If you ever want to keep your electronic messages very private, using something called a ‘public-key cryptography’ is a good way to do it. The common implementation of this method is known as PGP, which stands for “pretty good privacy”. (it is better than just pretty good, but the original developer didn’t want to be over confident) The open source community has created the same functionality in their GnuPG (just GPG – GNU Privacy Guard) project. How it actually works is interesting (even though I don’t fully understand the nuts and bolts of it). It uses a two-part ‘key’. Part one of the key is yours only, and is to be kept safe and secure so only you can access it. It is called your private key. Part two of the key is published and given to anyone wishing to exchange messages with you. (they have a two-part key also)
The process to send an encrypted message to someone is:
- Type out your message in plain text.
- Use the GPG program, and your recipient’s public key to encrypt the text, which creates ciphertext.
- Copy the ciphertext into an email, instant message, or hand-written letter and send to your recipient.
To decode an encrypted message that someone sent to you:
- Copy the ciphertext into the GPG progam and use your private key to decrypt back to plain text.
Read more at Gnu Privacy Guard (GnuPG) Mini Howto.
Use Brian Gallimore’s public key to send me messages!