Feeds

The importance of 'whole journey' email encryption

Leave no weak spots

Intelligent flash storage arrays

It is very rare for an organisation to mandate less security in its IT systems. In fact, the relentless march of new threats places pressure on us all to increase our levels of security, to ensure we can match new and emerging attacks.

Email is one of the most potent business tools that we have, but also one of the most vulnerable systems for attack.

The volume of organisational "smarts" that can travel out of the virtual front door (or the back door from rogue inside abuse) via email can be staggering. Quotes, legal information, contracts, customer data and just about every type of document you can think of will be transported via email.

After all, traditional "snail mail" is all but dead for day to day commercial communications.

Securing email systems must be at the top of any corporate security expert's to-do list, but as with most IT problems there are many different approaches you can take.

One interesting debate is that of precisely when and where to encrypt your email traffic. Is it at the client or is it at the gateway prior to sending to the recipient? Or maybe the encryption is only from the gateway to the recipient client?

From gateway to gateway

The majority of organisations are happy with the placing of an email gateway of some description that encrypts messages as they leave the corporate perimeter. These gateways are often appliances that process emails as they leave and enter the organisation as well as providing anti-malware support.

The problem with email gateway encryption is that emails are not encrypted until they get to the gateway. In other words, the gateway does not protect internal email or email that is travelling from the internal network towards the gateway. These emails will travel around the internal organisation network unencrypted and in plain text, vulnerable to prying malware or internal monitoring and snooping devices.

Some organisations may be comfortable with this, but those needing a higher level of email security need to look a bit deeper.

Why?

Well, malicious insiders will often make a point of going after internal email traffic as this is often seen as a soft target. In a large organisation thousands of plain text emails can be moving around the organisation at any moment in time. These can be accessible to anyone motivated enough to run a sniffing device on the network, and certainly any prying email systems administrator would have unfettered access. Even if an email is worthless outside an organisation, internally it may be priceless and cause significant controversy if its contents were revealed. Examples would include emails discussing redundancies and pay rises for a start.

Most vulnerable to outside interference would be the ubiquitous mobile user with a handheld device. Tour any financial centre and see the thousands of city whizz-kids passing data around in email form, with goodness knows what data being passed in plain text. Unless emails are secured before they leave a handheld device, organisations leave a big gap in their security measures here.

By focusing solely on email gateway to gateway encryption, users risk exposing themselves to unnecessary risk of email intrusion.

Remote control for virtualized desktops

More from The Register

next story
Webcam hacker pervs in MASS HOME INVASION
You thought you were all alone? Nope – change your password, says ICO
You really need to do some tech support for Aunty Agnes
Free anti-virus software, expires, stops updating and p0wns the world
Meet OneRNG: a fully-open entropy generator for a paranoid age
Kiwis to seek random investors for crowd-funded randomiser
USB coding anarchy: Consider all sticks licked
Thumb drive design ruled by almighty buck
Attack reveals 81 percent of Tor users but admins call for calm
Cisco Netflow a handy tool for cheapskate attackers
Privacy bods offer GOV SPY VICTIMS a FREE SPYWARE SNIFFER
Looks for gov malware that evades most antivirus
Patch NOW! Microsoft slings emergency bug fix at Windows admins
Vulnerability promotes lusers to domain overlords ... oops
prev story

Whitepapers

Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Protecting against web application threats using SSL
SSL encryption can protect server‐to‐server communications, client devices, cloud resources, and other endpoints in order to help prevent the risk of data loss and losing customer trust.
Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile
Data demand and the rise of virtualization is challenging IT teams to deliver storage performance, scalability and capacity that can keep up, while maximizing efficiency.