How To Encrypt And Secure Your Email



This guest post was written by Keshav Khera from TechAlerts, where he blogs about Technology, Web 2.0, Internet and blogging. Do visit his blog for more great content and Subscribe to his feed for regular updates.

Email is private, right? Think again. All your email can be read, and not just by your friends. Be careful of what you send out, since it just might return to haunt you. There are ways to keep email safe, but this information is not widely known.

Whether it is your competitor, getting hands on your super sensitive official data or your personal life being made a part of the office gossip, the consequences can be severe.
Setting up a good password only protects your inbox and in fact when you send an email message, it is transferred in clear text and can be read by anybody peeping into the network.

Securing you Email, involves two factors to be kept in mind, Encrypting and Digitally Certifying your mail message. So lets follow the steps and proceed toward making your email private to just you and your friend receiving it. 

Digital Certificates

A digital certificate is a public key certificate(or identity certificate) is an electronic document which incorporates a digital signature to bind together a public key with an identity information such as the name of a person or an organization, their address, and so forth. The certificate can be used to verify that a public key belongs to an individual.

Digital Certificates or signatures are the solution to the age old problem of verifying the identity of the sender. To get a digital signature, you will have to apply to company which supplies digital signatures. If you want a digital certificate to use commercially, you can get one from VeriSign, but a small fee will be charged.

Here I will talk about mainly of free non commercial signatures. You can get free digital signatures for non commercial use from Thawte and Comodo.

I myself used Comodo, because its user response is good and its certificate retrieval process is very easy and simple. So here I will explain the process taking Comodo in mind.

Getting Them 

  • Surf to http://www.comodo.com/
  • Click the FREE Email Security Certificate(You can click here too) link under the “Free (means Free) Products” tab.
  • Click the “Get Your Free Email Cert Now” 
  • You will be taken to a page where you will have to enter your details such as name, email address, country, password and agreement etc.. Enter all those and click continue button.
  • You will be sent a mail with a link to get the certificate. Click the link in the mail for getting the cert.
  • A new page will open telling you that your certificate has been installed and is ready to use. But the problem is that you can’t see it. 
  • Now the next step will be making a backup of the certificate.
  • If you are using Firefox, follow the steps: Go to Tools> Options> Advanced> Encryption> View Certificates The Certificate Manager window will open and you certificate will be listed there (if it’s not listed, then recheck all the steps you have followed). Select your certificate and click the Backup button> Select the location and enter the password which you have selected upon registration.
  • If you are using Internet Explorer, follow these steps: Go to Tools> Internet Options> Content> Certificates and follow the same instruction as above of backing them up.
  •  Backing up your certificates is important,because if you loose your certificate, you will not be able to prove your identity as well as email encrypted with that signature will not be ale to open with out it.

We will come to the mail clients later. First let us see the Encrypting part.

Encryption

Signing and Encrypting the messages are two different aspects. When you sign a mail message, the receiver gets to know that you have sent it, it just proves your identity. But when you encrypt a mail message, the receiver will be the only person who will be able to OPEN it. So to encrypt messages, you and the one receiving the message, both should have Certificates and should have conversed with mail messages before. With this I mean that when you and your friend interact with email, the email client of both of you, recognizes your certificates. So in short, for enabling encryption, you and your friend should first exchange Digitally Signed messages. Just click the sign button and leave the encrypt button in the mail client.

Using Them In Your Mail Client

Just click the New mail Button and click the Sign and Encrypt buttons but do remember what I said in the Encryption part above, and there you go with your super safe mails. So next you get a signed mail, you will see a lock image in your mail client with that mail.
Encrypted emails can only be opened on a computer on which the certificate is installed. So you can backup your certificate on flash drive or online and install it whenever and wherever you need to read your mails.

I think I have made everything clear as much as possible, but still if you face problems you can submit a comment here or just email me.

30 Comments

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  8. Trey says:

    Thanks for all the help dude.