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.
I expect more from c|net than this type of FUDD article.
Secret demands mark escalation in Internet surveillance by the federal government through gaining access to user passwords, which are typically stored in encrypted form.
Sounds really intriguing, huh? Gets your attention? Maybe even pisses you off a bit? That’s what that headline does for me. Well, headlines do sell, or so they say. Unfortunately, if you actually read the entire article, as I did, you’ll find that there’s not much carne in the stew here, folks. :( What there is in that article is a lot of spokesperson would not say, declined to disclose, would not say, did not respond to queries, and my favorite, doesn’t recall. Now, does that sound to you like an article with some verified sources?
The article does have a lot of interesting technical baloney thrown in as padding, but the main gist, of the article based on what the headline says, kinda’ misses the mark. You know, if you’re some cheesy part-time blogger, like this Nocturnal Slacker fellow, you can get away with posting tripe like this. Your readers (all 19 of them) will love you for you who are, regardless. However, if you’re a big Internet site with a reputation to uphold, you shouldn’t be posting shit like this on your site. That’s just how I feel about it.
And if you don’t think this article was posted primarily to just stir shit, read the comments posted by the assorted whack-jobs, Obama-haters, tea-baggers, and other miscellaneous Michelle Bachman/Sarah Palin loving wing nuts.
Don’t be thinking that the ol’ Nocturnal Slacker is naive enough to think that BIG Gov is innocent of all charges here. The fact is that I’m very pissed off about the ever deepening intrusions perpetrated by this big, ugly, multi-limbed surveillance state monster. My point in writing this particular article is that if you’re going to be a real media outlet and not just play at being one online, then post articles with some real meat!
Hey, looky… at least one sane individual posted a salient comment to that article:
It’s always “The Feds”, or “The Government”, or The NSA”, but never a name. Who is the PERSON behind these privacy crushing moves? We should have names…and we should have a press that wants to know. Instead we are shown only what ‘they’ want us to see and we have no real investigative reporters anymore. We need names….
Well, that’s all for now.
Above here, you’ll see my new email and forum signature line.
What’s this all about you may very well be asking yourself. It’s about something that I find extremely disturbing; the continued erosion of our personal liberties in exchange for the promise of security and safety. As people from around the globe continue to swear undying enmity towards those who may, per chance, hold differing opinions regarding which bearded wise man sits up there in the clouds and manipulates the fates, governments around the world are taking this opportunity to strip us of all our liberties and freedoms that men have fought and died for over the past eons.
New technologies and methods of surveillance are being used by the governing powers to monitor and document your every word. movement, and action. They haven’t figured out how to monitor your thoughts yet, but give it time. George Orwell would be amazed. He was spot on, but a few years early. The technology had to catch up with his predictions.
Now that most communications, be they Internet or telephonic, are in digital format; it’s ever so much easier for the data to be sifted, copied, stored, etc. You couldn’t do that with analog. You would have had to actually record voice communications with some sort of recording devices; magnetic tape, for example. With digital, all they need to do is save your recent phone conversation with auntie Agatha to a file on a hard drive somewhere. They can peruse it, transcribe it, copy it, even manipulate it easily with the help of any computer. Ain’t tech great?
You better watch what you say to your auntie from now on. While you’re at it, you better be careful where you go (your cellphone is tracking you), who you are seen with (cameras everywhere), what you borrowed from the library (Anarchist’s Cookbook a big NO-NO), and definitely what you purchased from Amazon last night. It’s all out there just waiting to be picked through by whomever might be interested. They don’t have to actually go through your garbage cans late at night anymore. All your garbage is stored on servers all over the world nowadays… your credit records, medical records, consumer records, even what you’re viewing on those fancy new digital TVs via cable.
Moving out to that plywood shack in the woods and typing up your manifesto on that old Underwood typewriter is sounding more and more tempting every day, huh? Besides, it’s so much quieter out there. Watch out for those satellites and drones, though. There’s NO PLACE TO HIDE anymore. They’re watching YOU! It’s OK to be paranoid these days. Your silly delusions about THEM being out to get you might not be so silly after all. You do have a good supply of weird uncle Bob’s tinfoil hats, right?
Here’s some interesting reading for you:
NSA, FBI mine Internet firms’ data, documents show - Tampa Bay Times
Daily Report: U.S. Confirms That It Gathers Online Data - NY Times/Bits