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Email Encryption: What Are You Waiting For?
By: Michael Lowry
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    Table of Contents:
  • Email Encryption: What Are You Waiting For?
  • The Basics
  • You Want More?
  • Conclusion

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    Email Encryption: What Are You Waiting For? - You Want More?

    (Page 3 of 4 )

    I think it's time to get a little more specific. A typical encryption works with the use of keys, as I mentioned earlier. A typical user will have both a public key and a private key; the private key is strictly for that person and the public key is distributed among whoever that person deems worthy. For a person to encrypt a message, they would use your public key before sending it to you. Then once you receive the encrypted message, you would use your private key to decrypt it. However encrypting is not a tool for the super lazy. You need to encrypt all of your messages or hackers will notice that a certain percentage of your emails aren't encrypted, basically showing which emails are important and which aren't.

    One way of encrypting your email is to obtain a personal email certificate and use it as your digital signature. There are a wide variety of sites and companies that provide these certificates, either for pay or for free, so I won't offer any specific links lest I become the target of complaints. The sites are easy to find so I don't think you'll have any trouble.

    These signatures work by allowing the recipient to verify that the emails you send are actually from you. They also encrypt the messages so that only the person you send it to can read them. Your private key is used in most cases to digitally sign your messages. One way this can benefit you and your contacts is that it helps prevent unwanted spam and malware from being sent out under your name. After a while, your contacts will come to recognize your digital signature, so when they come across a message from your email address with no signature, they'll know to automatically delete the message.

    The most well known encryption standard is PGP (Pretty Good Privacy). It was developed by Philip Zimmerman in 1991 (there is a scandalous story surrounding its creation, but I won't get into it here) and uses the same techniques (keys, certificates) that I've already discussed. As of now, there is no known method for hacking into PGP encryption using direct computational cryptanalysis. As you might expect there are several versions available, including this free guide for the lazy (not super lazy) offered through this link: http://www.dtek.chalmers.se/~d97jorn/pgp/

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