Microsoft bulks up security; brings encrypted email to Office 365 Enterprise bundles

New Microsoft security feature added  at no extra charge, scheduled for early next year

Enterprises sending email via Office 365 will be able to encrypt those messages starting next year at no extra charge, making it possible to send secure mail to people who are off the corporate email system.

Office 365 Message Encryption is a service to be bundled in with certain Office 365 plans during the first quarter of next year that gives administrators control over what messages are encrypted and makes it possible for any recipient – regardless of their email service – to decrypt the messages.

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It is an upgraded and renamed version of Microsoft’s Exchange Hosted Encryption that will be rolled into the Office 365 Enterprise E3 and E4 packages at no premium to customers, according to a Microsoft blog on the announcement.

One hitch is that recipients must either have an Office 365 organizational account or have a Microsoft Account in order to log in to get the messages decrypted. It’s easy enough and free to open a Microsoft account, but it is still a hurdle for anyone who receives one of these messages.

Once authenticated, recipients can read the unencrypted message, reply to it, forward it, etc. The encryption and decryption both take place in backend Exchange data centers.

Administrators get a dashboard to set rules about what email should be encrypted, with options such as invoking encryption if the subject line contains the word “sendsecure”, for example.

Tim Greene covers Microsoft and unified communications for Network World and writes the Mostly Microsoft blog. Reach him at and follow him on Twitter@Tim_Greene.

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