Information Security
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Email Encryption

Email encryption is a secure method of transmitting information so only the intended recipient can read the contents of an encrypted message. This helps to insure the confidentiality of the email and protects information from being stolen or accidentally accessed by unintended recipients.

Northwestern IT provides manual email encryption, powered by IronPort, to anyone using a Collaboration Services email address (e.g.,, University email messages (e.g., “” to “”) or messages sent between University email accounts and other trusted affiliate email systems (e.g., “” to “”) are automatically encrypted and do not require any additional security. Messages sent to Northwestern Google Apps student accounts (e.g., are not automatically encrypted.

Any email message containing Personally Identifiable Information (PII), Personal Health Information (PHI), or other sensitive data such as Social Security Numbers or student records should always be encrypted.

How to Manually Encrypt an Email from a Collaboration Services Account

In order encrypt an e-mail message sent from a Collaboration Services account to a recipient outside the University, insert any of the keywords listed below, in brackets, anywhere in the subject line of an email. The only requirement is that keywords must be contained within brackets, e.g., SUBJECT: Student Account Information[secure] or SUBJECT: [private]New Employee Information.

  • [secure]
  • [confidential]
  • [send_secure]
  • [private]
  • [hipaa]
  • [phi]
  • [hipaa-phi]

How to View an Encrypted Email from Northwestern

Recipients of encrypted messages will have to go through a one-time registration process to view an encrypted email. Once registered, the recipient will be able to view encrypted messages by entering a password. There will be a link and instructions within the text portion of the encrypted email directing recipients to the instructions (mobile devices and standard email clients).