This guide will show you how to encrypt Outlook email quickly and securely in a matter of minutes.
You may not have ever considered encrypting your email. You’re not a bank, or a government spook, so why bother?
The simple answer is that your personal data is incredibly valuable to cybercriminals, hackers or just online troublemakers.
Think about all the accounts that are linked to your personal or business email. Bank and card statements, council tax payments, names, home addresses, direct debit notices, social media accounts, entertainment website logins, the list goes on.
When someone else has access to rummage around in your life, potentially through unencrypted emails, things can start going very wrong very quickly.
Outlook email is 6th most popular
Microsoft Outlook is the default email client on many Windows PCs, laptops, notebooks and smartphones.
You may not have ever tried a different client like Gmail, or you may be happy to use Outlook day to day.
How to encrypt Outlook email
Outlook encryption protects the contents of your emails against any unathorised reading, while the digital signature ensures that your email messages haven’t been interfered with and come from a legitimate sender.
Encrypting your email can seem daunting at first glance, but in Outlook it is relatively straightforward.
One word of note: Outlook encryption only works with other recipients using Outlook. There are means to enable you to send to other systems which we highlight below.
To have an encryption service on Outlook you will need a Digital ID, sometimes known as an email certificate.
A Digital ID not only allows the sending of secure messages but will also protect documents and applications including Microsoft Access, Excel, Word, PowerPoint and OneNote.
To verify whether a Digital ID is available in your Outlook
- Open Outlook. Click on the File tab, then go to Options>Trust Centre and click on Trust Centre Settings.
- In the Trust Centre box, select Email Security, then click Settings under Encrypted email.
- Under Change Security Settings click New in the Security Settings Preferences. Type a name for your new digital certificate in the Security Settings Name box.
- Most Digital IDs are SMIME type so make sure SMIME is selected in the Cryptography Format list. SMIME stands for Secure Multi-Purpose Internet Mail Extensions and is a standard for public key encryption.
- Finally, click Choose next to Encryption Certificate to add your Digital ID to encrypt Outlook email.
- And select the Send These Certificates with Signed Messages check box then click OK.
- To make sure this will be the default position for all encrypted email in Outlook select the Default Security Settings for this cryptographic message format check box.
Next: Share your Public Key
Apart from the Digital ID you will also need to share your Public Key with the recipients of your emails. In Outlook the Public Key is part of your Digital ID. So, you won’t need to set it up.
- To share your Public Key you first need to exchange digitally signed emails with the people and organisations you want to share encrypted emails with.
- Once you have their digital signature you will need to add this to their contact details in the Outlook Address Book.
- To do this simply open the digitally signed message. You will know it is such by a signature icon. Right click the sender’s name in the From fields and then click Add to Outlook Contacts. Once added the digital certificate will be stored with the contact’s entry.
Last step: Encrypt Outlook email
- In an email message you are writing, switch to the Options tab, click Permissions Group and click Encrypt button.
- Then simply send the message as you would normally do. That’s it: you’ve just sent your first encrypted email!
- If you don’t see the Encrypt button, go to Options>More Options and click the Message Options Dialog Box Launcher found in the lower corner.
- In the Properties dialog window, click on the Security Settings button.
- In Security Settings check the Encrypt message contents and attachments box and click OK.
This makes sure that all attachments sent in Outlook email will be encrypted.
It is worth noting that if you send an encrypted message to someone who does not share your Public Key you will be offered a choice to send the message in an unencrypted format.
Encrypting all email messages
- To enable automatic Outlook encryption, go to the File tab then Options>Trust Centre>Trust Centre Settings.
- Switch to the Email Security tab and select Encrypt contents and attachments for outgoing messages under Encrypted email. Click OK.
Outlook and other email clients
The email encryption you have just set up does have one drawback, it only works for Outlook. To overcome this, you will need to use a third-party encryption tools.
There are a number of free open source tools available. The most popular is GPG4Win which stands for GNU Privacy Guard for Windows.
And that’s it. It may seem daunting to encrypt Outlook email but in practice is pretty straightforward, giving you the piece of mind that no nefarious person is gaining your valuable data.