specifically required, it will reduce the chances of the institution facing criminal charges and penalties in case of a cyberattack. Examples of industries enforcing email encryption include:
- Healthcare—HIPAA protects patients and imposes numerous regulations on end-to-end encryption of their medical records
- Government—Department of Defense (DoD) requires encryption and digital signatures on any sensitive communication
- Financial industry—Financial institutions, such as banks, have a legal obligation to protect consumer information with encryption
- Protection against identity theft—End-to-end encryption can mitigate the impact of a cyberattack and protect you against identity theft as long as your decryption key is safe
- Boosted business efficiency—Ensuring secure business communication and transactions with clients does wonders for a company’s efficiency and reputation
- Reduced risk of cyberattack across an enterprise—Organizations store their email traffic on Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) servers, where the backup copies can remain for years. If this information is not fully encrypted, an organization risks exposing proprietary information as well as compliance and confidentiality breaches
- Peace of mind—You don’t have to spend another minute thinking about the risks of someone having access to your information, whatever that may be. The feeling of being in control of your privacy will put your mind at ease and enable stress-free communication over the internet
Choose the safest way to communicate onlineSkiff's end-to-end data protection gives you complete and uncompromised online anonymity and privacy
How to encrypt an email—the end-to-end encryption process explainedEnd-to-end encryption uses asymmetric cryptography to secure messages. Every user creates two cryptographic keys—a public one and a private one. The public key can be widely distributed and is used to encrypt the message, while the private key is only available to the user who created the keys and serves to decrypt any content sent.The E2EE email system creates a public and private key for anyone who joins.Here’s how the process works:
- Encrypting the sender’s message
- Sending the encrypted message
- Deciphering the encrypted message
Encrypting an emailLet’s say that one person wants to send another a private email. The latter owns the public and private encryption keys created by the user when signing up for the E2EE email service. The keys are mathematically related as the message encrypted with a public key can only be decrypted with the corresponding private key.The sender uses the recipient’s public key to encrypt the message, turning it into a string of seemingly random characters. Both parties know the public key, but the private key (used for decrypting) is available only to the recipient.
Sending an encrypted emailWhile in transit, the email passes various servers that could theoretically attempt to intercept the message, read it, change it, or send it to third parties.Since the recipient is the only person holding the private key for decrypting the email, it is impossible for the other involved parties to decode the message.
Deciphering the encrypted emailWhen the email reaches the recipient’s mailbox, they use their private key to decrypt it. If the recipient wants to respond to the sender, they need to repeat the process, using the sender’s public key to encrypt the response.
How to choose an email encryption serviceWhile popular email service providers, such as Gmail and Yahoo mail, protect your data to some extent, they are also notorious for mishandling their users’ information or scanning keywords in emails to show personalized ads. Keep in mind that any email service that offers anything less than end-to-end encryption cannot guarantee the complete safety of your transferred data.Only a handful of email encryption service providers offer this level of protection and those that do often sacrifice ease of use or functionality for security. You will probably have a hard time navigating their platforms, which tend to be complicated and confusing—especially if you’re not tech-savvy.For a simple and effective solution, turn to Skiff—a beautifully designed, modern, and easy-to-use productivity suite that provides end-to-end data protection.SKiff’s goal is the complete and uncompromised online anonymity and privacy of your digital activities.Here is what the platform offers:
- Comprehensive product suite
- End-to-end encryption of your emails, pages, and files
- Optional decentralized, interoperable storage
- Generous free plan
- Open-sourcing and transparency
Diverse productsBesides Skiff Mail, the platform offers Skiff Pages, Skiff Calendar, and Skiff Drive.The Skiff Pages product enables you to connect with your team from anywhere in the world and write and edit in real-time within a completely secure, collaborative, and decentralized workspace.Skiff Drive allows you to upload, preview, share, and download any file across all your devices safely.The platform optionally integrates with InterPlanetary File System (IPFS), the biggest decentralized storage provider, so you have the choice to store all your files there, enjoying complete privacy.You can use all our products with a single account, but you’ll need to download the mobile apps (available for iOS and Android) for each product separately.
End-to-end encryption for all Skiff productsYour data is fully encrypted and safe with all SKiff’s products. Public key encryption enables you to safely share access among collaborators. The protection model is designed to keep the data resistant to man-in-the-middle, user abuse, impersonation attacks, and phishing.Skiff also encourages clients to use two-step authentication when creating an account to strengthen the password’s safety and ensure that:
- Users’ private keys are safe at all times
- Passwords and private keys never leave users’ local devices, ensuring they are completely private
Optional, privacy-oriented crypto integrationsAnonymity is essential when dabbling with crypto, and we offer integration with the most reputable crypto wallets, such as MetaMask and Brave Wallet.You can use your crypto wallet as login credentials for Skiff Mail and manage your digital assets, collaborate with other people on the network, and share sensitive files in a privacy-oriented, end-to-end encrypted environment.
Generous free planSkiff’s free plan allows you to use many functionalities that other email service providers offer only within their paid plans. The handiest features include 10 GB of free storage, full-content email search, and free auto-reply and signature options. Only the user can perform searches on their web browser, so the encryption remains uncompromised.
Open source productUnlike most other email providers, Skiff is transparent about the client code. You can find it on the website and inspect it to confirm the platform’s privacy and encryption practices. Anybody can review Skiff’s products by having access to:
- Skiff Mail client
- Cryptography libraries
- UI libraries
Important considerations when using end-to-end encryptionWhen using an end-to-end encrypted provider, you will still need to pay attention to the following considerations to ensure security:
- Metadata—Most email service providers encrypt the message content but don’t conceal information about the time and date the email was sent. If you opt for Skiff, no personally identifying data, such as the IP address, is collected. The subject of the email and all content are stored and end-to-end encrypted
- Compromised devices—If your personal device is hacked, an attacker could see your inbox and load messages after they are decrypted. In some E2EE systems, an attacker can steal the keys from the compromised device
- Dubious email service providers—Some providers might advertise encryption in transit as end-to-end protection, leaving your data at risk. Encryption in transit and encryption at rest are not enough. Your best bet is to use a reputable email service provider, such as Skiff, guaranteeing your cybersafety
What can you do to prevent email hacking?There’s no such thing as an “unhackable” email, even with end-to-end encryption, but you can take specific steps to contribute to your data safety. You can strengthen the system security with:
|A strong password||Creating a strong, unique password is essential for protecting your end-to-end encrypted emails.Repeating the same password across different services is risky because all your accounts can become compromised if the password leaks. Making separate passwords for each account ensures that if one of them is leaked, the rest will remain safe. Password managers can also help you store your passwords safely|
|Combination of E2EE encryption with other internet privacy protection methods||End-to-end encryption works best when combined with other online privacy protection tools. Two-factor identification (TFA) should be enabled whenever possible—like Skiff encourages users to do|
Take control of your online privacy with Skiff in a few easy stepsSigning up for Skiff is simple—all you have to do is:
- Visit our Signup page
- Create an account
- Explore Skiff Mail and other features
- More storage space
- Custom domains
- Option to create up to 15 aliases