With the revelations being made known regarding the surveillance tactics used by the US government, people have begun to take interest in making use of encryption tools which can keep their emails, their files and their conversations private. Yahoo and Google have both recently stated that they would be including encryption into Yahoo Mail and Gmail respectively. The problem however is that encryption is something only power users can handle. Email encryption is something which requires a desktop email client, who doesn’t use webmail these days? The problem is one the respective companies are aiming to take care of. They aren’t however the only ones. Recently, easy to use encryption tools have come up which are well designed and easy to use and which don’t require usage habits to be changed too drastically.
This article talks about 3 of them which are all Chrome extensions and apps but can also be found for other browsers and platforms. The tools mentioned however are not being suggested to use under dangerous situations but can be used to keep data private from co-workers, private companies and passive government snoops for e.g.
Cryptocat: this is probably the easiest one to use which is an instant messaging program created by Nadim Kobeissi who is a programmer based in Montreal. The tool can be used to chat with either one person or with a number of people. The tool can be installed from the Chrome Web Store and can be opened from the taskbar launcher once it has been installed. While Cryptocat is a relatively popular software for encrypted messaging, no program can be free from problems. In July of 2013, conversations through Cryptocat were potentially exposed to decryption due to a programming issue. While the problem was taken care of, it still goes to show how one needs to be careful when using such software’s. Kobeissi does state that one shouldn’t trust their life when using software and Cryptocat too can’t hide your IP address suggesting that your location can be revealed. It can also not save you from any malicious software which is already running on your computer.
Mailvelope: this is an email encryption tool which is made to work with webmail services such as Yahoo Mail, Gmail and Outlook.com. This is considered to be one of the hardest tools to make use of however despite it; it is still not too difficult to understand. Once it has been installed, click on its button on the right and select options from where you can generate or import existing key pairs. Once you do this, you can begin to write your encrypted email. Once you have finished writing your email, you can select the lock icon to select a contact to encrypt the message and/or to either select a writing icon to sign the message using your key. Upon completing this, you can click on transfer which will allow your encrypted or signed message to be copied into a regular composition window after which you can simply send the email like you would normally.
miniLock: this is the newest encryption tool and helps users to encrypt single files. This can be done to keep the files secure for you or to make sure that would only be opened by those for whom the file is intended. Generally, the app makes use of what is known as the miniLock ID which allows files to be encrypted. It is generated based upon your email address and password. By sharing this ID with other, they too can make use of the app to encrypt files which only you can open. It’s just that simple.
Encryption is a good way of keeping data private and with the help of these tools offered by Chrome and other browsers and platforms, the ability to do so is becoming easier.