Encrypting vs. Signing with OpenPGP. What’s the Difference?

Many businesses are responsible for maintaining large amounts of confidential data, including customer records, medical records, financial reports, legal documents, and much more. It’s very common for these types of information to be transmitted via email. So how can you ensure confidential data transmitted via email is kept private? How can you ensure the integrity of transmitted data and that a message actually came from its purported sender?

Businesses need to ensure confidentiality, data integrity, message authentication (proof of origin), and non-repudiation (proof of content and its origin). These goals can be accomplished using MDaemon’s OpenPGP message encryption and signing services. Read on to learn more about the differences between encrypting and signing, and when each is used.

The Need for Encryption

 Businesses need to protect sensitive data and preserve confidentiality and privacy. Whether you work in healthcare, finance, legal, HR or education, chances are you’re familiar with the terms HIPAA or FERPA (among others). Businesses that fail to meet these regulations risk data breaches that can lead to lost revenue or legal action. To address these issues, businesses can use encryption to make their sensitive data unreadable to unauthorized parties.

The Need for Signing

In addition to data privacy, businesses may need to ensure that a message was not altered during transit, and that it actually came from the purported sender. These tasks are accomplished with message signing (adding a digital signature) using OpenPGP. Much like your handwritten signature, a digital signature can be used for authentication purposes, but also cannot be forged.

Signing a message helps ensure the following:

  • Data Integrity – That the message was not altered from its original form.
  • Message Authentication (Proof of Origin) – That the message actually came from the purported sender.
  • Non-repudiation – That the sender cannot deny the authenticity of the message they sent and signed with OpenPGP.

Encrypting vs. Signing – What’s the Difference?

So what are the differences between encrypting & signing? Let’s discuss each.

What is Encryption?

Encryption is the act of converting plain text to cipher text. Cipher text is basically text that has been scrambled into non-readable format using an algorithm – called a cipher. MDaemon’s implementation of OpenPGP encryption uses public key encryption (also known as asymmetric key encryption) to encrypt email messages and attachments.

So How Does Public Key Encryption Work?

Public key encryption uses public/private key pairs. If you want me to send you an encrypted message, you send me your public key, which I import into my encryption software (using the OpenPGP configuration screen in MDaemon, in this case). I encrypt the message with your public key. When you receive the message, you decrypt it with your private key. Even though your public key can be freely distributed and used to encrypt messages addressed to you, these encrypted messages can only be decrypted with your own private key. This private key must always be kept secret. Data encrypted with the public key can only be decrypted with its corresponding private key; conversely, data encrypted with the private key can only be decrypted with its corresponding public key. We’ll talk about why you would encrypt a message with your own private key in the next section when we discuss message signing.

Encrypting email with OpenPGP
Encrypting email with OpenPGP

Encrypting a message helps ensure that the message is kept confidential. The message remains in its encrypted format until it is decrypted with the recipient’s private key.

What is Message Signing with OpenPGP?

As I mentioned above, messages are encrypted with the message recipient’s public key and decrypted with the corresponding private key. Message signing, on the other hand, uses the sender’s private key to sign (encrypt) the message, and his public key is used to read the signature (decrypt). Message signing binds the identity of the message source to the message. This helps ensure data integrity, message authentication, and non-repudiation.

For example, if John wants to digitally sign a message to Michelle, he uses his private key to encrypt the message, and sends it (along with his public key if it hasn’t already been sent) to Michelle. Since John’s public key is the only key that can decrypt the message, the digital signature is verified by simply decrypting the message with John’s public key.

Signing with OpenPGP
Signing an Email Message with OpenPGP

Signing a message with OpenPGP ensures that the message was not altered in transit, that it did in fact come from the purported sender, and that the sender cannot deny the authenticity of the message they sent and signed with OpenPGP.

