Saturday, February 19, 2011

QuickTip - GnuPG On Windows and Linux

GnuPG is the GNU project's implementation of the OpenPGP standard. PGP stands for Pretty Good Privacy, and is a type of public key encryption. This type of encryption has been around for a very long time and relies on a private key and public key pair to work successfully. You encrypt something with your private key and it can only be decrypted using your public key. But it's just that, public so anyone can read your message encrypted with your private key provided they have acquired your public key from somewhere, like a keyserver.

This doesn't sound very secure I know, and it's not meant to be super secure. It is more meant to provide a way of proving it is a legitimate email from you, since only you hold your private key. To get a secure message to someone you use their public key to encrypt the message, and then sign it with your private key. When you encrypt something with a public key, it can only be decrypted by the private key. The reason you sign it with your private key again is the same as before, this verifies that  it is really you sending it.

Here is a diagram to help make these steps make since.

What's lucky is there are some great tools out there that makes adding this security easy and hassle free.

For Windows users I suggest gpg4win. They have lots of documentation and installation guides. The package even comes with an open source email client with built-in gpg features. I suggest you use a more familiar email client, Thunderbird has a gpg add-on that makes it super easy to use gpg too, plus thunderbird has an auto-configure tool that sets up your email for you.

For Linux users there is gnupg which can be installed from the terminal on Ubuntu with this command:

sudo apt-get install gnupg

After you install this go to gnupg's howto guide and follow the directions to set-up your first gpg key pair. Then if you haven't already install Thunderbird and get the gpg add-on just the same as with windows.

So, go out there and get secure and protect yourself from prying eyes!


  1. I remember reading about this in Little Brother, but wasn't quite sure how to go about doing it. This is a great help.

  2. thanks for those tips! I need to try Linux again

  3. @charles try ubuntu's wubi installer. Makes it super easy to dual boot with windows.

    @pirate I love cory doctorow and his book little brother. It inspired me to use pgp, but most people I know don't use it. We do however use pgp full disk encryption on all our laptops at work

  4. I learned a lot from this post. Thank you.



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