Enhancing Email Security with SSL Certificate Implementation

Introduction

Most email users are not accustomed to thinking of email messages as potential cybersecurity loopholes. However, figures and statistics tell us we should remain vigilant and cautious of our inboxes. Phishers and spear-phishers are after us.

According to a Guardian Digital report, email phishing scams are rampant, accounting for over 90% of all corporate security breaches. These email breaches bring severe damage to the victims. For example, the Federal Bureau of Investigation published a report that indicated that between 2013 and 2018, businesses lost $12.5 billion worldwide after attackers compromised their official email accounts.

As you can notice, email security is a matter of serious concern. Therefore, individuals and corporates need to approach it keenly and find a long-lasting, effective, and reliable remedy to curb the menace of email-related insecurity threats.

What is Email SSL Certificate?

Whenever someone mentions remedies for email insecurity threats, the email SSL certificate is the first thing that pops up in my mind.

However, what is an email SSL certificate, and how is it an email security remedy?

Popularly referred to as email signing SSL certificates, email SSL certificates are designed to authenticate, protect and secure (through encryption) all email transmissions. Sound like rocket science? No worries, let me explain it in layperson’s terms.

Think of an email SSL certificate as a digital signature that signs the email message to ensure that no malicious or unauthorized parties sneak into the message transmission with the ill motive of reading, deciphering, or altering its content.

Other than encryption, the certificate adds an id to the email that notifies the email recipient that the email has genuinely come from a specific sender. Moreover, since the certificate encrypts the email message, it can establish the integrity of the email data as it moves between the sender and the receiver.

The Benefits of using SSL Certificate for Email Security

The previous section highlighted some benefits of using an SSL certificate for email security. This section discusses the same issue but in more elaborate terms. The following are the five significant benefits of using an SSL certificate for email security.

  • The Certificate Help to Protect Against the Phishing Scams

The entire internet is a hotbed of phishing scams. According to Verizon’s 2022 Data Breach Investigation Report, 82% of data breaches resulted from social-engineering attacks. More alarming is learning that email communications are the primary targets of these scams.

Phishing scammers attempt to trick and lure users into giving out their confidential information. Confidential information includes passwords, account numbers, credit card information, and social security numbers, among many others. The scammers masquerade as genuine email senders and try to trick unsuspecting users into opening an email attachment or clicking on a malicious link. Once users do that, they will be directed to malicious websites; worse, they could end up downloading malware into their network.

So, how does the SSL certificate help solve this problem?

As we saw earlier, the email SSL certificate includes a unique id for identifying email senders. With this id, it is easy for email recipients to identify masked email senders, thereby protecting you from email scammers. Moreover, the certificate will track down spam email messages and filter them out from recipients’ inboxes, thereby protecting them from phishing attacks.

  • Email Encryption

Encryption is perhaps the most significant aspect of the SSL certificate. Have you ever imagined the number of mediums the email message goes through as it moves between the sender and the receiver? Emails are more vulnerable to interceptions while in transit than when stationary. Hackers will try to sneak into these communications while they travel between channels to modify or read the message.

Using the encryption power of SSL certificates, the email message is converted to an unreadable format before it is transmitted over the internet. This is what encryption is all about. As a result, the encrypted message will appear like a string of meaningless characters that no human or computer can decipher. In other words, even if a hacker succeeded in accessing the encrypted message, they would not be able to derive any meaning from it.

The encrypted message will be decrypted once it reaches its intended recipient.

  • SSL Certificates Helps With Sender Verification

Sender verification is concerned with allowing genuine emails to reach the sender. As such, all spam messages will be filtered and blocked from reaching the sender.

Since the digital signatures attach an id to the email, the recipient can ascertain that the email has come from the authenticated and desired sender. From here, the recipient can choose whether or not to open the email.

  • Email SSL Certificate for Protecting Brands’ Reputation

Email phishing attacks have resulted in significant data leakages. Imagine a scenario where hackers use your email to trick you into submitting sensitive company data and expose the data to the public. Such a scenario can result in a loss of business reputation and damage your relationships with prospects and customers. However, this situation can be easily avoided by using an email-signing SSL certificate to safeguard all email communications from hackers.

Guide to Implementing SSL Certificates for Email Security

You already understand that you need to implement an SSL certificate for your email security. However, the big question comes: “How do you go about that?”

First, you need to understand that the whole main transmission chain consists of the following two aspects:

  • The connection between the user browser and the webmail operating on the web server. We commonly refer to this as “securing the webmail.”
  • The connection between the Plesk mail server and the sender’s message transfer agent (MTA). We commonly refer to this as “securing the Plesk main server.”

Securing the Webmail

To equip your webmail with an SSL certificate, two procedures are involved:

Step 1: You should acquire an SSL certificate that allows for the configuration of webmail.<domain>

Securing the Webmail

You can do this by doing any of the following three things:

  • Acquiring an SSL certificate from a reliable SSL provider. Moreover, with this option, you do not have to go through the second step. It is noted that If you have multiple email-related domains then, it is best to choose one Wildcard SSL certificate that can protect multiple mail connections.
  • Buy an SSL certificate from a reliable certificate authority.
  • Upload the SSL certificate you already have.

Step 2: Go to Mail and navigate to mail settings. From here, click on the domain name and select SSL/TLS Certificates for webmail. Click OK.

Install Email Signing Certificate on Outlook

Before installation, you need to export the PFX file of the email signing certificate.

  • Open Outlook and Go to File.
  • Now, choose Options>>Trust Center>> Trust Center Settings
  • Trust Center will open and click Email Security on the left side.
  • On the right side, besides the Default Setting label, select the email account from the drop-down menu for which you want to install the email signing certificate. Click the Setting button.
  • In the Change Security Settings window, select choose.
  • A new window will ask you to choose a certificate, so choose a PFX file email-related you wish to save.
  • Enter the password for the PFX file and Click Ok to install the email signing certificate on Outlook 2010.

Examples of Successful SSL Certificates in the Implementation of Email Security

Several examples of SSL certificates can be used for your email servers. However, not all SSL certificates offer equal value. The following are some of the best certificates you should consider using for your email servers.

  • Comodo PAC Basic Certificate (S/MIME): It is a domain validation certificate available with max. 3 yrs validity.
  • Comodo PAC Enterprise Certificate: It is an organization validation certificate available with max. 3 yrs validity

Conclusion

Data security is a matter of the essence in the vast technological era, with massive innovations flowing day and night. Unfortunately, thousands of email breaches and security attacks are reported in the news headlines daily.

One of the best remedies to address the issue of email insecurity threats is the email-signing SSL certificate. Alongside offering robust email encryption, the certificate is valuable to email recipients who use it to verify sender’s identities and block spammy messages, among many other benefits. This article has explained the whole aspect of email SSL certificates, what they are, their benefits, implementation procedures, and the idea of SSL certificates to use for your email communications.