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Chapter 8. E-mail Security > Pretty Good Privacy: Encrypted, Sealed, and Signed...

Pretty Good Privacy: Encrypted, Sealed, and Signed E-mail

A bumper sticker out there says, “My child reads your honor student's e-mail.” What a message! It seems true today that the majority of people using their computers do not realize in the least just how easy it is for someone else to read their e-mail. If the password can't be guessed, other means can be taken to read the message. Encryption is the strongest defense in keeping e-mail private. If you think it is an invasion of your privacy that the people in your office, at your house, and even your government can all read your e-mail, we want you to realize that there is something you can do about it. Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) software is free. It was created and has been actively developed since 1991. PGP Freeware is the best publicly available and free program for securing e-mail. Commercial and corporate versions of PGP are available from Network Associates at www.pgp.com. Network Associates recently put the PGP product line up for sale; it's uncertain who the next owner will be.

If you have a reason to keep your e-mail private or secure, you need software to encrypt it. Encryption is the process of taking a readable message and turning it into unreadable gibberish. If someone else gets the encrypted message, he will not be able to read it unless he decrypts it first. It seems easy enough to click a button to have your e-mail encrypted, but how is the e-mail supposed to be decrypted and read? Asking someone to just click a button to decrypt wouldn't be very secure. After all, the purpose of encryption is to make it difficult for some unintended recipient to read the message. Public key cryptography is the answer. It provides a system of secure communications and secure exchange of keys.


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