If you’re worried about government spying on you, or if it is your hawk-eyed company is too interested in your mailbox, or if you’re fed up of targeted advertisements, or if you want to communicate privately with your love interest, or to manage sensitive documents like identity cards, bank statements, passwords— keeping conversations encrypted using PGP is worth doing.
What is PGP (Pretty Good Privacy)?
I’m not going to go into the nuances of PGP because of complex cryptography used under the hood.
Essentially, PGP garbles up the email making it look like random letters and numbers. This encryption happens using receiver’s public key. So if you wish to send anyone an email securely, all you need is their public key. It’s a trend these days to put up PGP public key as Twitter bio.
When this message is downloaded on the recipient’s side, it is decrypted using a receiver’s private key. Make sure you never ever share your private key with anyone. So if anyone is spying on your mailbox, all they’d see is garbled text!
Step-by-step guide to set up PGP
1. Download and install Mozilla Thunderbird
Thunderbird is a free email application that’s easy to set up and customize.
Go to https://www.thunderbird.net/en-US/thunderbird/all/ and download thunderbird for whichever OS you’re on.
This is what my application console looks like —
Set up your existing account on thunderbird. This may take up 5 to 10 minutes depending upon how many emails you have.
2. Download and install GNU Privacy guard
GnuPG is a complete and free implementation of the OpenPGP standard as defined by RFC4880 (also known as PGP). GnuPG allows you to encrypt and sign your data and communications; it features a versatile key management system, along with access modules for all kinds of public key directories.
Go to https://gnupg.org/download/index.html to download it.
3. Download Enigmail
Enigmail is a simple interface for OpenPGP email security.
Go to https://www.enigmail.net/index.php/en/download to download it.
To install Enigmail on Thunderbird, use right click “Save Link as …” to save the extension locally. Then navigate to the Thunderbird menu Tools > Addons
Choose Enigmail and add it.
4. Get your keys
Go to thunderbird and then go to Enigmail/p=p menu > Select Key Management
Now let’s test it by sending an email.
You encrypt your email using receiver’s public key (fingerprint)and the receiver will decrypt the mail using their private key (fingerprint).
I sent the email using thunderbird and opened the email using gmail and this is what I get.
I actually wrote:
Thunderbird will automatically decrypt the email given that your thunderbird account has sender’s public key (fingerprint).