Should You Use A PGP Key For Your Email?

While the technology seems to be out of style with the rise in social networks and mobile phones, the truth is that email is still a big part in the way we communicate with people over the internet. While there is a good chance that your 55 year old mother has not signed up for Facebook, there is an even better chance that she does have an email account. When you sign up to get internet access for the first time most ISP providers will give you an email account under their service. And of course there are tons of free email service providers such as GMail and Yahoo.

But there is a dark side of email being such a popular service. Anyone who works on the internet knows that email is still the number one service out there. That includes the bad guys as well. They know that most people still use their email accounts very actively and so a lot of their attacks target people who use email. That is a big part of the reason why you see so much spam in your account when you check it. But you do not have to be a victim when it comes to black hat hackers attacking your email account. There are ways that you can protect yourself. While some of the ways that I will talk about may seem highly technical, they work. So if you think that you are able to handle it then follow along.

Should You Use A PGP Key For Your Email?

Using PGP

The first method that I am going to talk about when it comes to defending your email account is one that is called PGP. The letters PGP stand for Pretty Good Privacy. This is a service that will allow you to encrypt all email messages that you send. It will also check the integrity of the message that you send to make sure that all of the data is either still there or is still the same. If anything is different than the original mail sending before it was encrypted it will then deny it.

So how does it work?

When you have PGP set up, you have both a public key and a private key. The public key allows anyone who wants to email you with an encrypted message the ability to do so. They take the email and encrypt it with the public key. They then send that email to you. You then use the private key that you have on your computer to then decrypt the message. Once you decrypted the message then you are able to read it and respond back to the person. If they have PGP installed on their system you can then do the same thing and your message to them will also be encrypted as well.

Some people are asking what is this good for. It is good for several reasons. The first reason is that if you have an email account invaded by a stranger then they won’t be able to read the messages that you have stored because only you have the key. One of the first thing that a black hat hacker always does is try to break into their targets email account. They want to be able to find out as much about the person as they can and there is no better way to do that than through email. Second of all, if you are on a public network or even share a home network, then no-one will be able to read your messages on that network without your private key. When they open the email all they will see is a bunch of letters that are mixed up and out of place. The message will not make any sense to them at all.

So as you can see, having PGP installed on your system is a good way to stop the bad guys. You just need to make sure that you keep track of your private key. If you do not then you might lock yourself out of your own private messages and will not be able to read them as well.

There are other ways that you can protect your email account. You can make sure that you have a very sophisticated password policy. A good, really thought out password tends to be a good deterrent against people trying to invade your account. If you are a little bit more technically advanced then a lot of email accounts will allow you to check the IP address of the people who log on. You can go in and compare the IP address to the places where you have logged in at. The bottom line is just make sure that you go the extra step in making sure that your email account is safe.

About Lee Munson

Lee's non-technical background allows him to write about internet security in a clear way that is understandable to both IT professionals and people just like you who need simple answers to your security questions.

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