Secure Email vs Regular Email: What’s the Difference?
In the digital age, where most of our communications are online, email remains one of the primary methods we use for professional and personal correspondence. However, with rising concerns about privacy and security, it’s essential to understand the differences between regular email and secure email. Let’s dive into the technical and functional distinctions between the two and understand why certain features, like end-to-end encryption and OpenPGP, are critical.
The Basics: How Email Works
Before delving into the differences, it’s beneficial to comprehend how email fundamentally operates. Imagine email as sending a postcard. Once you send it, it travels through multiple post offices (servers) before reaching the recipient. During this transit, anyone who intercepts the postcard can read its content.
Regular Email: Convenience at the Cost of Security?
Most standard email services like Gmail, Yahoo, and Outlook prioritize usability and convenience. Features like calendar integrations, smart replies, and advertising-based models are common.
However, this often comes at a security cost:
- Data Mining and Advertising: Many free email services scan users’ emails to display targeted advertising. This means they read, process, and use your data to use personalized marketing more effectively.
- Server Storage: Servers typically store regular emails in plain text. If an intruder compromises a server, they can directly access your email content.
Some may believe, “I have nothing to hide; my emails can be read.”
Well… Are you sure?
When we say regular email providers scan your emails, we mean every single one – from your flight and train tickets to meeting alerts and food delivery confirmations. It’s vital to realize these personal details get archived and then sold to unknown companies for purposes you might not even be aware of.
Secure Email: Prioritizing Privacy and Security
Secure email services take a different approach. They emphasize user security and privacy. Here are the standout features:
- End-to-End Encryption (E2EE): With E2EE, your email is encrypted on your device and is only decrypted on the recipient’s device. This means that even if someone intercepts the email during transit, they cannot decipher its content without the decryption key.
- OpenPGP (Pretty Good Privacy): A data encryption and decryption program that provides cryptographic privacy and authentication. Many secure email services use OpenPGP to ensure that emails are private and that they originate from the stated sender.
- Zero-Knowledge Architecture: Some secure email providers operate on a zero-knowledge principle. This means they don’t have access to users’ encryption keys, ensuring that even the service provider cannot read your emails.
- No Data Mining: Secure email services typically refrain from scanning user emails for advertising. They prioritize user trust and data protection over marketing tactics.
Why Opt for Secure Email?
It all boils down to how much you value your online privacy. If you’re sharing sensitive information, discussing confidential matters, or just wary of advertisers collecting and selling your data, a secure email service is the way to go.
While regular email providers offer convenience and integration with various services, their security measures might not be adequate for users who prioritize privacy. Secure email, with features like end-to-end encryption and OpenPGP, offers an alternative that ensures your digital correspondence remains confidential.
Remember, the ultimate choice between regular and secure email depends on your individual needs, but being informed can help you make a decision that aligns best with your priorities.
Start your private journey with Mailfence today!
The primary difference lies in the level of privacy and security offered. Secure email prioritizes user security and data privacy, often using features like end-to-end encryption and OpenPGP, whereas regular email may prioritize convenience and usability, potentially compromising on security.
While these platforms provide some security features, they also focus on usability and convenience. The main concerns arise from their data mining practices for targeted advertisements and storing emails in plain text on servers, which intruders can access if they compromise a server.
Many free email services read and process users’ emails to display targeted advertisements. They analyze various data, from flight bookings to personal meeting notifications.
If you value online privacy, especially when sharing sensitive information or wanting to avoid advertisers accessing your data, you might prefer a secure email service.
Patrick is the co-founder of Mailfence. He’s been a serial entrepreneur and startup investor since 1994 and launched several pioneering internet companies such as Allmansland, IP Netvertising or Express.be. He is a strong believer and advocate of encryption and privacy. You can follow @pdeschutter on Twitter and LinkedIn.