Message encryption & key management are explained in this tutorial video:
https://youtu.be/2fjyAAcHpMs?list=PLt-aAHf-ocsb0xDLb930tnPZZ9A1J19VG

More information on using MDaemon’s PGP encryption & signing features can be found in the following knowledge base article:

How to enable MDaemon PGP, configure who can use MDPGP, and create keys for specific users

http://www.altn.com/Support/KnowledgeBase/KnowledgeBaseResults/?Number=1087

Do you have questions? Let us know in the Comments section below!

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Stop Spam & Malware with SecurityGateway – New SlideShare Presentation

Can you imagine what life would be like if we didn’t have anti-spam and anti-virus protection on our email servers and gateways? Users would be so flooded with spam, phishing attempts and malware that they’d have to scroll through many pages of email messages before finding a message that’s legitimate. A good anti-spam/anti-virus mail server or gateway will filter out the vast majority of this nonsense so that the end user can focus on his job.

Most mail servers have some form of built-in spam protection, however, administrators are often faced with these challenges

  • Not enough security features on the mail server to catch many of today’s evolving threats
  • The need for an extra layer of defense between the mail server and the internet
  • Lack of reporting features, which can be used to assess the effectiveness of your email security solution
  • Cumbersome configuration & confusing settings

SecurityGateway was created to address these issues. Many small-to-medium businesses trust  SecurityGateway to protect their inbound and outbound email from spam, phishing attempts, and malware.

The following is a brief presentation that describes SecurityGateway’s features.

 

Would you like to learn more about SecurityGateway? Click here to visit the SecurityGateway overview page, or click here to download your free trial.

 

 

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Quarantine Management with WorldClient Private Email

WorldClient Private Email makes spam management easy by providing users with the email and collaboration features found in WorldClient, MDaemon’s webmail client, and the security and spam filtering features found in SecurityGateway. This tutorial video covers the following topics:

  • How to allow users to manage their own quarantines in SecurityGateway
  • Quarantine management via the Quarantine Summary Email, and how often this email is sent to users
  • When to whitelist or blacklist the sender, and when & how to release a message from quarantine
  • Quarantine management via the SecurityGateway interface
  • Feeding the Bayesian spam and non-spam database – to improve the spam filter’s accuracy

Spam doesn’t have to be an overwhelming nuisance. When these practices are followed, spam is kept under control so you can spend less time dealing with spam and more time focusing on your business.

If you are interested in our WorldClient Private Email hosted email service, click here for pricing and features, or click here to sign up!

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New MDaemon Feature Helps Detect Spambots

Ever wonder why so much spam exists today? By some estimates, more than 100 billion spam messages are sent every day. This represents around 85 percent of global daily email traffic. Some of the most common types of spam messages include financial scams, phishing attempts, ransomware, and botnet malware. In this article, we focus primarily on botnets.

Spam is big business. The barriers to entry are low and the payoffs are high. If a spammer sends out 50,000 spam messages, but only a handful of users click on a link in one of these messages, the spammer’s efforts will likely have paid off.

A single spammer may not have the resources to send out a large-scale spam attack, however, a spammer’s job is made much easier by the use of botnets – networks of hundreds or even thousands of malware-infected computers (known as spambots) that can be remotely controlled over the internet.  Similar to legitimate cloud services such as Amazon’s AWS, a botnet-for-hire provides individuals with ample cloud-based resources to carry out large-scale spam campaigns with very little effort.

According to Spamhaus, the top five countries with the most spambots are India, Vietnam, China, Iran, and Brazil. As of May 23, 2016, India had close to 2 million spambots!

The botnet-for-hire industry is a growing industry that makes it easy for anyone to send out thousands of spam messages using the botnet as the attack vector.

In addition to sending out spam, botnets can be used to launch DDoS attacks by flooding a company with thousands of connections over a short period of time – in an effort to try to shut down a company’s network or to damage its reputation.

User education is likely the most important factor in preventing a computer from becoming a spambot. The following are a few guidelines that every email user should know by now.

