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Encryption/digiital ID in outlook express?

We use outlook express hosted off-site by our ISP, no MSExchange server or anything.  I need to use encrypted email to comply with govt regs.  We've looked at third party secure email, but it's no go because of the cost.  What are the costs of using the certificates and encryption available in Outlook Express?  How do I get the certificates/ID?  What would email recipients have to have to read the encrypted email? Would this meet minimum security standards?

2 Solutions
>Would this meet minimum security standards?
The question is: Whose standards?

You can use certificates with OE but you'll have to pay for anything with a decent chain of trust or do some legwork to establish a less expensive alternative like Thawte. You can look at PGP, which is free - but again the chain of trust to establish your identity is thorny. There are 5 levels of x509 certificates ranging from test to Level Four based upon the degree of certainty that the certificate authority can identify the holder.

If your application required a high degree of trust to a wide range of correspondents you'll have to bite the bullet and pay for a commercial cert from a root authority who can verify your identity beyond repudiation.
If your circle of correspondents is small you can use PGP and elect to trust each other's public keys for free.
Take a look at PGP.

The easiest and simplest solution to send emails encrypted is to use VSN Encrypt Managed Service. http://vsn.visus-it.com.
This service uses your Email address as your Public Key and unlike PKI systems you do not require the messing around with certificates. To send an encrypted email you are given 2 options, yo can either download the Outloo/Outlook Express plugin which gives you  a send secure button which will encrypt your email to an encryption equivalent standard of RSA 1024bit or you can use the Zero Download Manager Web Interface to send the email encrypted. The end user then has the choice to view the encrypted email through their Internet Browser or they can download the Outlook plugin to view it seemlessly within thir email client. The solution is simple and cheap with no administration overhead. A breath of fresh air!!

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