7 Common Email Security Protocols Explained

Common Email Security Protocols

Information on the internet can be handled carelessly and dangerously. Most of your online footprints stem from the emails which you send and receive.

So, it seems evident to us that our emails should have some security measures set up, but most of them don’t.

Some are very simple enough to be broken and hacked into. In this article, we will be listing some commonly used security protocols and how they work.


SSL and TLS are application layer protocols or sets of rules that are most commonly used by emails.

Transport Layer Security (TLS) is the successor of SSL, and it provides base-level encryption.

Most often, an email client, such as Gmail, while sending and receiving mail, connect to an email server through TCP.

The TLC adds privacy and security while establishing a connection between the client and the server.

2. Digital Certificates

Digital Certificates are used to encrypt your email details using cryptography. They belong to a class called ‘Public Key Encryption.’

Your Digital Certificate serves as a public key in which they can lock emails they are sending you.

You can also decrypt the emails using a private key that will be available to you. This is how Bitcoin work.

3. SPF (Sending Policy Framework)

This is a protocol that is used to authenticate domains and prevent them from being spoofed. A domain can be used to hide the intents of hackers and cybercriminals.

SPF also helps a server identify if the message was sent via a legitimate domain or not.

4. DKIM (Domain Keys Identified Mail)

DKIM is an extended version of SPF. DKIM looks after the safety of your email while it’s on the move. It works in different ways, too.

First, it uses a digital signature to check if a domain sent the mail. Then it traces it back to the domain to see if it is sending the mail. It is a double-layered protocol.


DMARC is an acronym for Domain-Based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance.

It’s an authentication protocol that checks the validity of SPF and DKIM and instructs the provider on handling incoming messages.

Although, DMARC has not seen good rates of adoption. And it is not foolproof either.


These are end-to-end encryption protocols. S/MIME is specifically designed to encrypt email contents but leaves the details, such as sender and recipient, open.

It has been in existence for a long time, and the chances are that your email clients use them too.

They demand a digital signature such that only the receiver is capable of decrypting your email.

7. PGP (Pretty Good Privacy)

PGP and OpenPGP are two-way encryption protocols, with the second being open-source.

Open Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) works just like S/MIME, meaning only the contents are encrypted, and a third party can gather recipient and sender details, which constitute the metadata.

OpenPGP gets timely updates, and it’s free to use. GPGSuite for Mac and Gpg4Win for Windows should be a place to start.

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