These identity certificates are certified by a certification authority which acts like a digital notary, notarizing the IDs of websites. Your browser or email application can recognize these certificates and can then make a secure connection. You can be confident with these secure connections that you are dealing with the website or mail server you intend to rather than a malicious look-alike.

When checking your email by web mail and using a web browser, you can tell if the connection you’ve established is secure by noting whether or not the web address includes the ‘https://’ instead of the unsecured ‘http://’ protocol. However, the more secure way to access your email is by using a dedicated mail client. Mail clients such as Mozilla’s Thunderbird and Microsoft’s Outlook have become ubiquitous in computing because of the ease and security they afford users in downloading, reviewing, and sending email. These dedicated email clients make use of Post Office Protocol (POP) or Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP) in order to retrieve email over your Internet connection from a remote server and interact with that server. Certain email clients such as Thunderbird, allow users to enable SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) or TLS (Transport Layer Security) when configuring the POP or IMAP connection, providing an added layer of security in directly connecting to your email.

Unfortunately, ensuring security in sending and receiving email does not stop there. Simply establishing a secure connection between you and your email does not actually make the emails you send anymore secure once they leave your mail server. Ensuring a secure connection increases your overall email security because it acts as a check against efforts by third parties to misdirect your email access or scam you into submitting private and valuable information to the wrong parties during the first leg of your message’s trip. However, to further ensure your security when relating private and valuable information over email, it may be worthwhile to employ further security measures. These further email security measures might include making use of public key encryption and making sure you are using a secure email provider, as well as practicing safer email behavior. In the next article, we’ll show you how training yourself to be a more security-minded email user can increase the security of your most valuable and private emails.