S/MIME Useful for Secure Email

S/MIME is an Internet standard for secure email, specified in RFC 3851 "Secure/Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (S/MIME) Version 3.1 Message Specifications," and is based on the security provided by Cryptographic Message Syntax (CMS) specified in RFC 3852.

I recently set up S/MIME for exchange of sensitive documents with a person in another company. To configure this, I needed to obtain a personal certificate. I did this by using the free Personal E-Mail Certificate service from Thawte. This took quite a large number of steps, but all were very clear and easy to follow. The final stage installed and configured the certificate on my desktop.

Buttons to digitally sign and encrypt messages appeared on Microsoft Outlook, and so use after setup is straightforward. To send encrypted mail to someone, you need to first receive a signed message from them, and put their certificate into your address book.

This works well, and it is a good thing to use an open standard for security, rather than one of the many proprietary options.

... Steve Kille

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