Case Study: Selective Encryption

Published: September 13th, 2012

Say you handle sensitive or private information that needs to be transmitted via email, and the nature of the information necessitates that you be able to send the emails in an encrypted manner. However, not every email you send will contain information of this nature. Perhaps, in between sending these encrypted emails, you also need to be able to email your technically-challenged relatives to organize a family function. Is there a way to selectively allow outbound encryption without an all-or-nothing solution?

Outbound Email Scanning: Encrypt Based on Message Content

With LuxSci, there is. One possible solution is to use our outbound pattern matching feature. When this feature is enabled, our SMTP server will parse the content of your outbound messages and examine the subject and body for certain custom keywords or phrases of your choosing. If a match is found, the message will then be encrypted according to your SecureLine preferences. As an example, you can make it so that any email you send with the phrase “Encrypt This!” appended to the subject will use the desired encryption method for your specified recipient(s).

A benefit of this solution is that all the encryption and processing is done behind the scenes. Plus, it will work in conjunction with any email client. In many cases, selective encryption with outbound pattern matching is enough to get the job done.

There are some drawbacks to this method though. First, it requires that you and your users both remember what the keyword is and remember to include it somewhere in the message. Second, since this feature can currently only be enabled on a domain-wide level, it is not possible to set unique keywords for each user, which can potentially make the keyword more difficult to remember. If a user forgets to use the keyword when composing a message, or if they accidentally spell it wrong, their message can potentially be sent from the SMTP server unencrypted.

Microsoft Outlook Plugin

For SecureLine users with Microsoft Outlook for Windows, another solution for selective encryption is to use LuxSci’s SecureLine Outlook plugin. When installed, this plugin will add a new SecureLine form to your Outlook compose window, allowing you access to the same in-line encryption options that you would see when composing a message in LuxSci WebMail. Using this plugin, you can enable outbound encryption on a message-by-message basis just by checking a simple checkbox.

While it is still incumbent upon the sender to physically enable encryption in this case, they are not required to remember and include any keywords or phrases to make it work. As an analogy, imagine having to type in a password to turn on a light. Wouldn’t you rather just flip a switch?

Note that if you are required to follow the security guidelines that fall under HIPAA Compliance, selective encryption may not be an option. Why? To help prevent end users from accidentally sending private patient data over the Internet in an insecure manner.

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