The latest Hilary Clinton ‘mishap’ with emails reminds us once again (and in a big way) why it is important to have our emails encrypted. When you know that our online actions are constantly being monitored by the government, it sounds like a good idea to at least try and do whatever we can to preserve that small corner of our online privacy by PGP encrypting our emails.
It’s not paranoia. People simply don’t wish to openly share their online activities. And why should they? It’s their business.
How PGP Encryption Works
Moving forward, let’s see how PGP encryption works.
There are two ways to encrypt your emails with PGP if you are running a Windows Operating System:
The first way is somewhat simple, while the second requires three separate components combined into one powerful PGP encryption tool. Both PGP tools, however, work on the same principles of:
- Generating your PGP keypair
- Using your private key and other person’s public key to PGP encrypt a message
- Using your private key to decrypt a message you received
- Installation is straightforward – simply click the Next button until the process is complete. However, GPG4WIN includes several components, and you have to make sure that you have the GPA component checked.
2. To generate your keypair, go to the menu Keys and select New Key. The wizard will guide you through the process. The result is an .asc file, which contains your PGP key. You should keep somewhere safe.
3. You should use Notepad to open this file and be sure to copy everything from the first dash to the last; otherwise, your messages won’t be encrypted
4. Before you PGP your message, you also have to import other person’s key; so, paste his public key into a .txt file and go to menu From here you will be able to choose the file you have just created.
5.Encrypting a message is also simple. On the menu bar containing shortcut icons, click Clipboard and start typing. After you finish typing, click the above button Select a key that you are using to send the message and a key you wish to send the message to.
6. The PGP encrypted message will look very similar to the picture below, and you only need to copy it to your email message. Be sure to copy everything – from the first dash to the last; otherwise, the recipient won’t be able to decrypt your message.
Even though it implies three separate components, the process is quite similar to GPG4WIN. Starting with the first step:
- Download GnuPG from the official webpage. Choose Simple installer for GnuPG modern.
3. Again, the installation process is very simple – just follow the wizard and afterwards the program will also help you configure your new email client. There is no need to create a new account if you already have one, so read what you are clicking and enter thecorrect
5. This will open Add-on manager, and from here you can look for various add-ons. Type Enigmail in the search field.
Similar to the above option (GPG4WIN), you will have to generate your PGP keypair. So, the next time you start Mozilla Thunderbird it will begin the process of Enigmail configuration. Just keep the standard settings and this will generate your keypair.
- You will have to provide a passphrase that will guard your private key.
Important: your key has an expiration date, so be sure tonote the expiration date to let people know your new key.
2. Enigmail offers the unique option to create a revocation certificate, which invalidates your private key should it ever be compromised. Once you save your revocation certificate, you can start using Enigmail to encrypt your emails.
3. Next, you should do is import other people’s public keys. There are several ways to do this, but the simplest is to go to File and click Import Keys from File. The file may have various extensions (.asc, .pgp, .gpg). You can also import keys from URLs, in which case you should go to the Edit menu and choose Import Keys from URL. Alternatively, you can look for public keys on keyserver (to do this go to the Keyserver menu and select Search for Keys).
4. Mozilla Thunderbird is now configured and ready to PGP encrypt your emails, only requiring you to compose them.
Both software packages have an identical end-result of PGP encryption, leaving the selection up to the user based on which software configuration suits them the best.