If your concerned about the security of your messages you may have heard of encryption, but what is it and how do you use it? Encryption is used to convert your normal text into unreadable gibberish through the use of an algorithm, in cryptography this is known as ciphertext. The original message is still contained within the cipher but becomes unreadable to anyone without the means to convert it back, a process known as decryption.
If this is starting to sound complex, don’t worry!
You certainly don’t need to be an expert in cryptography or understand the complexities of the algorithm at hand in order to encrypt your communications, you just need to understand the process involved – that’s where this guide comes in!
So how can you start encrypting your messages? That’s where PGP Comes in.
PGP stands for Pretty Good Privacy and is the most widely used software for encrypting communications being used around the world for whistleblowers, drug purchases, privacy advocates and those simply wanting to ensure their own privacy when messaging family and friends.
PGP uses a key-based form of encryption where there are 2 keys, a public and a private. You use a public key to encrypt messages while a private key can only decrypt the messages sent to the corresponding public key, therefore you need to keep the private one secret to prevent anyone from reading your messages, and encryption becoming pointless.
If you’re new to this it may sound complex and strange however it should start to make sense as we set it up.
To use PGP you need to install GNU Privacy Guard (Sometimes simply GnuPG) which is free open-source software available on Windows, Mac and Linux for you to download and start encrypting.
This guide will focus on getting set up on Windows (Even though I’d reccomend you use a different system that actually places value on your security and privacy) however its what most readers are probably using so it’s what this post will focus on. I may publish other editions for different operating systems such as Linux in the future though.
How to set up PGP on Windows
To get started you need to first download Gpg4in, It is the Windows version of GNU Privacy Guard.
Once you’ve downloaded the file and clicked through the user agreement you’ll be greeted with this screen. The software comes with various components that you can choose whether to install as part of your installation. It is important that before clicking next make sure to GPA is ticked, which is often not selected by default – which is what we’ll use for this tutorial!
After you’ve correctly selected all the components simply continue with finishing the installation. Once it’s completed you’ll then need to launch the GPA application (It has a key chain icon).
You then need to set up your private key, you’ll be prompted to generate once, click to do so.
The private key needs to contain details about the holder, for this you will be asked to enter a name followed by an email address.
It is important to note these do not have to be correct, nor does the email address need to be valid. If you’re wanting to communicate anonymously, obviously don’t put in your real name! Instead use a new online identity, and not one you’re already well known by such as your gamertag (As explained in the Deep Web Security Guide) as well as using a made-up email too.
You’ll then be asked if you want to back up your key, I recommend doing so before continuing. Make sure to store it somewhere secure, remember if somebody gets their hands on you’re private key, your encryption is useless.
Next enter a passphrase, I suggest you use a secure passphrase of at least 20 characters, aka don’t be that guy who just uses 1234.
Hurray, you now installed the software! But dow the hell do you use it?
Presuming everything is going successfully you should then see a screen something like this
By right-clicking on your key you can then copy your public key and then paste into a notepad to view it
This is what other people will use to send messages to you, so if you want to be contacted you need to make sure you place this where people can see it. You can upload it to a key directory to help people find you as well as making your job easier by simply directing people to a URL rather than having to paste the entire key block yourself every time.
To start encrypting messages simply click the clipboard icon, a pop-up will then appear where you can begin typing
When you’re done, simply click to encrypt it, then select your key from the list, and there you go, your encrypted message.
This is great, but all we just did was encrypt using our own key! If we want to send encrypted messages to others we need to use their key instead. To do this you need to copy and paste the key, and then save it to a notepad file a bit like we did earlier when we created our own.
You’ll then need to click import key, and select the file you just saved using notepad.
If everything went correctly, you’ll get a pop-up like this:
Now follow the steps as above, but instead of selecting your own key from the list, choose the one you just imported.
If you need a public key to try, and want to test it out. Feel free to send me a message using the key below at firstname.lastname@example.org
Make sure to include your own public key as part of the message so I can respond.
