Secure Your E-Mail Messages on the Internet! | AccountingWEB

Secure Your E-Mail Messages on the Internet!

The Internet makes it easy to send information almost anywhere around the world, but e-mail messages travel through the Internet in a format that anyone, anywhere can read.

If you send confidential e-mail on the Internet you run the risk that your information may be intercepted en route. You may get numersous bogus e-mails asking for information. The e-mailer requesting the information may not be on the up and up; it may be sent by a hacker who forged the name and e-mail address and sent you a fake message in order to get confidential information.

Security Features in Outlook

Microsoft Outlook® 98 and Outlook® 2000 provides two security features that can help you send confidential information across the Internet and to make sure that the e-mail comes from the person it says it's from.

Outlook uses the Internet standard for encryption known as S/MIME, which is a format common to many other current mail programs. This allows you to exchange secure e-mail messages with lots of people. If you are in a company that uses Microsoft Exchange security, ask your e-mail administrator if Exchange has been configured to use the S/MIME format. If it has, then you can use your internal security settings to send secure e-mail to other users on the Internet, even if they do not use Exchange. If your administrator has not yet configured Exchange to use S/MIME, you can still set up your own computer to use S/MIME to send secure messages outside the company.

Three Steps to Security

First Step: Get a Certificate:

For a small fee to the certification authority you can secure your Internet messages using certificates. Certificates are part of Public Key encryption, which is a major part of the S/MIME Internet security standard.

Getting a certificate is easy, but you'll need access to the World Wide Web. In Outlook, on the Tools menu, click Options, and then click the Security tab. Click Get a Digital ID. If you're using Exchange Server, you must complete an additional step: Select the Get a S/MIME certificate from an external Certifying Authority option. Your Web browser will take you to a Web site that has information about certifying authorities. Sign up on the Web site of the certifying authority you choose, and they will e-mail you instructions for downloading your certificate. You should make a backup copy of your certificate. If you lose your private key, you will not be able to access your encrypted e-mail. To learn about making a backup copy of your certificate, look up digital ID in Outlook Help.

Second Step: Set Up Security

Once you have a certificate, you will need to create a security setting. (If this is your first certificate, however, the security setting is filled in for you automatically.) On the Tools menu, click Options, and then click the Security tab. Click Change Settings, and then click Create New. Enter a name you can easily remember in the Security Settings Name box to help you distinguish between your Exchange security and your Internet security settings. The name is an important clue for later use, because when you switch between security settings you'll need to remember which setting name goes with which certificate.

If you have more than one certificate you'll need to associate each one with a security setting. Under Digital Signature and Encryption, click the Choose button to pick which certificate to use with each setting. (You should never change the settings in the Signing or Encryption algorithm boxes unless you're sure the recipient uses a compatible setting. By default, the most reliable algorithms for both are selected. For a detailed explanation of the types of algorithms available and what they mean, consult the RSA Data Security web site.)
If you want to send encrypted mail to someone, you'll need a copy of that person's certificate in your contact list. The simplest way to get another person's certificate is to have them send you a digitally signed message. When you receive the message, open it, right-click the recipient's name, and click Add To Contacts. Then, when you want to send that person encrypted mail, open their contact in your contact list and on the Actions menu, click New Message To Contact.

Third Step: Use Security

Sending secure messages is easy. In Outlook, create a new message. Click the Options button on the new message, and select the security option you want. If you have two or more security settings, you can also change which of these you use. For example, suppose you normally use Exchange security but need to send a personal secure message over the Internet using your personal Internet security setting. On the File menu of the message, click Properties, and then click the Security tab. Click the down arrow on the Security Settings box and select your Internet security setting.

Securing confidential messages sent over the Internet is an easy and inexpensive way to send business documents and sensitive information without having to resort to slow, cumbersome paper mail and faxes. If secure mail is this easy, who wants unsecure mail?

Compliments of Microsoft!

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