Whether you believe it or not the NSA and GCHQ are storing your emails, calls browsing history and God knows what else this is total breach of your right to privacy. Even GMail scans each email your send and receive to create ads target at what you and your friends talk about. In an ideal world this post would not need to exist at all but thanks to our ‘dear leaders’ around the world there has developed a need for us to encrypt our emails so that we can actually hold our right to privacy.
In this post I hope to give you an explicit step by step guide on how to set up encryption for any email account that is easy to follow and understand even if you’re new to the concept. The method I use is one of the best ways to secure your emails.
You will need the mail client Thunderbird, though you will only ever need to use this client to read/send encrypted mails, the rest of the time you can continue using your current mail client or web app. This is because you need the add-ons for Thunderbird to encrypt/decrypt your emails, if most of your emails won’t need this, then you will not need to use it all the time.
I will start with email encryption and if it is well received I will move on to how to keep your browsing history private from prying eyes.
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How Email Encryption Works
GPG starts for GNU Privacy Guard, it uses two types of ‘keys’ – public and private – to encrypt your emails.
The public key is used to encrypt emails sent to you by other people and the private key is used by you to decrypt emails you receive. As the names suggest the public key is public for anybody to see and use and your private key is only known by you.
Take the above example, Bob sends Alice a message saying “Hello Alice!”, here’s the step-by-step of how this is encrypted, sent, decrypted and finally read.
- Alice sends Bob her public key (this can also be done by downloading from a public keyerver like pgp.mit.edu
- Bob encrypts his message to Alice using Alice’s public key
- Bob sends his message to Alice
- The message is received by Alice
- Alice decrypts the message from Bob using her private key
In a nutshell, public keys encrypt, private keys decrypt.
How to Set Up Email Encryption (Beginner)
If you want to make sure you have the strongest key possible, go to the bottom of the page
For good coverage, I will explain the step-by-step process on how to set up GPG for Windows, OSX and Ubuntu – if you use another distribution, it shouldn’t be too hard to translate the commands.