In my post last week, The 10 Most Important Legal Technology Developments of 2014, I said that email encryption is now a “must-have tool for lawyers.” Yet, as I’ve also noted here, only a minority of lawyers use encryption. Part of the reason for this, no doubt, is that encryption can be cumbersome.

This, in previous posts here, I’ve reviewed two different applications that make it easy for lawyers to encrypt email. One, Enlocked, which I wrote about here and here, is a plugin that works with Microsoft Outlook, Gmail and iOS and Android mobile devices. The other, Delivery Trust, which I wrote about here, has more security controls than Enlocked and does not require the recipient to install a plug-in.

Today I am covering a third option for easy email encryption, Virtru, a free program that works with Outlook 2010 and 2013, with webmail services such as Gmail and Yahoo, with Mac Mail, and on iOS and Android devices.

Virtru adds options to Outlook’s toolbar.

Like both Enlocked and Delivery Trust, Virtru is enabled in Outlook by adding a plug-in. For web-mail services, Virtru provides browser extensions that work with Chrome and Firefox.

Virtru adds two security features that Enlocked lacks: the ability to disable forwarding of an email and the ability to set an email to expire, after which the recipient will be unable to read it.

To use Virtru with Outlook, you first download and install the plugin. It adds an option to the Outlook toolbar to turn Virtru on and off. When on, all emails you send are encrypted, including their attachments.

You can personalize the message to the recipient.

The recipient receives an email from you explaining that you have sent a secure message and directing the recipient to a secure website to read it. You can customize this message and toggle it on and off. Recipients must log in to the site with their email credentials to verify their identity, where they can then read the message and reply. The reply is also encrypted.

The message can be read directly in Outlook.
The message can be read directly in Outlook.

If the recipient has already installed the Virtru plugin, then the email appears as a regular email message, except that it shows a padlock icon. It can be opened and read directly in Outlook, along with any attachments.

Virtru includes two other options for encrypted emails: “Disable Forward” and “Set Expiration.” If you click Disable Forward when sending an email, the recipient will be unable to forward it. If you click Set Expiration, you can set a date and time for the message to expire, after which the recipient will be unable to read it. After you send an email using Virtru, you can revoke it at any time, after which the recipient will no longer be able to read it. All of these options are available directly from within Outlook.


Regardless of whether you use Virtru with Outlook or with a webmail service, you also get access to an online dashboard. The dashboard shows you the full history of messages you’ve sent using Virtru and includes controls for revoking access, adding an expiration date and disabling forwarding.

My first message sent to Gmail was blocked as spam.
My first message sent to Gmail was blocked as spam.

The one glitch I ran into using Virtru involved Gmail. The first time I sent an encrypted email from Outlook on my desktop to Gmail, Gmail considered the message spam. As you can see above, Gmail explained that it considered it spam because it was “written in a different language than your messages typically use.” Presumably, this “different language” was the encrypted text. However, once I indicated that the message was not spam, the problem never recurred.

Using Virtru on an iPhone

As noted earlier, Virtru can also be used with the iPhone and with Android devices. It works directly with your device’s email application and includes the same options as other versions for revoking emails, setting expiration dates and limited forwarding.

Virtru is free to use. It is still in beta, but users were sent an email last week saying that it is soon moving from beta to general availability. The email did not indicate whether there would be a charge to use the product after it comes out of beta. Virtru also offers an enterprise version that works with Google Apps.

Like the other encryption apps I previously reviewed, the bottom line on Virtru is that it makes encryption as easy as sending an email. No exchange of “keys” is required, as with some other encryption programs, or even any real understanding of encryption.

Virtru works best when both the sender and recipient already have the plug-in, in which case it as seamless as sending and reading any other email. Even when only the sender has it, however, it is easy for the recipient to read and receive attachments.

  • Ben

    Hey Bob – nice review as usual. One thing I will point-out, which is more of a general comment about encryption, is that it’s never “as easy as sending an email.” Sure, it’s simple to send, but, the complaints always roll-in when the recipient has to do something different (in this case, go to a separate website via the link received in the email). Though you and I know how simple it is, in my experience, lawyers will complain that it’s just an extra step that will inconvenience their clients. Granted, if the client installs the plug-in, all is well; however, that’s not usually what happens. Clients tend to have pretty poor technology at times and they tend to have poor support as well. In the end, tools like this still will be summarily dismissed by the masses.

    • Fair point. But at least this makes it a one-time-only extra step. The lawyer would be wise to advise the client to install the plug-in and avoid any further extra steps.

  • Susan

    Do you have any comments about the security of the Virtru website where the emails are stored? Presumably the company holds the encryptions keys. Are there security issues that lawyers should consider?

    • Virtru does not store any of the email messages. It does maintain the encryption key. For the government or someone else to read your messages, it would first have to obtain the encrypted messages from you or the recipient and then separately obtain the key from Virtru. Virtru has a detailed FAQ explaining this and how it would respond to a government request for your information:

  • LA Legault

    Thank you for the review.

    I am still reluctant to use any encryption e-mail program that requires the recipient to download a plug-in. I myself would be very unlikely to download a plug-in unfamiliar to me to read a single sender’s e-mail for fear of it containing malware. As it is not customary yet to receive these types of e-mails that require plug-ins, I feel clients would have to be told beforehand (likely more than once) what will be necessary to open e-mails which could be very time-consuming.

    Ultimately, we can never guarantee who is at the receiving end of our e-mails when people share computers and personal technology devices. This may be a tool best-used if it is widely adapted by legal professionals to use amongst themselves.

    • The plug-in is not required to read the email. The recipient can read it in his or her browser.

  • Bob, great review. I’ve been using Virtru since September with my Gmail (Google Apps and regular). It’s one of the easiest encryption programs to use. Here’s my review:

    Virtru holds the keys, which is one concern, since their servers run the encryption lock. I’m okay with that.

    I didn’t run into any of the problems you did with Gmail. My biggest issue has been that recipients don’t understand how the program works, so they can’t open the emails. Virtru is very much locked to the recipient’s email address. Only the recipient can open the email. That includes forwarded messages or those users with alias addresses.

  • Hey Guys —

    Thanks for great comments about Virtru. I run the marketing group at Virtru. Really nice review, Bob.

    Jeff — Nice to see you piping in here and that you’re happy with the service.

    Just wanted to let any of your readers know that we’re happy to answer any questions about our service. Just drop us an email at and we’ll be in touch.

    Charles Gold
    for Virtru

  • shiva

    Hi All.

    I am conducting risk assessment on Virtru , Can some one tell me what risk associated using Virtru. in Google environment

  • Pete NJ

    As of 1/27/2017, it appears that Virtru is not maintained. After online subscription cancellation failed (“contact support”), I tried to contact them 4 different times, still no response in 4 days. I had to cancel my credit card, this was the only way to stop this thing from billing me.

    Now to the reason I cancelled, I really loved the app when saw it a year ago, and subscribed just in case, without apparent need. But both times I did need to send sensitive stuff via email, Virtru failed to open on the recepient’s computer.

    Overall, I think great idea, but execution could use some work.

    And if you do decide to sign up, make sure you can reach these guys, before you do.

    • happy_5

      I’m a physician and use Virtru on a daily basis, both to secure my personal communication and any work documents that require HIPPA compliance. First it was the free version, and then the paid one since October of 2016. Only experienced 2-3 bugs, but the messages were always sent. They respond to emails quite quickly (same day the shortest, 2 days the most) but if you are a paid user your support ticket is faster. So I don’t know what you are talking about when you say Virtru is not maintained as of January of this year.

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