How To Use PGP Encryption To Stay Safe

How to Use PGP Encryption to Stay Safe

The question of online safety has become ever more urgent. Whatever protection people think of, someone finds a way to attack/ruin it for the rest of us. It’s been a long time since you could truly feel safe and anonymous on the internet.

It is STILL possible to make it harder for the inquisitive butt-ins and to manage to keep your business to yourself – with a little help of PGP encryption you can be much safer.

PGP – what does it stand for? How does it work? How is it used?

PGP means “Pretty Good Privacy” which it is. It allows us to encrypt our messages so that only the person intended to read the message can decipher it.

The whole process is quite elegant – you need a keypair: public, which anyone can see, and private, which only you know and have access to.

You’re basically using your private key to encrypt your message, which you send to someone using his public key and who has to use HIS private key to be able to decipher your message.

Should anyone try to intercept your message he would only see some scrambled letters and numbers similar to this:

There are several ways to encrypt messages using PGP, but these are the most popular. Both refer to Windows operating system.

1. GPG4WIN (easier way)
2. GnuPG (somewhat complicated; still, pretty simple)

Being the easier way, we will cover the first option in this short article.

Installation

First, you need to download the appropriate software, in this case, GPG4WIN; everything you need to write a PGP message is included within the program. So, click the above link and let’s encrypt our first message!

1. The installation process is quite simple, just click Next button when prompted.
2. When the installation prompts you to choose components you wish to install, make sure you check the GPA box, as in the below picture.
Generating PGP keypair

To be able to encrypt your messages using PGP you need to generate your personal PGP keypair – your public and private key.

1. Click the menu Keys and then New Key. This triggers an easy-to-follow wizard which will ask some basic information about you. There is no need for this information to be valid; in fact, you are strongly advised to do just the opposite!
2. However, when the wizard prompts you to create a backup copy of your PGP keypair – create the backup copy as you’re told! Otherwise, your privacy is in danger.
The wizard will create a .asc file on your computer which can be easily opened with Notepad and it will contain your public key, the one you will share with the world.

3. Important note: when copying your public key, make sure you copy from the first to the last dash, like in the picture:

Importing public keys

Another important step before we compose our first PGP message is to import the recipient’s public key. This can be done in 4 simple steps:

a. Before you begin, create a blank .txt file.
b. Copy the recipient’s public key into this text file.
c. Go to menu Keys and choose Import Keys…
d. Choose your previously created .txt file.
If the importation finished successfully, the program will show you this confirmation popup:
PGP at work…

Or Encrypting a Message

And now we are finally ready to encrypt our message for the first time.

1. See that quickbar with some icons on it? Click Clipboard icon and start typing.
3. It will open a popup window where you will have to choose the sender-key and the receiver-key.
4. Your PGP encrypted message will look very similar to the below picture. Simply copy the “text” from the first dash to the last and send it to the person you are talking to.
Decrypting a message
When the person you are chatting with replies, you will probably receive a similarly scrambled message which you now need to decipher or decrypt.
1. Simply paste the message into your Clipboard and
2. Click Decrypt.
It’s as simple as that! I hope this short guide was enough to convince you to PGP your messages and I hope it helps you get started. But to understand PGP more, you need to use it and experiment with it; see if it has other uses apart from encrypting messages. (hint: it does!) So, have fun with it and stay safe!

Person with Mask making victory sign with the right hand.

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