Well, this article is just what you need.
Recently, over at Scot’s Newsletter Forums, we were discussing email encryption options and methods. It’s a fun thread. Give it a looksee. There is some good info and some useful links to be had. For me, this is the culmination of all the recent stories regarding NSA and FBI email and Internet snooping spurred by the revelations of ex-NSA contractor, and current guest of Mr. Putin, Edward Snowden.
People should be more conscious of their privacy, I think. You’d be amazed how many people think that email is private. I asked five of my family and friends about this in the past couple days. Everyone of them thought email was at least as private as 1st class USPS mail (snail mail). None of these folks were technical types. They were just aunts, truck drivers, etc… everyday people. Sadly, I’d bet that many techies out there are just a confident of the privacy of their emails.
With all this in mind, I’m here today to enlighten you just a bit about email privacy (or lack thereof) and simple, yet very secure, methods you can use to ensure that what you send to grandma will only be read by grandma. We’re going to talk a bit about email encryption using OpenPGP. You can do this in GNU/Linux, MS Windows, or MacOS. Encryption works everywhere for the most part. You just need a couple tools to make it happen.
My focus is on the Thunderbird email client using the Enigmail extension in GNU/Linux, Slackware to be specific. However, encrypting of emails and attachments is not difficult in any operating system. You just may have to use different means and applications to achieve it. Enigmail uses a protocol called OpenPGP. It is a very secure means of encrypting email and other documents using the Pretty Good Privacy data encryption method.
Security In-a-Box has created an excellent illustrated tutorial for setting up Enigmail in Thunderbird. I wouldn’t even attempt to top that one. Click on the hyperlink and learn very quickly and easily what you need to do to set this all up for yourself. In a matter of a few minutes, you can have your T-bird set up and capable of sending/receiving encrypted emails to your family, friends, workmates, etc.
For you MS Windows folks, there are also options. Windows Mail has a short FAQ regarding digitally signing and encrypting emails. It’s concise but informative. If you want to utilize OpenPGP in MS Windows, you can also do that thanks to the German government for creating an app called Gpg4win that allows you to set up and use OpenPGP in MS Windows just as you would in Linux.
There are quite a few good websites that explain email encryption, its methods, and the tools necessary to perform this feat. Here are a few to help you understand how this stuff works:
- Why Should You Encrypt Your Email – About.com
- How to Encrypt Your Email – PCWorld
- How Do I Send Encrypted Email – Ask Leo
It might seem complicated, and the encryption part is pretty heavy stuff mathematically speaking; however, to actually utilize the tools available to encrypt your email and documents is not at all complicated. You drive your car yet you have no clue how the internal combustion engine works, right? Well, there you go. You don’t have to be Einstein to encrypt your emails. C’mon! Even grandma is doing it. Give it a try. Encryption can be FUN! And remember…
Privacy is a right.
Security is YOUR responsibility.
Trust no one. Encrypt everything.
Have some fun with it. You might even learn a thing or two.
Image Credits: The Cone of Silence from the Get Smart television series. Image ownership unknown. Used without express permission. Contact author if this is a copyright violation. Image will be removed.
Don’t let KAOS read your mail.