Secure/Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (S/MIME)

Definition of Secure/Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (S/MIME) in The Network Encyclopedia.

What is S/MIME (Secure/Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions)?

A protocol for the secure exchange of e-mail and attached documents originally developed by RSA Security. Secure/Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (S/MIME) adds security to Internet e-mail based on the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) method and adds support for digital signatures and encryption to SMTP mail to support authentication of the sender and privacy of the communication. Note that because HTTP messages can transport MIME data, they can also use S/MIME.

How It Works

S/MIME is an extension of the widely implemented Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (MIME) encoding standard, which defines how the body portion of an SMTP message is structured and formatted. S/MIME uses the RSA public key cryptography algorithm along with the Data Encryption Standard (DES) or Rivest-Shamir-Adleman (RSA) encryption algorithm. In an S/MIME message, the MIME body section consists of a message in PKCS #7 format that contains an encrypted form of the MIME body parts. The MIME content type for the encrypted data is application/pkcs7-mime.


S/MIME is gaining in popularity in the enterprise because its key management facilities are implemented as a hierarchical public key infrastructure (PKI) scheme. Version 2 of S/MIME has gained some support and is defined by Request for Comments (RFC) 2311 through 2315. An Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) working group is currently working on version 3, which is expected to become an Internet standard when it is completed.

Web References