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Chapter 15. Privacy, Data Security, and ... > Encrypting E-mails and S/MIME Receip...

Encrypting E-mails and S/MIME Receipts

15.16. What Is Encryption and When Should I Use It?

Encryption is the process of converting plain text, such as the text you would send in an e-mail, into scrambled text called cipher text. This cipher text is unreadable and extremely hard to decipher; for somebody to be able to read the original message, that person would have to decrypt the cipher text using a secret password or key. Two types of encryption are used: asymmetric encryption and symmetric encryption. Outlook uses asymmetric encryption when encrypting e-mails.

Asymmetric encryption employs the use of two keys that have been paired together: a secret private key that is known only by the owner of the key, and a public key that can be given to anybody. The person sending the e-mail encrypts the e-mail using the public key of the recipient. When the recipient receives the e-mail, that person uses the secret private key to decrypt the e-mail. This system works because if somebody attempts to decrypt the message with the wrong private key, it won't work and that person will end up with a scrambled message. The message is also encrypted with your private key, which means that the recipient must have a copy of your public key.


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