Before email if you wanted to send a letter to someone you would write it out, put it an an envelope, seal the envelope, buy a stamp and send it off with your mail carrier. How would you have felt if you got a call that said your letter had arrived but it had been opened and on the pages were food stains, etc? Clear evidence that the letter had been read. Both parties in this scenario would feel violated, and rightly so. Someone had read a private note that was not meant for them.
This happens with email daily, the only difference is we don’t see any evidence of tampering when we get the message. Since Edward Snowden’s leaking of NSA information it is clear that one of the groups reading our emails is the NSA. But it can also be someone in an internet cafe, or a server admin. Email is plain text as it travels from point A to point B. And sometimes those two points go through a lot of servers. But since we don’t see the evidence we don’t seem to feel the same level of being violated. What was thought to be private simply is not when email is used. But email isn’t going anywhere, so what can we do to give ourselves privacy and still use email?
We can promote email encryption. Email encryption makes it so the contents of your message can only be read by the intended recipient. It won’t matter if someone in the internet cafe intercepts your message, or a server admin tries to peek in on what is being sent through his or her servers. They can still intercept the message, but they can’t read it. Just like the postal carrier can see who a letter is from and who a letter is to, with encrypted email this is also all that can be ascertained.
In an ideal scenario we would all use encryption, but we don’t. In fact very few people encrypt their emails. I personally at this time only know two people who use email encryption. There are two main reasons why I don’t think email encryption is popular.
- People don’t care enough.
- Using encryption takes some learning and some technical know how.
To address these two reasons I will be writing about encryption from time to time outlining scenarios where I believe email encryption is pertinent if not essential. As a Christian and someone who likes to believe that History can teach us valuable lessons, I believe it is very important that we consider using email encryption, especially for missionaries in various locations around the globe. I will delve into this more in a later blog posting. In addition I will be writing up some ‘How To’ posts regarding how to use the two most common forms of email encryption. OpenPGP and S/Mime. Once you set them up email encryption is fairly painless.
If you would like to send me an encrypted email you can fill out a form on my Contact page. This form will encrypt the message before it even leaves your browser so at no point is the message ever plain text. I would welcome any correspondence on this topic.