The widespread reliance on emails for communication between employees at the workplace, coupled with the increased incidences of cybercrime including phishing attacks has made email security a top priority. The danger of your sensitive data ending up in the wrong hands is very real and the consequences can be devastating. Large companies such as Target and TJX have suffered massive data breaches by hackers in recent times with millions of sensitive customer accounts and data compromised.
Email encryption is the science of rendering plain-text email unreadable to all but the intended reader using a strong protocol. Despite the fact that email encryption has been in the public domain since the mid-1990s, about 50% of all email is still sent unencrypted. OpenPGP (Pretty Good Privacy) is the gold standard when it comes to email encryption due to its proven reliability and ability to be seamlessly integrated with existing email clients.
OpenPGP Encryption: How it Works
OpenPGP is a popular program used to encrypt and decrypt email and authenticate digital signatures and stored files. The program was developed by Philip R. Zimmerman in 1997 and has now become the de facto standard for email security. The program is an asymmetrical form of encryption whereby each user has a private encryption key only known to them and a public key that is shared between users. When the intended recipient gets the message, they use their private key to decrypt it. Since encrypting a long message can be time-consuming, OpenPGP uses a fast encryption algorithm during encryption and the public key to encrypt the short key that was used to encrypt the message. Both the short key and the encrypted message are sent to the receiver who uses their private key to decrypt the short key which is then used to decrypt the entire message.
Taking Advantage of OpenPGP
You can get OpenPGP by downloading or purchasing it then installing it on your PC. The program contains a user interface that works with customary email programs. Symantec acquired PGP Corp. in 2010 and the technology stopped being offered for free. Symantec offers various encryption products including Symantec Encryption Desktop, Symantec Encryption Desktop Storage and Symantec Desktop Email Encryption. With Microsoft Outlook, you can use the gpg4o plugin to accomplish email encryption.
OpenPGP is the open-source version of PGP with no licensing requirements. The standard was developed by Zimmerman, the developer of the original PGP version, to allow vendors to develop solutions that were compatible with OpenPGP. One such solution is GnuPGP that is developed based on the OpenPGP standard and is available as free software download.
Other than encrypting your emails, you should observe other internet security measures as well. For instance, it’s advisable that you avoid using the save passwords option in your browsers, especially if you share the same PC with several other people.