Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in Jul 2009 and reflects the opinions of the author at that time.
Why Secure Your Email?
Why secure your email? Well, because you can? The traditional protocols for email transmission are SMTP and PO3 (as well as IMAP). None of these protocols are natively secure. There are advanced versions of the protocols, and they could be "wrapped" in secure transfer protocols. Most email providers traditionally did not bother to provide the secure versions of the protocols, and even when the email clients support the secure versions, users often did not know how or take the time to use those secure options.
With the proliferation of online, Web-based email services, every major ISP and many other companies offered Web based email. These mail services again often did not offer any security options, or if they did, only offered simple security measures such as SSL via HTTPS for the connection to their servers. There is far more to email security than this.
Let's take a look at three of the top free truly secure email services. Try them and see which one suits your needs and makes the most sense. Maybe not every email you send needs to be secured, but when an email does need to be, one of these services will meet that need.
Secure Email Services
Here are three of the best secure email services available.
3. S-MAIL – S-MAIL offers a free secure mailbox that encrypts your messages and transfers them securely. S-MAIL offers services for subscription including a secure email agent that works with email clients and commercial secure email for businesses.
2. Comodo SecureEmail – This secure email offering is free for non-commercial use. It is a simple download and install that integrates with most major mail clients and can help reduce the problems with public-key and digital signature exchange. Recipients either use SecureEmail as well, or they can read your message using Comodo's Web-based reader.
1. Hushmail – Hushmail provides secure web-based email accounts as well as document storage. This is a truly free secure email system on the Web, but you must log in at least every 3 weeks for the account to remain active. Setting up the account is simple. Hushmail offers a premium service as well, which includes 250MB of storage and Outlook support.
Other Options: CryptoMail or Your Own Certificates
If one of the above secure email services doesn't suit you or meet your requirements for some reason, there are other options. Another option is CryptoMail, but it requires you to install, configure, and host your own email server. It is very secure, and you aren't relying on anyone else. You may also want to use your own security certificates. Digital Certificates are available from online sources that will work to secure your e-mail. You can also create certificates to encrypt and validate messages and secure files using OpenPGP / GnuPG. This is more work than using one of the free online services, though. You can also use other free security certificate solutions with your software email client to encrypt or sign e-mails. What's best for you depends on what your security needs are. Some messages probably wouldn't ever need to be secured, but if you can do it for free, why not?