Outlook Security
3 min read

Exploring Email Security: Should You Be Sending Confidential Data Over Outlook?

Email is a primary source of communication for personal and business use, with the average office worker receiving 121 emails a day and an estimated 85% of UK adults using their private email at least once a week. For businesses, email is a quick and simple way to regularly send documents that contain confidential information, both internally and to clients, but is it safe?

How Safe are Email Communications?

Email was created to be a simple file-sharing system between local computers at MIT, but it quickly developed into an instant form of communication, sharing information between individuals located worldwide. Unfortunately, these humble beginnings mean that email was never designed with security in mind. This leaves messages open to risk at several points in their journey.

An email travels through multiple servers to arrive at your recipient’s inbox. If someone manages to intercept your message at one of these points, they could read any private information it contains.

Email is also unprotected from human error, with a survey revealing that 52% of respondents have unintentionally sent an email containing sensitive information. Missent emails can result in data breaches, which have cost businesses worldwide an average of $4.24 million (roughly £3.06m) in 2021 alone. What are email providers doing to counteract this?

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Email Provider Spotlight: Outlook

Microsoft Outlook is a popular email provider used by 400 million people worldwide, renowned for its excellent organisation and communication capabilities. However, in recent months it has suffered multiple attacks on its Exchange server software, with the intent to steal data from its networks. This had led businesses to question Outlook’s overall security.

Outlook Email Encryption

Outlook offers two different types of email encryption to users: Transport Layer Security (TLS) and Office 365 Message Encryption (OME). TLS is available across all large email platforms and is free to use. However, TLS only encrypts the connection with your recipient, not the contents of your email. This leaves your messages vulnerable to anyone who manages to access the channel.

OME, on the other hand, does encrypt the text and attachments within your emails, as well as preventing your emails from being forwarded by recipients, offering you that extra level of protection. The downside is that it’s only available to Office 365 subscribers, plus customers have reported that the system can be difficult to set up and use.

Outlook Email Recall

Where Outlook has encryption to protect against email interception, email recall is for when you inadvertently send an email to the wrong person. Outlook email recall gives you the capability to retrieve a message from your recipient’s inbox after you have sent it. This sounds great in theory, but in practice it doesn’t always work, due to several factors including:

  • If the message has already been opened
  • If the message has been redirected to another folder
  • Which email client you are both using
  • How you’re accessing Outlook

This is a significant list of criteria for email recall to work, and as such, a majority of recalls fail, increasing the chance for any sensitive email stored within missent emails to fall into the wrong hands.

To find out more about Outlook recall, you can read our handy guide.

Should I be Sending Sensitive Emails Over Outlook?

When looking at Outlook’s email encryption and recall capabilities as they currently stand, the risk of email interception and mis-sending has still not been fully counteracted, leaving data at risk. Luckily, there is something you can do to improve the overall security of your Outlook email.

Download Secure Outlook Add-ins

To boost the security of outbound messages, secure email solutions are now available for use, providing downloadable add-ins that integrate directly with Outlook. Mailock is the most robust example of this, filling the gaps that Outlook’s inbuilt security measures leave.

Mailock offers end-to-end encryption, protecting both the message contents and any attachments, whether your email is on the move or within an inbox. Mailock also allows you to revoke your emails completely from a recipient’s inbox, whether they have previously read the message or not.

Learn more about the Mailock Outlook encryption add-in.


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