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In a world where snooping and manipulating the content of emails and other kinds of messages is easy for cybercriminals, you need protection. A way to tell the recipient that an email is genuine and has not been changed or manipulated on its way to his or her inbox is to add a Digital Signature. This article explains how to add a Digital Signature to your copy of Microsoft Outlook or a similar email client on a Windows computer.
Digital Email Certificates
Digital Certificates guarantee that the message contents are exactly the same as what was sent by the sender of the email. If any middleman tries to access one or more packets of email and tries to modify the contents, the email client will show an error message to the effect that the email cannot be trusted. A digital signature certificate consists of a key that is private to your email ID. You can view email certificates by clicking on the ‘badge’ icon just above the message in Microsoft Outlook and other email clients. Here is what a digital email signature looks like.
Related Article: Leave a copy of messages on the server option missing in Outlook
Certificates for email are available from the same places that offer SSL and other types of certificates for websites. You can find both paid and free services. For example, Comodo offers free digital certificates for personal email. Once you have the certificate installed on your computer, you can import it into your email client so that the client can use the digital certificate.
When you have more than one digital signature certificate in your email client, they each correspond to a different, but related account. You can’t have one email ID with two digital certificates. Instead, your email client will automatically associate the correct digital signature certificate with the email you’re sending.
Add a Digital Signature to Outlook
Email Signature Certificate Services, like Comodo, provide encryption that you can use as optional security. However, both the sender and recipient need the same software to decrypt the email. For example, if you use Comodo Certificate Manager (a paid software that allows you to manage your digital certificates across a network), you have to ask the recipient to install the same if you wish to send encrypted emails. Not everyone is willing to spend on security, especially if they are not involved in much computing.
Some of the email encryption schemes that are currently used provide a way to digitally sign your email before it is encrypted. This digital signature can be used to verify that the email message is from you and has not been tampered with. The message can also be encrypted using a key that is known only to the sender and the recipient. The key is used to encrypt the message and the digital signature is used to verify the message.
It’s as easy as clicking a button to add a digital signature to your message before you hit send. Just click Allow when prompted.
How to obtain a free digital signature for Outlook
While there are many vendors who offer free and paid email certificates for digital signatures, for the purposes of this article we will focus on Comodo. The process for installing certificates from other vendors is similar.
- Comodo offers a free digital signature application form that you can use to sign up for a digital signature for your email ID. Simply enter your email ID into the form, create a revocation password, and you’re all set! Your digital signature will be valid for all future emails you send, provided you don’t revoke it. If you do need to revoke your digital signature, later on, you can do so by simply entering your revocation password.
- Once you fill out the application form, a link to the email digital signature application will be sent to the email address you provided on the form. Once you click on the link in the email and fill out the application, the website will attempt to install the certificate on your computer. You will be prompted by the system on whether or not to allow the website to install the certificate. Allow it so that it is installed.
The application form looks like the image below. Fill in all the details. You will need to scroll down the agreement to click the ‘Accept’ button. You may need to click the ‘Accept’ button twice in some cases.
How to import email digital signature into Outlook
Though we are talking about Outlook, the process is similar for all email clients. This can be broken into two tasks as follows:
- Export the newly installed certificate to someplace you know
- Import the certificate into Outlook or other email clients
To export the newly installed certificate, find it on your computer using Windows Certificate Manager. Navigate to the Personal > Certificates folder in the left pane to view the free digital signature certificate from Comodo.
After you export your digital signature for email, open Outlook if it isn’t already. Click File, then Options. In the Trust Center, click Trust Center Settings…
I get the most to secure email, click on Email Security in the left pane, then click on Import/Export in the right pane.
Navigate to the certificate you exported using the above method. In the Password field, type a password so that the signature cannot be hacked by anyone. You will be prompted to set the security level. If you select High, you will be asked to enter the password every time you send an email using the related email ID. The Low setting will simply ask you for permission to access the digital certificate.
Comodo In order to add a digital signature to Outlook or other email clients, Comodo provides a free tool that can be used.