Secure email: Challenges and solutions

Ross MacKenzie
Tags: Email Security

Cyber-security is one thing that most businesses know to be important. It's not just about keeping archives and hard drives protected from prying eyes, though - communications must also be secure, especially when sensitive data is being passed back and forth on a daily basis.

As the most prominent form of communication in most enterprise environments, email should be an obvious priority for safety-conscious IT bosses. 

The challenges

Data is at the heart of most businesses these days, regardless of their size. Whether it's the personal information of customers or the latest quarterly financial reports, most of it will be sensitive in some way or another. As such, an attack can easily put success - or even survival - in jeopardy. With so many high-profile breaches hitting the headlines over the last few years, it's easy to see why fending off hackers is regularly on CIOs' minds.

More than this, companies must be able to ensure the validity of incoming messages. Spam is a big enough problem as it is for consumers, but it can really affect productivity and system efficiency if the inboxes of a business begin to get clogged up with junk. When you consider that some of these emails contain malicious attachments as well, the importance of having an effective filtration system is obvious.

With such serious threats in mind, then, what options do businesses have beyond usernames and passwords?


The first thing that comes to mind when the topic of email security pops up, or just cyber-security in general, is usually encryption. In much the same way that military organisations and Hollywood's secret agents would traditionally use coded messages to minimise the chances of their plans being uncovered, email encryption is a way of ensuring the correspondence moving from one account to another is read only by the intended recipient.

A Google search is all it takes to see just how many encryption services are available, and the majority rely on a technique called 'public-key cryptography'. This is when the sender is given access to a public key that allows them to send messages to a defined recipient. The person at the other end of the correspondence has a private key on their device, which shouldn't be available to anyone else. The encryption program then uses the pair of keys together to decipher the coded message. In theory then, the message is only readable in two places: the senders' and recipients' devices.

The main challenges here are providing a scalable public key infrastructure (PKI) that is suitable for use by a business and its customer base, and then to ensure it works hand in hand with all existing infrastructure.

The Cirius side of secure communications

As mentioned above, there are plenty of cyber-security firms offering to help businesses keep their communications safe; so many so that it can be tough to pick the most suitable. Many of these providers have adopted similar approaches, but a large number fall short of meeting the ever-changing needs of the average modern business. 

This is something that one security firm in Canada is attempting to address in its own unique way. With the goal of making "corporate secure messaging easier and more accessible" for companies across the world, Vancouver-based Cirius introduced its own messaging platform. Designed to meet every communication-driven need today's business could possibly have, Cirius Secure Messaging makes it possible for professionals to not only send and receive confidential emails, but to track the whole process, ensuring maximal safety throughout.

Tracking and integration

When senders are able to see when an email has been received, read, replied to, forwarded, discarded or even printed, it becomes much easier to manage certain processes across a large organisation. There's no longer a need, for example, to spend time chasing messages up after sending. CIOs can also control the printing of sensitive data to minimise the chances of it being accessed by unauthorised employees.

The solution is interoperable with most of the popular programs already used by businesses too, including Office 365, Outlook, Google Chrome and Microsoft Exchange 2013. This is imperative for any firm that is simply looking to enhance the infrastructure in which they've invested.

Last but certainly not least is mobile compatibility. Smartphones and tablets are more important to the average enterprise than they've ever been before, and a communication system must fit in with this if it is to be considered comprehensive. With support for Android, iOS, Blackberry and Windows Phone 8, Cirius's offering fits in with this perfectly. It means that productivity can continue outside of the office, without any concerns about security. 

It's a fact that some businesses are still guilty of putting email security to the backs of their minds until something goes wrong, simply because tackling the issue and building the necessary walls can seem like a daunting and costly task. There are, however, solutions out there which are designed to make it easy for firms to communicate safely without losing any of the convenience that made email so popular in the first place, finding the right one is all it takes.

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