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  • Hanna Korotka

Cybersecurity Awareness - Email Protection

Safeguarding Your Emails: Understanding Office 365 Message Encryption

In an era where information is king, safeguarding sensitive data has become paramount. Businesses routinely exchange critical information via email, including financial data, legal contracts, confidential product details, sales reports, patient health records, and customer/employee data. With so much sensitive information flowing through email, ensuring that it remains confidential and secure is imperative. This is where Office 365 Message Encryption comes into play.

With Office 365 Message Encryption, your organization can send and receive encrypted email messages between people inside and outside your organization. Office 365 Message Encryption works with, Yahoo!, Gmail, and other email services. Email message encryption helps ensure that only intended recipients can view message content.

How Does Message Encryption Work?

Microsoft Purview Message Encryption is an online service that's built on Microsoft Azure Rights Management (Azure RMS) which is part of Azure Information Protection. This service includes encryption, identity, and authorization policies to help secure your email. 

When you enable Message Encryption, a new "Encrypt" option becomes available in Exchange Online. When this option is selected, the email is encrypted, and recipients must authenticate themselves to access it. This ensures that only intended recipients can view the email's content.

Similarly, by default, unprotected Office documents that are attached to the email inherit the same permissions. These documents are automatically protected and when they are downloaded, they can be saved, edited, copied, and printed from Office applications by the recipients.

Administrators can also set up mail flow rules to apply this protection automatically. For instance, a rule can require encryption for all messages addressed to a specific recipient or containing specific keywords in the subject line (e.g. encrypt, protect). When someone sends an email message that matches an encryption mail flow rule, the message is encrypted before it's sent. 

Opening a Protected Message

One of the strengths of Office 365 Message Encryption is its ease of use for recipients. Here's how you can access protected messages depending on your email client:

Microsoft 365 Email Account (Outlook):

- In Outlook 2016 or Outlook on the web, no special action is needed.

- In the Outlook Mobile App, the message should open automatically.


- In a desktop/browser, select "Click here to read your message," then “Sign in with Google”, and you'll be redirected to the Gmail sign-in page. Once you sign in, select  Allow. Your protected message will display in a new browser tab.

- In the mobile app, tap "Click here to read your message," sign in to your email account, and grant necessary permissions to view the message.

Using a Single-Use Code (e.g., Yahoo):

- In a desktop/browser, select "Read the message," sign in, and obtain a single-use code. Check your email for the code, enter it in the browser, and continue to read your message.

- In the mobile app, tap "Click here to read your message," choose "Sign in with a single-use code," and follow the same process.

Recommendations and Use Cases

Office 365 Message Encryption is a versatile tool that can benefit various industries and scenarios. Here are some instances where it's recommended:

- Banks: Securely sending credit card statements to customers.

- Healthcare Providers: Safeguarding medical records when communicating with patients.

- Legal Firms: Sharing confidential legal information with clients or other attorneys.

In an age where data breaches can have catastrophic consequences, Office 365 Message Encryption provides a powerful layer of protection for sensitive information. By encrypting emails and attachments, organizations can communicate confidently and securely, knowing that their data is shielded from prying eyes.

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