Like many people, I rely heavily on email to communicate with all sorts of folks. And sometimes, whether it's sending tax information to my husband or credit card information to the owner of an inn, that communication is sensitive. That's why I was intrigued by Enlocked (free beta), an email encryption service that's designed to take the complications out of complex encryption software. And it succeeds, to a certain extent.
Enlocked is available as a free plugin for the Outlook email client; Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer browsers; and Android and iOS mobile devices. I tested the IE plug-in. Once you download and install the appropriate plugin, Enlocked adds a new button to your email options: "Send Secured." I tested it using Gmail and Hotmail on Firefox and Internet Explorer, and found the Send Secured button easy to identify - when it appeared, that is.
When using a Gmail account in IE, I discovered that the button didn't appear until I began typing an address into the "To" field, but it remained constant in a Hotmail account in the same browser. I also found that, on two separate occasions, the button disappeared completely, and didn't show up again until I reinstalled the plugin entirely. Enlocked is still in beta, so I'm hoping the company improves its stability before the final version is released. See all software downloads.
Before you send your first encrypted email, Enlocked will ask you to enter you email password. This is done to authenticate the user, and the message only appears the first time you use the service. Once you click "Send Secured," emails are sent just as any other message would be. If the recipient has never before received an message that's been encrypted with Enlocked, they will receive a notification message before the encrypted message arrives. This message lets them know that, in order to read the encrypted message, they will need to download the free plugin and offers handy links to do so. (If their mail client and/or browser is not supported, or if they simply prefer not to download anything, Enlocked does offer a browser-based version, called Enlocked Anywhere, which allows messages to be read in a Web browser.) See all business advice.
If the recipient has downloaded and installed the Enlocked plugin by the time the message arrives, they'll be asked to enter their email password upon opening the message. This authenticates the user, and only happens upon receiving the first encrypted message. The contents of the message are then automatically decrypted.
If the user hasn't already installed Enlocked, the encrypted message arrives with three attachments and no actual content viewable, other than a note from Enlocked telling them that the contents have been encrypted. If you don't install Enlocked, none of the attachments will open. This is done to protect the contents, as the encrypted information needs to be decrypted in order to be readable, but I can see how this could stymie some recipients who might not be familiar with encryption and browser plug-ins. But taking the time to notify your recipients of these details before sending them the message should alleviate the problem. And, for users who don't want to download and install any plugins, Enlocked offers a browser-based service that will allow them to read their encrypted messages.