Do you want to have encrypted email but don’t have the time or money or skill to become an international super spy? You’re not alone! Many of us use email to send documents or information that we do not want to end up in the wrong hands, such as credit card details, tax info, business plans, private dreams and thoughts, etc.
To help keep your information safe, there’s SafeMail for Gmail: a free extension for your Chrome browser that uses the PGP (pretty good privacy) encryption and authentication algorithm and makes encrypting your emails a breeze.
SafeMail works on a pretty ancient principle, put into modern context for computers and the complex encryption that is possible with them. Quite simply, when you install it, you will get a new option on your Gmail when you compose a message for it within Chrome. This option appears as a small check box that asks the urbane question, “Encrypt?” and if you check the box to say yes, it will then pop up a few new components on your screen.
First, you’ll see a new button along the top of the composition panel, that says “Send + Encrypt” instead of the usual, bland, “Send” button all by itself. Additionally, you will get two boxes above the content window that will have you fill in the data you will use for encryption. This data consists of a simple question and answer that you make up. Of course, the person you send the encrypted email to will need to know the proper answer to unlock and decode the message so you’ll need to contact them ahead of time to let them know what it is. Naturally you will want to do this by some other means than via email. Once they have the answer, you can send them as many messages as you want using the SafeMail system and they can decode them and read them, all while feeling safe and secure that no random user will be able to read your emails, even if they do manage to somehow get a hold of them. It would simply appear as gibberish (as in the screenshot seen here) that they would not be able to decipher without the decryption code (answer) that you had settled on previously.
Another nice feature of this simple but powerful Chrome extension is that the questions and answers are stored in the “cloud” of SafeMail’s cyber space, but the emails to which they are attached remain exclusively on your system and the receiving person’s system. Decryption of the message is done within the reader’s browser so the SafeMail system never actually gets or can read the content of the message. Additionally, those messages will ‘expire’ after a certain period of time so the sensitive data within them (be it bank data or a secret letter to someone you admire) will vanish into the black hole of the cyber-verse without possibility of retrieval by your enemies.
SafeMail is the grown up version of that nifty decoder ring you got in the bottom of your cereal box when you were a kid. It’s the more evolved and involved version of the secret language that you and your friends developed in high school, and it’s the easiest free solution to encrypting your Gmail that I have found to date. While the developers call it “near military grade encryption” I just call it “useful, convenient and free” so give it a try. If for some reason you don’t like it, the removal process is as easy as clicking a single link in the extensions menu of Chrome. Until next time, my friends.
- Get started with SafeMail for Gmail and Chrome here. [Thanks go to reader Panzer for the tip about this software].