Email Tutorials

Tips to Encrypt Your Email to Keep Your Conversation Privacy

Your email might be inbroken by other unauthorized persons from breaching your passwords. Besides, do you know that the NSA probably is looking in on what you are sending or receiving? In the current web industry, the privacy of your email is often gotten lately. Imaging, when you are sending and receiving the messages from beloved people or close friends, you must want your email privacy to be certainly ensured! If that, you really need to encrypt your messages.

In below, we are glad to talk about this issue from reasons to detailed methods. By following our guide, you can make your email keep encrypted and make your conversations with other close or important persons private!

Reasons to Encrypt Your Email

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Although the government is spying people’s mind, it is not the most frequent security distraction attacking many attentions. In front of government, we think you should feel angry at employers checking your personal information, corporate snooping, identity thieves, as well as those hackers.

We admit that to encrypt your emails might not protect your messages sage from major government and those people who get the important processing and time resources, while it can certainly make your data secure away from hackers invading your accounts, resetting your passwords, and then logging in as you.

Here we are to show you how to encrypt the email messages through desktop clients, which are Postbox and Thunderbird, as well as tips to encrypt almost all almost all webmail companies you are using, like Outlook, Gmail, Google, Apps, and more. The steps are simple to follow, and you just need to download and setup. Besides, you need the friends using PGP, because you need to exchange your public keys with each other to ensure that they can read your emails.

In current information era, privacy is significant to your life. Even if you do not worry about the government spying or the cooperate snooping, there are still some good reasons for you to ensure that your some sensitive communications are well secured and encrypted.

Once your privacy is dead, it means you will be bothered by many parties. Your sensitive messages will increase the possibility of your personal information exposure. Do you want to be bothered by strangers, or hacked by bad guys? Of course, not!

However, there are many parties are interested your personal information, such as companies and government agencies. Besides, job offers, medical histories, contracts, bank statements, confidentiality agreements, and more others are just some common types of personal information are legally required but should stay private! Moreover, identity thieves are common to say in life as well! So, to avoid ruining your life, you need encrypt your emails!

PGP Encryption

How Does PGP Encryption Work?

Sometimes people are more likely to be scared by the term of email encryption, while it is easier that most you image. In below, we are to introduce the PGP for email encryption, namely Pretty Good Privacy which is a tribute to NPR radio program, not refers to describe how well the privacy is made.

By using PGP, those uninvited onlookers can only say the garbled text from your email messages. Even better, it can obscure your sensitive information, like phones, credit card number, addresses, and others.

Now, we are willing to take an example to show you how PGP works for email encryption:

Tom plans to send a love letter to Jane but he does not want Jenny to be able to see it to avoid the jealousy. Actually, Jenny is a jealous piggybacker of Jane’s Wi-Fi. He knows that Jane is using PGP, meaning she publishes a public key on her site, so that people can use it to send the encrypted emails to her with that key. Beside, Jane also has a private key that no one knows.

For Tom, he need to search for the public key firstly; then he should write and encrypt his love letter by using the public key; finally send the encrypted letter. During the process of sending, this email’s copies will be made on both Tom and Jane’s email servers, but the message will look like a garbled text.

For the jealous girl Jenny, she can only feel frustrated because she cannot read the emails between Tom and Jane. To read this encrypted email, when Jane receives it in her Thunderbird account, she need to use her private key to decrypt it. After that works, she can fully read that email!

To Get Started, You Need:

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  • GnuPG, in the version of Gpg4win (Windows) or GPGTools (OS X)
  • Thunderbird (OS X/Linux/Windows) or Postbox (OS X/Windows) for your desktop email
  • Thunderbird or Postbox add-on, Enigmail
  • Mailvelope for Firefox or Chrome, plus your webmail account such as Outlook, Gmail, Yahoo, or GMX.

Apart from above, your friends are using PGP, and you and them have exchanged the public keys that are used to read your encrypted messaged. You can send your public key as the attachment with your messages sent to the certain persons. Or you can simply post it on your own website.  It might be the biggest shortcoming when using the PGP encryption, while it is also the same good feature for users. So, set it up even though you have nothing to encrypt.

