Usability Is What Matters in Email Encryption


Thought Leadership

Usability Is What Matters in Email Encryption

Geoff Bibby

A 2016 report from the Ponemon Institute showed that just 33 percent of government agencies and 41 percent of general companies use encryption. The variations between industries is interesting, but the most startling revelation about these statistics is that many organizations across sectors aren’t using any encryption solution at all. Given the hyper-volatile state of today’s cyber landscape, the question is “why?”

The reason seems to boil down to two common perceptions: 1) encryption is costly to implement and time-consuming to manage; and 2) user error and interoperability are pervasive. Unfortunately, while these two problems aren’t entirely valid, they’re also not entirely invalid.

If such concerns represent a current problem, then, perhaps it’s time organizations rethink their overall approaches to their cybersecurity strategies by focusing on how easy to use (or not easy to use) their current solutions are.

The Unheralded Importance of Usability

When we talk about email encryption, we often focus on how efficient or unbreakable the algorithm is. Another critical factor is the usability of the email encryption platform. Unfortunately, an organization’s selection process may overlook this important fact.

Some platforms force users to deal with confusing interfaces and to take extraneous steps. It makes the experience time-consuming, which inevitably leads users to resent encryption or dismiss its importance as they find a work-around and send information out unencrypted. In fact, user issues have led to many failed encryption efforts.

Regardless of whether employees ignore protocol altogether or look for alternatives, such as using their personal email addresses, once this tendency becomes routine, the protection email encryption affords becomes nonexistent. An organization’s sensitive data is put at risk, and its relationships with customers or partners can suffer as a result.

Email is supposed to be easy and accessible, but if encryption disrupts the basic flow of a business, then emails go unopened, unread, and unattended. When usability is lacking in encryption, users are forced to choose between doing their jobs effectively and doing their jobs safely, which is ultimately counterintuitive to a cybersecurity strategy.

How Zix Ensures Usability for All

Zix’s email encryption solution prioritizes usability. We make sending and receiving an encrypted email as easy as exchanging an unencrypted email, which consequently drives us to enhance our solution according to the evolving needs of our clients. For instance, here are a few key usability features included in our solution:

• Automatic Scanning: Outgoing emails are automatically scanned for sensitive information and encrypted without requiring action from the user, meaning that every single email is protected by encryption no matter what.

• Simplified Access: The Zix platform can be configured so that all encrypted emails are automatically decrypted when opened. And for users who don’t use our platform, there are two quick steps they have to take to access their messages, mitigating the confusion and burden often placed on partners and clients.

• Mobile Optimization: Most email communications now take place over mobile devices. Our email encryption platform is optimized for mobile and delivers a seamless experience for both senders and receivers.

At Zix, we’ve made our solution as automatic as possible, and the elements that do require user involvement are intuitive and fast. Because our goal is to provide email encryption that operates seamlessly in the background, handling the heavy lifting without getting in the way of the user experience. In this way, you can prioritize security and convenience, because in today’s age we don’t believe you should have to choose between the two.