-----BEGIN PGP PUBLIC KEY BLOCK----- Version: GnuPG v2 mQENBFiKBFYBCAC3C/9vSxWtiMdWRSnI1tMJWWK0iCm60nmti8zocbQTPrRvHazy DdkazOSSbGHt16g001ZNUTtDpZrHa4LETkGRb3zfRyhLRq/TneeAQWkBLS6ByNZQ sbvPSI6DBSJqtTq/+dRxEmZdwHcRhPvDrMrqO7KsMJUbRzhNiW/w2ieU/mvYztYU mqUzb7HwR3SAP1IUecewp8xM/JERzjcKNU8Y4dazlTZL7ZdQ4+9zLu7bl8BdAaTB V5nbpLaVPD6iIDZX6SUp9BaTaV4k8hx0yCi/G2RYW6FQr27GT1kLKTisU5+LCh7y z9Uxfo4euzqyYclBxzDLCFqpOg9eBsYyVpeRABEBAAG0IUJsaW5raW5nVGVybWlu YWwgPGZha2VAZW1haWwuY29tPokBOQQTAQgAIwUCWIoEVgIbAwcLCQgHAwIBBhUI AgkKCwQWAgMBAh4BAheAAAoJED2QNzUCRozwiIYH/jGwBrT5BpJJRGthZaMBKlxO 4NWVWPfZeDkZPDraDp+yHoq7SU4W11gq0nHaHfdXf5PwFgXbnDqev5JzYVU7nmdM NUg3ABbJzHW9tC+qZxuWpjOamrKmfmE8QOkcwp46F8BjhhqOWCOn5MHgX8tH1BbO 7OpA1mDC3ze9+NPd5zlH7G595F9nnQjrULViPOX/4XiV13Qv+F68LwAQOaKarK+R sH65CpFZJR7R2IMM++LNIiYI5DjIXZLLq+GggWV+S15hpez0ROr39ULO6QNGASXy h8C4RQzHZCm0TrdSpNsL8YITyTRdlSschhRsozDeR/IaPLpoDmLuAmliOICdu1i5 AQ0EWIoEVgEIAMruybB20dELbNu85on8rYvNuseWpF+N/OGbyXql8wUuaKMpbliN 30QFo3pMTpfJKZJ3D8ikVcdXXhTEPPzk2BDM1ftzKrz1oT2NeItHQZVFqb0wacWF mz+OpFfxUC8LAFFRt5ONuzkAxpoiFYrIoiNrRxCyHUSWbEa/WufmDTGBVr5k/IfK mDAwulwOoMvUfi+tXy4NOqxYGYX15sYal0MTmsjG5k8NWHnLXIWXdoWwTcxjNAYM aKIU4vlCsbO/XbZVX4pl7AvF1HLQes78HwJy81qhJ1ggSXs2Tk5R3C1ScqMSM6Yb L5XNvc7sDYzd4VfbSlLyH0tiX8Ut65FW8RkAEQEAAYkBHwQYAQgACQUCWIoEVgIb DAAKCRA9kDc1AkaM8LcDCACYyy/Mlnqmz1Xlwa4zt1HcQn81Vmv9jE680ZToAA+M QHBE2gYyPr+vTFpovcx9qSM/aJYcQXaVVgoAB4rasy5hEtTk0m1kE8/wiH5OyGeb KDIO3zPr4ZbfrYwdKClo8g8/B4UKgTkMok/zCSkgYPzP0u70w2Fe9LnFBocb6d6Z W1naBLGPxqlO/25ao7fi2pxe41KPwfLrmoqbRntcfshcpmDLbAutFSaajUxBtUTy 4F6px6pT3XWADWDoBowC1+v5vDkGc2u9BXe6Jk5bZ6Oc/ameHmQNSDp2Re2L3PE8 c5QFrgtqsHon2tI01Xu4gFpjKCiPLM8r7bwKnkE7VJNd =IFQ6 -----END PGP PUBLIC KEY BLOCK-----