Opportunistic TLS – Two Good Ways to Put Your Email at Risk

Opportunistic TLS – Two Good Ways to Put Your Email at Risk

Opportunistic TLS – Two Good Ways to Put Your Email at Risk 1024 403 Bob Janacek

Email encryption allows organizations to protect sensitive messages and increase their compliance with privacy regulations.  One common encryption method, known as opportunistic TLS, automatically tries to secure the path that messages take when they travel to recipient email systems.  Since this type of encryption is completely transparent to users, organizations often utilize opportunistic TLS to comply with privacy and security regulations.

Unfortunately, compliance strategies based on opportunistic TLS result in frequent breaches where sensitive data is sent over the public internet without encryption.

There are two main scenarios where breaches can occur.

First, and the most common case, is when recipient email systems do not support TLS encryption.  As a result, encrypted paths are not established for sensitive messages to travel.  Opportunistic TLS systems will then step down to standard delivery, and send messages to those systems without any encryption.

The second case, also frequently encountered, is when the recipient utilizes a cloud-based anti-virus and anti-spam service.  These services often support TLS when receiving email, so a sending system configured for opportunistic TLS believes it has delivered the message securely to the recipient’s email server.  Actually, the message was delivered securely to an intermediary.  There is no way for the sending system to know if the next leg of the message’s journey, from the cloud service down to the recipient’s email system, is actually secure.  Unfortunately, in most cases, this leg of the message’s journey is not TLS enabled, so messages travel over the public internet in unencrypted form.  And as a result, a breach in compliance regulations has occurred.

Despite the problems of opportunistic TLS, when possible, delivering messages by TLS is still a good method to protect sensitive data.  However it should only be enabled on a case by case basis when end to end encryption between email systems can be confirmed.  As the holistic secure data delivery system, DataMotion SecureMail ensures that all of your messages are delivered with end to end security.  It does this by supporting a variety of delivery methods including TLS.  This allows your organization to easily exchange sensitive data with the widest range of customers, partners and vendors while maintaining compliance with privacy regulations.

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