  • Never open an email from an unknown source.
  • Never open an attachment from an unknown source.
  • Even if the sender appears to be someone you know, always verify – because spammers often forge the sender’s address.
  • Use anti-virus software on your local computer.
  • Learn how to recognize phishing
    • Messages that contain threats to shut your account down
    • Requests for personal information such as passwords or Social Security numbers
    • Words like “Urgent” – portraying a false sense of urgency
    • Forged email addresses
    • Poor writing or bad grammar
  • Don’t give your email address to sites you don’t trust.
  • Don’t post your email address to public websites or forums.
  • Understand that reputable businesses will never ask for personal information via email.

For more of these guidelines, see our blog posts – Email Safety Tips for End Users and Ransomware and Banking Trojans are Big Business.

Spambot Detection in MDaemon

The information provided above applies primarily to end users, but what actions can be taken by the mail server administrator to detect and prevent spambot activity? While MDaemon has many spam-fighting features, MDaemon 16 includes tools to detect spambot activity and block it from further communication with your server. This new feature is called Spambot Detection. Spambot Detection tracks the IP addresses that every return-path value (sender) uses over a period of time. If the same return-path is used by multiple IP addresses (more than can be expected from users switching between their computers and mobile devices) in a given timeframe, then it’s possible that this activity is being generated by a spambot. Of course, it’s also possible that this activity is completely legitimate. However, in some cases, tests have shown that this can be an effective tool at detecting a distributed spambot network as long as the same return-path is used in the spam messages. If a spambot is detected the connection is dropped and the return-path value is optionally blacklisted for a designated period of time.  You can also optionally blacklist all known spambot IPs for a designated period of time.

As with most MDaemon security features, various settings allow you to bypass Spambot Detection for mail from trusted sources. You can exempt specific IPs, senders, and recipients from Spambot Detection using the White list feature, and exempt connections from authenticated sessions or trusted IPs. Click on the Advanced buttons to view a list of return-paths or IPs that are currently blocked. If a return-path or IP is blocked by mistake, you can easily remove it from the list.

We demonstrate how to configure Spambot Detection in this tutorial video.

Spammers are always coming up with new ways to spam users. That’s why user education and a properly configured mail server are equally important in the war against spam.

Spambot Detection is one more tool in MDaemon’s arsenal of anti-spam and security features. When these features are enabled, MDaemon can help protect your users and your business from spam, phishing attempts, and malware. For more information on protecting your MDaemon server, check out our knowledge base article on recommended MDaemon security settings.

If you’re not yet an MDaemon user, and would like to take advantage of its robust security and anti-spam features, click here to download your free trial!

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New MDaemon Tutorials Added to YouTube

If you haven’t seen our YouTube channel lately, you’re missing out on some valuable information that can be used to help you manage MDaemon and SecurityGateway. Recently, we’ve added several new MDaemon tutorial videos. Here are a few that might interest you.

MDaemon Graphical User Interface (GUI) Overview

In this video, we provide a tour of MDaemon’s graphical user interface. We show you where to find key security, administration, and account management settings, how to navigate your way through the mail queues, and how to find information in the mail routing, security and spam filter logs using the tabs across the bottom of the MDaemon interface.

MDaemon’s File Structure

One of the benefits of MDaemon that make it easy to troubleshoot and administer is its file structure. All key settings are stored in configuration files located in the MDaemon/App directory, and user email messages are stored in the Users directory. This flat-file structure makes MDaemon very easy to backup and restore using simple drag & drop.

How to Enable and Use Two-Factor Authentication in WorldClient

Two-factor authentication is a security feature found in WorldClient, MDaemon’s webmail client, which requires users to submit two forms of identifying data – a password, and a special code or token, before they are able to login. Two-factor authentication helps prevent accounts from being hijacked by someone who manages to guess the account’s password. A potential hacker would have to know the second authenticating factor in order to access the account.

