The University of Texas at Austin

Digital Certificates

Problems Reading Signed or Encrypted Email

Not all email programs are good at reading signed and/or encrypted email. In most cases, you should be able to reply to the sender and let them know that you can't read the message. Here are some common problems you may run into. (You may also want to refer to the topics in the Help section about support in various mobile devices.)

From someone using Exchange (Outlook or Entourage) to send messages

Even if you only include a digital signature with an email message, Outlook and Entourage will send the message encrypted unless you select a specific setting telling the program to send signed messages in clear text.

One visual cue you can use to tell if your program is not properly set up is the Inbox. The icon for a message that is signed but not sent in clear text displays the encryption icon.

Outlook inbox item showing an encrypted message

A message that is signed and sent in clear text displays the signature icon.

Outlook inbox showing a signed message sent as clear text

If you are getting complaints from message recipients that they cannot read messages, review the instructions for setting up your email program and make sure that the Send clear text signed messages when sending signed messages setting is selected.


You will not be able to read an encrypted message on your iPhone unless you are using iOS 5 or later and have imported your digital certificate. You may have trouble reading a signed message, depending on the sender's account, if you are not running iPhone 2.0 software. If you see a message that shows something similar to the following text, you have received a signed or encrypted message that is not able to be read by the iPhone.

=_scrambled text

Email message on an iPhone that cannot display the signed message


If you receive an encrypted message or a signed message that was not also sent as clear text, you will receive the body of the message as an attachment called "smime.p7m". You can reply and ask the sender to resend the message without a signature.

Last updated December 10, 2012 @ 3:07 pm

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