I understand that generally email communication is insecure by default and would like to know if its possible to setup email servers so that the emails get encrypted when sent between hosts.

I want to know if there is actually a way to include personal information in emails and keep it secure in a Business to Business Scenario (B2B). This usually involves a scenario where and email is generally generated or typed that gives instructions on who to contact or follow up with. It is intended for a human to read and not intended to be processed by a machine

I'd also appreciate any relevant explanation particularly details of commonly known approaches so that i can investigate further. Even if its at the level of a pattern and common strengths and weaknesses.

  • Of course it is possible. There are many mechanisms where this exists. The only catch is that the sending and receiving email servers need to participate in the same encryption scheme, which is why such an approach is not universal. – schroeder Jan 19 at 22:55
  • Why do you want the email to be encrypted? Why not encrypt the data or the file? – schroeder Jan 19 at 22:56
  • How to turn on encryption will depend on the email servers/service you are using (and beyond the scope of this site) – schroeder Jan 19 at 22:57
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    user1605665, see RFC 3207 (tools.ietf.org/html/rfc3207) which describes STARTTLS. STARTTLS is used to encrypt the SMTP connection between hosts as the message is transported from one host to another. It can also be used between clients and hosts. STARTTLS has been widely adopted, and most major email service providers support it. – mti2935 Jan 19 at 23:50

First the question you asked, as opposed to the one I think you intended.

Email uses federated servers to relay email as needed. Not too long ago federated connections were mostly not encrypted because it took extra work and synchronization and frankly most server providers simply didn't care. In the past few years (roughly 5) federated connections are now mostly (last I looked around 90%) encrypted already. This came about as a proximate result of Google pushing for it by initially calling out those that didn't and later beginning to refuse federated connections with those that continued to refuse to encrypt.

The question I think you intended was how to protect your email?

There are two main methods commonly used to encrypt email, SMIME and PGP/GPG.

Most businesses use SMIME because it can be set up as transparent to the end user while allowing the business unfettered access to the content. It works well if all participants have a compatible corporate key.

Between different entities that don't share corporate keys, PGP/GPG provides individual encryption at the expense of roll your own verification and key generation.

Then there's the adhoc mechanisms such as encrypted ZIP files with out of band (usually phone) communication of a password.

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