The Only Safe Email is Text-Only Email

Sergey Bratus, Research Associate Professor of Computer Science, Dartmouth College, and Anna Shubina, Post-doctoral Associate in Computer Science, Dartmouth College write: The real issue is that today’s web-based email systems are electronic minefields filled with demands and enticements to click and engage in an increasingly responsive and interactive online experience. It’s not just Gmail, Yahoo mail and similar services: Desktop-computer-based email programs like Outlook display messages in the same unsafe way. Simply put, safe email is plain-text email — showing only the plain words of the message exactly as they arrived, without embedded links or images. Webmail is convenient for advertisers (and lets you write good-looking emails with images and nice fonts), but carries with it unnecessary — and serious — danger, because a webpage (or an email) can easily show one thing but do another. Returning email to its origins in plain text may seem radical, but it provides radically better security. Even the federal government’s top cybersecurity experts have come to the startling, but important, conclusion that any person, organization or government serious about web security should return to plain-text email (PDF).


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