I live on a street that has a community mailbox. When I want to pick up my email I walk down the street and open my mailbox with a key. This way I know that no one else has access to my mail. No on else can read it unless they have my key.
In much the same way there are ways to secure your own Email. You can ensure that the Email you send is private by using encryption. Let’s say you want to send a private email to someone and you want to make sure no one else can read it. If you know your recipient’s public key then you can encrypt your mail message with their public key. To anyone without the recipient’s “private key” – for decryption – that message will look like a mass of unintelligible characters.
The receiver will use their own private key to decrypt the email so that the mass of unintelligible characters are now a readable message.
This is known as PGP or Pretty Good Privacy.
There are many PGP email tools out there one of which is Mozilla’s email program, Thunderbird with the Enigmail extension. There is also PGP Freeware. You can get it at www.pgp.com/downloads/freeware/index.html – it’s a free program and very easy to use. PGP can also be used for encrypting text documents on your computer.
After you’ve installed the PGP plug-in software you’ll most likely find a new button added to your email tool – an encrypt button. After typing in your clear text email all you do is hit the encrypt button and you’re done. It’s as simple as that.
The first time you receive PGP encrypted email your plug-in PGP software will ask you for a pass phrase which you already assigned to your private key. If you’ve chosen to remember that pass phrase then future emails will automatically be decrypted for you to view as clear text without any further action on your part.
In my next post I’ll talk about how to obtain and exchange public keys.