Enabling Do Not Disturb to Establish Work/Life Balance for Employees

MDaemon’s Do-Not-Disturb feature allows administrators to set a time during which certain users are not allowed to check for or send new email messages. In an age where we’re all constantly connected via mobile devices, this helps foster better work-life balance for your users.

These are just a few of the tutorial videos on our YouTube channel. Visit our YouTube channel for other tutorials, product overview videos, webinars, and more. If you haven’t tried MDaemon yet, click here to download your free trial and see how easy MDaemon is to use!

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Protect Email Privacy with Message Expiration using Virtru

In a previous video and blog post, I demonstrated how to maintain data privacy by encrypting email messages in WorldClient (MDaemon’s webmail client) using Virtru. However, this easy-to-use client-side email encryption feature does more than just email encryption. When you use Virtru Pro, you can set a message expiration  period, revoke sent messages, or disable forwarding. In today’s video tutorial, I show you how to set a message expiration using WorldClient and Virtru.

 

If you’d like to see for yourself how easy Virtru is to use, then download  your free trial of MDaemon!

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Thwart Hackers with Strong Password Policies

For spammers, the barriers to entry are very low and the potential payoffs are very high relative to the small amounts of effort required to send out lots of spam. Spammers typically look for the “low hanging fruit” of an email system, such as mail servers that are not configured to prevent relaying, or accounts with weak passwords. If a hacker manages to guess an account’s password, he can use that account to send out large amounts of unsolicited spam email messages. This can result in your server winding up on a blacklist. Additionally, if large amounts of spam are sent out before the issue is corrected, your business can suffer lost trust and a reduction in revenue.

MDaemon’s Account Hijack Detection feature can be used to disable the account once a specified number of messages have been sent from an authenticated session within a given period of time. But it would be better to not even let a hacker get that far. Having strong passwords that are difficult to guess would help prevent an account from being hijacked in the first place.

Today, we focus on the issue of weak passwords and how to thwart hackers by implementing strong password policies. These settings are located in MDaemon under the Accounts | Account Settings configuration screen. In today’s video tutorial, we demonstrate how to require strong passwords, how to force accounts with a weak password to change their password, and how to send a Weak Passwords report to a designated email address.

Email is one of the most valuable intellectual property assets a company can have. Protect your email by enacting strong security and password policies & keep the hackers out.

Click here to learn more about MDaemon and why many small-to-medium businesses have migrated to it from Microsoft Exchange Server, or click here to download your free trial!

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For Security & Privacy – Easy Email & Attachment Encryption with Virtru

Recently, I created a video and blog post about Virtru Email Encryption for MDaemon, to demonstrate its features, benefits, and ease of use. Following along with its ease of use, I’ve created the following animation to show you just how easy Virtru is to use. Simply enable Virtru support in WorldClient (MDaemon’s webmail client), enable the Virtru features by clicking on the small “V” button within the email compose window, and then click on “Send Encrypted.” It really is that simple!

Virtru Email and Attachment Encryption
It’s easy to encrypt email and attachments using Virtru

For a more thorough overview of Virtru’s features, please see this blog post, or click here to visit our main Virtru page.

Virtru (email and attachment encryption) is included with the MDaemon Messaging Server. Virtru Pro features include Message Revoke, Disable Forwarding, Set Message Expiration, and automatic encryption. Click here if you’d like to purchase Virtru Pro.

Want to learn more about the encryption features offered by MDaemon? Then click here to learn more!

Protect your business from unauthorized access to your important and confidential email messages. Download your free trial of MDaemon today!

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How to Deal with Spam in SecurityGateway

SecurityGateway is a powerful email spam & malware filter & gateway that can be used to protect any type of mail server. It offers a layered approach to security, with protection features including data leak prevention, attachment filtering, heuristic and Bayesian analysis, zero-hour Outbreak Protection, and much more.

In today’s video tutorial, we demonstrate best practices for handling spam in SecurityGateway. Topics covered include:

  • How to mark a message as spam to teach the Bayesian learning process how to identify junk email messages, which helps to make the spam filter more accurate over time.
  • How to use whitelists and blacklists.
  • How to manage messages in your quarantine.
  • How to find specific messages in the Message Log.

