Email interception is the practice of monitoring the Internet to read private messages that were intended for other people.

When Internet email was first introduced in 1982, the net was a very different place, mostly populated by technical people from a handful of academic institutions. Everyone was enthusiastic and cooperative, and security was not considered a big issue; this is why they decided that there was no need to protect email messages with any kind of digital envelope as they travelled over the Internet.

As incredible as it may seem, today a significant part of the email traffic is still sent over the Internet in clear!

Actually, any piece of network equipment that sits on their path through the Internet can read and study our emails; moreover, there are technical tricks that, if not adequately countered, allow any third party to have our messages delivered to them, instead than to the intended recipient.

As a result, governmental agencies such as the U.S. National Security Agency started programs to intercept email traffic systematically, scanning and profiling the communications of millions of people from all parts of the world. The same has been done by fraudsters, that could exploit the information taken from email messages to tailor a fraud against the specific individual; or, they could spy on business secrets and then sell them to a competitor. Network operators could scan email messages to determine a person’s interests and sell this information to advertisers.

No one would send any paper message, more private than a holiday postcard, without protecting it with an envelope. So why should email messages not be covered as they travel from the sender to the recipient? TES provides a number of guidelines and best practices that Internet service providers can follow to ensure that the emails of their customers are sent in encrypted form, so to prevent email interception.