What is encrypted email?

Email encryption is the process of protecting information in emails to prevent unauthorized and unwanted access. In day-to-day communication, hackers may attempt to gain access to email accounts to retrieve social security numbers, routing information, and other data that can lead to identity theft and financial loss. The goal of email encryption is to put emails under lock and key to prevent unauthorized parties from accessing emails and their content. 

Why is email encryption important?

Email encryption attempts to prevent data breaches, business email compromise (BEC) scams, and other forms of cybercrime. During a Qualia-sponsored webinar, Rick Diamond, Vice President, Agency IT Director at Fidelity National Financial, recommended baselines for secure communication, such as avoiding using personal email accounts for business purposes and ensuring that all email communication is encrypted. Diamond emphasized that cybersecurity is one of the fastest-growing threats and recommended following security protocols to protect your business.

IBM Security’s Cost of a Data Breach Report 2020 found that the average total cost of a data breach was $3.86 million. Data breaches can also lead to business disruption, loss of customers, and damage to business reputation. Email encryption is a security measure that your business can take to prevent you and your clients from making headlines as the latest data breach victim. 

Types of email encryption protocols

Understanding the basics of how different methods of email encryption work can help you choose the best way to protect day-to-day communication for your business. Here are two of the most common email encryption protocols:

Transport layer security (TLS)

Transport layer security (TLS) or email-over-TLS allows servers to encrypt plaintext communication while emails are in transit from one secure email server to another. TLS encrypts an email in transit, which stops it from being intercepted as it is delivered from the sender to the recipient. Although TLS protects emails in transit, it may not prevent hackers from accessing emails if an account is compromised. 

End-to-end encryption

End-to-end encryption means that emails are encrypted and decrypted at each endpoint. The sender encrypts the email at the source using a public key, which makes it unreadable in storage and in transit. When it reaches the recipient, they would need to decrypt the email with a private key to view the contents. End-to-end encryption is typically implemented in two ways: uploading a key to the mailserver or storing the key on the end device. Uploading a key to the mailserver may involve something like S/MIME, which does not protect your email in the event of an account takeover. On the other hand, storing the key on the end device can mean permanently losing access to those messages if the device is lost or stolen.

Protect client data with a secure communication portal 

As you can see above, there are some limitations to email encryption. Hackers are becoming more and more sophisticated, so providing secure communication is becoming increasingly difficult for businesses. As email scams continue to be a threat to the real estate industry, it may be beneficial to migrate away from standard email and look into more secure communication and document-sharing methods. Although no security solution can promise complete protection against a security breach, certain tools can improve security and help you protect client data. 

The key to increasing data security is to identify a secure communication portal that integrates with your normal workflow and can easily be used by your staff and clients. Qualia enforces security measures that are not often enabled in email accounts, such as two-factor authentication, strong passwords, strict audit logging, AES-256 data-at-rest encryption, and allowed IP lists. These security measures provide best-in-class protection compared to the average email system.  

Security features aside, your technology is only as secure as the people using it. Businesses must work to build a culture of security where employees buy-in to the value of security and feel motivated to practice security habits daily. 

Why is secure communication important for real estate?

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has strict requirements to protect consumer data privacy. CFPB compliance requires companies to protect non-public information (NPI) such as social security numbers and banking information. Title agents and other real estate professionals must maintain CFPB compliance or risk steep fines for mishandling client data. A large part of protecting NPI involves safeguarding the storage and transfer of client data and documents. 

During the course of a real estate transaction, hackers may gain access to emails and monitor communication until they find sensitive information. This information can help hackers intercept transactions and steal funds from your clients. Even if hackers fail to gain access to NPI, details about a client’s closing can help them execute a scam. For example, if a real estate agent emails their buyer to notify them about their closing date and instructions for wiring funds to their title company, hackers can use this information to impersonate the title company and send the buyer a sophisticated cover letter with additional wiring instructions. If the buyer falls for this letter, they wire funds to the hacker and lose everything. 

Ensuring secure communication is a way to give your clients peace of mind that you’re doing your due diligence to protect their information and hard-earned money. Qualia is committed to being the real estate industry’s leader in data security and privacy. Learn about Qualia’s security and privacy policies here.

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