Install Enigmail and GnuPG to Generate Keys

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To start this, you need to install GUN PGP at first, and then generate the public key. Remember that the public key is the one you need to share with others to exchange the encrypted messages, while the private key is of course the one you have to keep secret to others. In below, there are the steps to the installation:

  • Download an appropriate GPG installer according to your OS, then install in. Note that GPGTools can launches quickly on your Mac when you complete the installation. You need to close it before launching. You can choose an easier way to generate the keypairs in Thunderbird and Postbox.
  • Once finished the first GPG installation, you should get down to Enigmail extension installation for desktop email clients. You might have to save extension files to the desktop and drag these files into Thunderbird or Postbox in order to install them.
  • Next, you should restart the mail program. At this moment, you can find a new menu “OpenPGP” with Edit, File, View, and some others. Find the new menu, click it and choose “Key Management”.
  • At this moment, the window of OpenPGP “Key Mamnagement” will appear. Here you need click “Generate” menu and choose “New Keypair”.
  • The window of “Generate OpenPGP Key” will appear as well. Choose the email addresses you need to generate the keypair. Input a passphrase for that keypair, which you need to enter for encryption or decryption. The passphrase has to be very strong that you do not use in other places!
  • Finished steps above, you can click the “Generate Key”. The process cloud take you some minutes, so during the process, you can do some other things by leaving the window up.
  • Finally, you probably receive a promotion to generate a revocation certificate which is used to invalidate the public key if there are some others obtaining your private key. So, the revocation certificate is important to your email encryption and safety. Keep it in a safe place.

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At this moment, your keypair should be created well. You should export it for the sake of safe keeping. Here are the steps to do it in below:

  • In your Thunderbird or Postbox account, select OpenPGP menu and then choose “Key Management” menu;
  • Select the keys you want to keep with right-click, and then select the menu of “Export Keys to File.”
  • Now, you should receive an alert to ask you whether you need to include the secret key in this saved file or not. You need include it by clicking “Export Secret Keys”.
  • Finally, save your keys in safe place!

There is a thing you should now that even though you have more than one email addresses, you do not have to generate multiple keypairs for them. It is very simple to use the same keypair for multiple email accounts.

Configure Thunderbird to Encrypt Your Messages

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After generating and configuring the keys, you should start to use them well. Open a message in Thunderbird and select the menu “OpenPGP”. There are “Encrypt Message” and “Sign Messsage” options. You need to do both.

Firstly, you just need to compose and send the message as normal. Meanwhile, the system will promote you for the passphrase you configured before. Typing it in, you will find that your messages will become a garbled mess we have shown in the beginning. Only the person who has your public key can decrypt it and read it.

For attachments, you should do the encryption and sign every attachment separately, and send them as a whole thing by using inline PGP. Or, you can encrypt them and sign the message with attachment, and then send this email by using PGP/MIME. For ease-of-use and better security, we recommend you to use inline PGP that is trusted by most people and can offer you the ideal security you need.

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Configure Mailvelope for Webmail

The amount of desktop email client is great, so we think you shouldn’t miss them. However, it is also very common that people always use webmail instead. In current industry, there are many free providers such as Outlook, Gmail, and Yahoo! For you, the webmail will be very easy to use, because it allows you to access anywhere and anytime. In tradition, this kind of ease-of-use often costs your email security, while using Mailvelope can make you have them both.

Actually, it is the one of the add-ons of Chrome and Firefox, which means that you can easily get it from Chrome Web Store or for the Firefox Github page. Firefox Mailvelope is an experimental product and a little hard to install, but it works well!

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After installing this add-on, you should follow the steps in below to set is up:

  • Open the extensions page of your browser and select to open Mailvelope options. The page with Mailvelope options should be all blank.
  • Find “Import Keys” from the chrome menu on the left and click it. Then, you can receive a blank window waiting for typing text.
  • Now, open your text file containing your keypair, in a fond text editor.
  • Copy all text into your clipboard, and then paste them all into the blank field in your Mailvelope settings.
  • Finally, click submit. At this step, you can receive 2 alert boxes to tell you that your public and private keys are both imported into the key ring.

Now, you can see your keys appear in your key ring. Mailvelope is easy to use! The first thing is that you do not need to set up the keypairs for each email address you are using. If you need to add a keypair, there are Gmail, Yahoo, and Outlook for it.

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Next time when you are firing up Gmail and select “Compose”, there will be a notepad button appearing on the message compose field. Click that button and then you can Maivelope compose screen showing up. Type anything you want into the text window and click that button again!  Choose a preferable keypair to encrypt that message. Finally, click the “OK”.

At present, you can see the garbled message. Clicking the “Transfer”, you can get it back to Gmail and now you can sent it. The only shortcoming of Mailvelope is that you cannot encrypt the attachments along with that email.

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