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Encrypt your email with PGP

June 27 2013

We're going to encrypt our mail using PGP and thankfully, Shannon Morse dropped by to help us out.

What is PGP? It stands for "Pretty Good Privacy." It uses a combination of private and public keys to encrypt and decrypt your data. You can learn all about PGP here.

PGP with an email client

We're going to show you how to configure PGP in Thunderbird PGP. You'll need to download a couple of pieces of free software. First you'll need to download and install GnuPG for Windows and also the Enigmail extension. GnuPG is a free implementation of OpenPGP.

When you restart Thunderbird, you'll see an OpenPGP menu item. When you want to send an email, you'll need your friend's public key. The Enigmail plugin should allow you to find their keys although we had some problems in the Windows 8 version. You can search online for that key at pgp.mit.edu or just ask your friend. It's a public key, after all.

PGP without an email client

Shannon showed us Mailvelope, a web based PGP solution. You simply install a Firefox or Chrome extension / add-on and it works with Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo. Generate a key using Mailvelope and copy/paste to your friends the public key.

Mailvelope lets you import your friends public keys. In the advanced options section you can choose your level of encryption during generation = RSA or RSA/RSA or DSA/ElGamal,1024 or 2048 or 4096, and expiration date. The higher the number, the harder it is to hack. You'll need new generated key for each computer.

Test sending an encrypted email to your friend. Add yourself to cc if you want to unencrypt the thread in the future.

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