How to Send Encrypted Emails in Gmail and Outlook.
Email is the most popular form of business communication. And most of the time we use it to send confidential information containing things like bank details, tax returns, personal information, etc. If you send this information in a regular email, then anyone with access to that specific email letter, including but not limited to government agencies, email providers, third parties, etc., may read its contents.
So, if you’re looking for a little privacy and want to make sure only the recipient can read emails, then here’s how to send encrypted emails.
On the subject: 6 Things You Need To Know About Email Encryption
Gmail has encryption, but it is limited
By default, Gmail encrypts all emails you send and receive from it. But there is a catch. Any email you send from Gmail to Gmail is encrypted. However, any email that you send from Gmail to other email providers (such as Outlook or Yahoo) is not encrypted, otherwise you won’t be able to see the email due to unsupported encryption. That being said, although Gmail encrypts your emails, it can still access your email and scan for keywords or other content to display ads. Moreover, when Google receives requests or orders from government agencies, it must fulfill those orders and provide access to your emails without your knowledge.
Thus, we need a powerful, free, open source method to encrypt our emails so that only the recipient can open and read them.
Related: Find out if the email you sent was open or not
Send encrypted email messages in Gmail and Outlook
Note. Although I show this in Gmail, the procedure is the same even if you are using other email service providers like Outlook, GMX, etc.
For sending encrypted emails to Gmail or other popular email providers like Outlook, GMX, etc., We will use Mailvelope. In case you didn’t know, Mailvelope is a free and open source project that provides end-to-end encryption using the OpenPGP standard to ensure secure email messaging.
Since Mailvelope uses the OpenPGP standard, all emails sent and received are encrypted using public keys. To decrypt a message, you must have the corresponding private key. Without the private key, you cannot decrypt the letter. Don’t worry, I’ll show you how to create keys and send and receive emails with Mailvelope. Please note that Mailvelope must be installed on both the sender and the recipient system.
Key generation and public key export
First, install the Mailvelope Chrome extension. Once installed, click the Mailvelope icon and select Options. If you are a Firefox user, you can download the Mailvelope Firefox add-on from its official website.
The above action will open the Mailvelope settings page. This is where you first need to create your own public and private keys. To do this, click on the “Generate Key” option, enter your name, e-mail address, strong password and click the “Generate” button. To facilitate the transfer of the public key, you can select the Upload Public Key to Mailvelope Server check box.
Once the key has been generated, Mailvelope will display a success message.
Now go to the “Display Keys” tab. This page will show your primary key pair.
After creating a key pair, you need to export and distribute the public key so that other users can use it to encrypt emails. Click your name to export your public key. This will open the Basic Information window. Here go to the Export tab, select Public and click the Save button.
This will download the public key to your Downloads folder. Now send this public key file to the user who wants to send you encrypted emails.
You can share your public key with a friend in any form, even post it on your Facebook wall. As long as people have your public key, they can only send you messages. But never share your private key with anyone.
So, make sure you store the private key securely. Without your private key, you will not be able to decrypt emails encrypted with your public key. You can export a private key in the same way as a public key. All you have to do is select the “Personal” tab in the “Basic Information” window.
Import the public key and send an encrypted email
To send encrypted emails to a person, you first need to have their public PGP key. You can ask a person for their public key. If they don’t know how to create one, share this tutorial with them.
Once you get their public key, open Mailvelope options, go to the Import tab, and click the Select Key Text File to Import button.
In this window, select the recipient’s public PGP key and click the “Open” button.
The above action will import the public key. From now on, you can send encrypted emails to that specific person who owns the public key.
To send an email, launch Gmail in your web browser and click the Compose button to compose a new email. This action will open a new editing panel. Here, enter the user’s email address, subject line, and then click the little Edit icon that appears in the main email field.
This action will open a new encrypted window. Here enter your message and click the “Encrypt” button.
This is it. Your message will be encrypted and you will only see random gibberish in the Gmail edit window. Just click the “Send” button to send your email.
Once you receive an encrypted email, you can easily decrypt it. Open the email in your Gmail client. Mailvelope instantly identifies the encrypted message and displays the Mailvelope icon over the message. Just click on it.
If you have the private key, you will be prompted for the password that was used to create the key pair. Just enter your password and hit the enter button to see the decrypted message.
Send secure email attachments in Gmail
Besides regular emails, you may sometimes need to send encrypted email attachments. Luckily, you can use Mailvelope to send encrypted email attachments.
Encrypt and send email attachments
To encrypt file attachments, open the Mailvelope Settings page and navigate to File Encryption. Here select “Encryption” in the left pane and then click the “Add” button. Please note that attachments must not exceed 25 MB.
In this window, select the file (s) and click the “Open” button.
After the file has been added, click the “Next” button.
On this screen, select the user’s email address from the drop-down menu, click the Add button and then Encrypt. As you might guess, when you click the “Encrypt” button, the file will be encrypted with that user’s public key. If you can’t find the email address you want in the dropdown menu, it simply means that you don’t have the public key of the person you want to send.
The above action will encrypt the file. Just click the “Save All” button to download the encrypted file.
Once downloaded, add the encrypted file as an email attachment and send it.
Decrypt email attachments
Decrypting an email attachment is pretty straightforward. To get started, download the encrypted email attachment to your desktop. Now open the Mailvelop options page and navigate to the File Encryption page. Here select “Decryption” in the left pane and then click the “Add” button.
Now select and open the encrypted file.
Click the Next button here to continue.
If you have the correct private key to decrypt the file, you will be prompted for a password. Just enter your password and click OK.
This is it. The file will be decrypted and you can download it by clicking the “Save All” button.
Hope it helps, and leave a comment below sharing your thoughts and experiences on using the above method to encrypt email in Gmail and Outlook.
Related: Disguise your email address when using it on shady sites