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Introduction to Security Issues in Email - PGP, S/MIME and SSL


Although we now take the email for granted, it is important to realise that - in its most basic form, at least - it is not necessarily a very secure or private means of communication. In fact, email has often been likened to the use of the postcard in conventional postal systems: it is open to being read or tampered with during transmission, and it might not even actually come from the person who apparently sent it.

For casual, social messages this might not be a great concern. However, there are many situations when you might want to guarantee the privacy or authenticity of an email.

There are two main strategies for making your email secure and private:
Most popular security systems, including those mentioned above, are based on the concept of Public Key Encryption. This involves the use of a linked pair of digital "keys":