If you’d like to learn more about SecurityGateway, then visit our SecurityGateway product page.

Or download your free trial to see how easy it is to use, and let us know if you have questions!

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Keeping Email Private with Virtru Client-Side Encryption

Have you ever created an account on a website that you wouldn’t want others to know about, or made travel arrangements, purchased personal items, or set a doctor’s appointment online? If so, then it’s possible that sensitive information about you has been transmitted via email. If any of these situations apply to you, or if you just don’t want anyone to see the cat photos you sent as an email attachment to your neighbor, then you should be encrypting your email. If you send personal or financial information, it’s best to assume that at any given time, someone out there is trying to gain access to that information.

Many small businesses think data breaches only happen to large companies, however, no company is too small to protect itself from outside threats. In fact, many hackers know that smaller companies might be a bit more lax in their security practices, and thus target them more aggressively. This is why email security and encryption are so important.

Virtru recently wrote a blog titled “Four Enterprise Security Statistics that Might Scare You Straight.” Here are some interesting statistics cited in the article:

  • 87% of Senior Managers Upload Business Files to a Personal Email or Cloud Account
  • Email Malware Creation is up 26% Year Over Year, with 317 Million New Pieces of Malware Created in 2014
  • Hackers Targeted 5 out of 6 Large Companies Using Email Attacks Last Year — an Annual Increase of 40%
  • Cybercrime has a 1,425% ROI

So with the above statistics in mind, do we even need to ask why we need encryption? If these reasons aren’t convincing enough, consider these:

  • Firewalls, antivirus, and anti-spyware may provide good protection, but they may not be enough. If one of the above is breached, encryption helps keep data safe.
  • Encryption can help shield businesses and users from government surveillance or other unauthorized access.
  • When you need to send sensitive data, encryption helps keep this data away from unauthorized viewers.
  • Encryption helps companies stay in compliance with HIPAA, CJIS, FERPA, and other government regulations.
  • Encryption helps keep sensitive data out of the hands of criminals and competitors.
  • Encryption helps companies preserve data integrity and privacy policies.

Client-side vs. Server-Side Encryption

Now that we’ve discussed why encryption is important, let’s discuss Virtru and its benefits.

First, we need to make a distinction between client-side and server-side encryption. With client-side encryption, email messages and attachments are encrypted by the sending mail client, and remain encrypted until an authorized recipient opens the message. With server-side encryption, messages and attachments are encrypted on the mail server with no user interaction. MDaemon users can use Virtru to encrypt messages on the client, and MDaemon administrators can use PGP to encrypt messages as they pass through the mail server. In this blog post, we’re going to focus on the client-side Virtru encryption features. If you’d like to learn more about MDaemon’s server-side encryption options using OpenPGP, then check out this blog post & video.

What is Virtru?

Virtru is an easy to use email encryption service that lets you protect private information while using your existing email service.  Encryption converts plain text into gibberish (cipher text) that is unreadable to all except the intended recipient. Virtru offers end-to-end encryption, ensuring that only authorized parties can decrypt your content.

When you send messages with Virtru, your emails and files are locked using strong encryption. Only you and your recipients can decrypt your messages. Separation of content and encryption gives you an extra level of privacy.

Why use Virtru?

Virtru was designed for user privacy and ease of use. Virtru never has access to your passwords and does not store any of your email content on their servers; only the encryption keys. Virtru helps users avoid headaches by managing their encryption keys for them.

Users have two versions of Virtru to choose from. The free version provides encryption and decryption of email and attachments. The Pro version provides the same encryption and decryption features, plus the ability to set message expiration dates, revoke emails, and disable forwarding.

Want to learn more about Virtru? Then  check out the video below for a demonstration, or visit the Virtru page on our website. You can also try out Virtru’s features by downloading your free trial of MDaemon.

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