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How to encrypt email

By Martyn Casserly | Nov. 14, 2017
If you need to send a password, bank details or other sensitive information, you should really use an encrypted service. Here's how to send encrypted emails to anyone on any email service, including Gmail

Sending an unencrypted email is often likened to a postcard, in that anyone who wants to read it just needs to look at it. Obviously this isn't good, especially when you need to send personal information to someone else, such as your bank details.

The way to get total privacy is to encrypt your email, and there are a number of ways to do that. We'll explain them, and we'll show you a supremely easy way to send an encrypted message that will self-destruct 30 seconds after opening, just like in Mission Impossible.

Bear in mind that most instant messaging services are now end-to-end encrypted, including Skype, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger (plus iMessage for Apple users). So if you need to send a private message it may be just as easy to do so on one of those services.

How can I send encrypted email in Gmail and Outlook?

Most of us use email because it's convenient and easy to retrieve from almost any device we own. So it's good to know there are options open to users of Gmail and Outlook.


Back in 2014 Google announced that it was making encryption in Gmail the default setting for all users. This means that so long as you are using the official Gmail apps or accessing Gmail through the Chrome browser then your email is already encrypted.

But, and this is a big but, this only holds true if the recipient is also using Google apps. Once the email leaves the Google servers, say when you send it to your friend who uses Yahoo Mail, then the encryption is no longer applied, as otherwise the receiver wouldn't be able to read it. So while this is certainly a big step towards security, it does leave some rather large holes that could compromise your privacy.

Then of course there is the issue that Google itself, or at least software created by the company, scans your emails for keywords so that it can serve ads that will be applicable to your interests. In many ways it's the price you pay for the free service. Google of course maintains that the content is never actually read by a person, but if you are worried about the sanctity of the data it might be better to use a plugin such as which we explore below.


It's not surprising to find built-in features for encryption in Outlook for those with an Office365 subscription. Setting it up is a little more challenging though, but then that is often the trade-off with any security feature. The first thing you'll need to do is exchange digital signatures with your recipient so that both of you will be able to unencrypt the messages. To create these you'll need to follow the Secure email messages by using a digital signature guide on Microsoft's site.


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