How to Encrypt Your Email

June 28, 2017

In past newsletters, we have told you how email is not a secure form of communication. As an email travels from one sever to another, it can be intercepted and read by programs (called bots) that harvest information from email. We told you to never send sensitive or important information of any kind through email. We have been asked several times if there’s a way to set up secure email. The answer was always, yes, but it’s not easy and it probably doesn’t work like you think it would.

Recently, however, we have been testing a Firefox add-on called “Encrypted  Communication”. This add-on is limited in what it will work with and there are still extra steps you have to go through. But using this add-on, you can indeed send an encrypted email.

First, you need Firefox (http://www.getfirefox.com) and you have to install the “Encrypted Communications” add-on(https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/encrypted-communication/).  Next, you must be using webmail. You can’t be using Windows 10 Mail, Thunderbird, Windows Live Mail, Outlook, or anything like that. You must be using the webmail interface to your email, which all email has. To access your webmail, open Firefox. In the top address bar (not the search bar) enter the address for your webmail. Here is a very partial list of the most popular ones.

If your email address ends with Go to
Gmail.com http://www.gmail.com
Yahoo.com, att.net, sbcglobal.net, prodigy.net http://mail.yahoo.com
Austin.rr.com http://mail.twc.com
Hotmail.com, outlook.com, msn.com, live.com http://www.outlook.com
AOL http://mail.aol.com

Once you have Firefox and Encrypted Communications all set up, use Firefox to access your webmail. Compose a new email. When you are ready to send, right-click anywhere in the body of the message and choose Encrypt Communication. It will then ask you for a password. STOP!!

Make sure you use a good password. The longer the better. It should include multiple uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. There should not be any words in it that appear in the dictionary. It should not include any names of any kind. It should not relate to any information about you (dates of birth, phone numbers, kid’s birthdays, street address, etc.). Can’t think of a good password? Use a password generator to make this easy https://www.roboform.com/password-generator.
Use a password manager to safely store and manage your passwords.
For more information about how to create a good password, read this article on our website. For more information about password managers, read this article on our website.

If I didn’t make that clear, make sure you use a good password. It will ask you to verify the password, so you’ll have to enter it twice. After that, your email is now encrypted. You can now press the send button.

Now, the person you are sending the email to will also have to use Firefox. They will also have to have the Encrypted Communication add-on installed. And, you will have to tell them what the password is for that email. No, don’t email them the password. Call them, text them, send them a letter, whatever. Assuming the recipient of the email has all of that, they will get an email that looks like a bunch of random characters. All they have to do is right-click on the body of the message and choose Decyrpt Communication. It will then prompt them for the password. Once the correct password is entered, the email will be readable. If they close the email and re-open it, they will have to re-input the password.

So, there you have it. You can send encrypted email. And that means absolutely nobody can read that email except you and the recipient, right? Unfortunately, no. Encrypting an email as described above will prevent almost everyone from reading it, but not everyone. The NSA, for example, can get around just about any type of encryption according to documents leaked by Edward Snowden.

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