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Enabling Security Features in Outlook 2007

Consider security when it comes to Outlook 2007 e-mail and personal information. If you work in a corporation, you may be required by law to maintain certain standards of security over the Outlook e-mail messages you send and receive.

Outlook 2007 includes features that enable you to keep your secrets secret, to keep your identity secure, and to be sure that the messages you receive actually came from the people who seem to have sent them.

In most cases, you need to add some small program to Outlook to enable these advanced security features, but after you install these features, you never have to fuss with them again.

Getting a Digital ID

Sneaky hackers can send out e-mail messages that appear to come from someone else. So how can you tell if the message actually came from the person who appears to have sent it? Of course, if you know the sender personally, you can simply phone him or her to verify that what you received is what he or she sent. But you can take a quicker, high-tech approach by using a digital signature — a tiny piece of secret code mixed in with your message to prove three things:

  • That the message really comes from the person who seems to have sent it.
  • That the person who seems to have sent the message really is the person he or she claims to be.
  • That the person who sent the message sent it intentionally. It's like putting your signature on a check; it shows that you really mean to send a specific message.

If you want to take advantage of Outlook's security features, you first need to get yourself a Digital ID.

If you work in a large organization, your employer may have obtained a Digital ID for you — and your local computer gurus may have installed all the software — in which case, you can skip these steps.

If you want to get a Digital ID for your own use, you can get one from one of the many companies that issue and maintain Digital ID services. Just follow these steps:

1. Click Tools --> Trust Center.

The Trust Center screen appears.

2. Click the words E-mail Security.

The E-mail Security page appears.

3. Click the button labeled Get a Digital ID.

A Web site opens, offering a range of choices for obtaining a Digital ID.

Quite a few companies offer Digital IDs — some for free, others for a fee. After you pick a provider for your Digital ID, you fill out a number of forms and pick a password for the ID. You also need to exchange several e-mails with the Digital ID provider; that's how you prove that your e-mail address is really yours.

Sending Digitally Signed messages

After you have a Digital ID, it's simple to send someone a message containing your Digital Signature. A Digitally Signed message does more than simply assure your recipient that you're really yourself. Suppose you want to send an encrypted message that only your recipient can read. To do so, you have to send at least one Digitally Signed message first so Outlook can capture details about your Digital ID.

Send a message with a Digital Signature by following these steps:

1. While creating a message, click the Options tab at the top of the message screen.

The Options Ribbon appears.

2. Click the icon to the right of More Options.

The Message Options dialog box appears.

3. Click the Security Settings button.

The Security Properties dialog box appears.

4. Click the Add Digital Signature to This Message check box.

5. Click Send.

The Signing Data with Your Private Exchange Key dialog box appears.

5. Click OK.

Your message is sent.

Adding a digital signature slows down the process of sending a message somewhat because your computer has to check with the computer that issued your Digital ID to verify your signature. But because Outlook does check your Digital ID, your recipient can be sure that your message really came from you — and that's the whole point of digital signatures.

You can set up Microsoft Outlook to attach a digital signature to every message you send, if you want. Just choose Tools --> Trust Center, choose the E-mail Security tab, and then click Add Digital Signature to Outgoing Messages.

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