Encrypt and sign all your Email traffic

Martin Brinkmann
Apr 26, 2007
Updated • Mar 16, 2014
Email, Encryption

If you want to make sure that no one is eavesdropping on your mail traffic you should use encryption. The problem with most encryption services is that setting them up and talking others into setting them up as well is a problematic task. Encryption only works if both the sender and the recipient use the same service to encrypt the emails.

One of the easiest ways to setup a service that encrypts your emails is the encryption software Ciphire. Ciphire is a program that is available for Windows, Linux and Mac and can be downloaded for free from the developers homepage.

Before you can use email encryption you need to generate encryption keys for every email address that you use. Don't worry the process is really easy and straightforward. The first email address can be added during the first start of Ciphire.

The process looks like the following:

  • Enter the email address that you want to add
  • Ciphire generates RSA, DSA and ElGamal Data
  • A verification email is send to the email that you have added in the first step
  • Retrieve new mails from your mail client (in my case Thunderbird). The verification email should be amongst the emails. Open it, wait a few seconds and the account creation switches to the next step.
  • You can either export the key if you are using Ciphire on different computers (home, work, notebook..) or finish the account creation process

Ciphire uses private and public key encryption. The private key is of course private and used to encrypt messages that have been encrypted by other users with your public key. This means of course that the user who is sending you encrypted emails needs your public key to encrypt them. Most encryption applications had a very complicated method of sending your public key to other users.

Ciphire on the other hand handles this task for you. Whenever you send someone an email Ciphire is automatically checking an Internet database that contains all public keys from all email addresses that are using the system. The email is also digitally signed which means that your account is protected against identity theft as well.

The encryption and decryption process is working automatically. If you send someone a mail and Ciphire detects that the other user is also using Ciphire your email will automatically be encrypted. If you receive an encrypted mail it will be decrypted before it reaches your inbox.

This is by far the easiest way to encrypt emails. It should be noted that Ciphire only works with emails that are received and send from within an email client. If you use webmail accounts you should add them as pop3 accounts to your mail software as well to be able to send encrypted messages with them.

Update: Ciphire's website is no longer available. It is not clear at this point in time if this is just a temporary technical issue or if the project has been discontinued.

I suggest you start using GnuPG instead. The Gnu Privacy Guard is a free implementation of the OpenPGP standard, available for Linux, Windows and Mac systems. It uses the same private and public key encryption scheme as Ciphire.

The website offers an excellent tutorial that walks you through the installation and configuration of the encryption software on your system.


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  1. Joe said on April 30, 2014 at 6:26 pm

    A major concern that you didn’t mention: what if two people use the same filename? I assume this will simply overwrite the earlier file, rather than adding an incremental number or using some other method to avoid overwriting.

    To avoid that, you have to “add ingredients” using the big blue plus sign in the “File Name” area when setting up the Dropbox section of the recipe. I had mine use sender address, time received, AND file name (in case someone sends the same filename twice and I want both copies, which could happen if they use some boilerplate name like “NewDocument1”).

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on April 30, 2014 at 6:52 pm

      Is not Dropbox using copies of files automatically in this case? But good point, need to investigate this.

    2. Martin Brinkmann said on April 30, 2014 at 11:55 pm

      I have tested it, only on Google Drive but still. Same name attachments are stored as well. You end up with several same name files in the same folder structure but that is okay I guess.

  2. Blue said on May 1, 2014 at 7:03 pm

    They are poor variations of cloud storage (Google Drive, Dropbox or Microsoft’s OneDrive.) because they have specific limitations which do not make them idea as a cloud storage even for personal use. They don’t allow executable files (EXE, COM, BAT) to be uploaded or saved on their servers. I have purchase a few programs from online sources and want to save them in a cloud for easy access on the go. “Google Drive, Dropbox or Microsoft’s OneDrive.”, do not allow executable files so aren’t really a good choice for cloud storage or drop box option.

    So MediaFire or Firedrive to the rescue. Both allow executable files uploaded, saved and shared (Mediafire checks copyrights of the files shared). Plus for programmers, who need to allow a few individuals to download a specific file or folder to beta test a program, Mediafire and Firedrive are great resources. Firedrive allows online chat and messaging between Dropbox and shared file users. But as they are based in UK their download speed is not consistent for all Canada/USA users.

    1. Joe said on May 1, 2014 at 10:31 pm

      I’ve never seen that limitation on Dropbox – I’ve been storing dozens of .exe and .bat files there for years. I thought maybe you were referring only to the web uploader (I never use it – my files are all uploaded from synchronized folders), but I just tested it and it works. Maybe you should give Dropbox another look.

  3. Joe said on May 1, 2014 at 10:53 pm

    Another limitation: it apparently can only pull in one attachment. I usually wouldn’t have a use for this, but right now I am accepting job applications via email, so I was excited to try it out. I’ve received two so far, and both used multiple attachments for cover letter, resume, and references. In both cases, only one attachment made it into Dropbox. The recipe “ingredient” in IFTTT is “FirstAttachmentPrivateURL”, and there are no options other than “First…”.

    Of course, if you are asking people to send attachments, you could always specify to include just one file per email.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on May 1, 2014 at 11:16 pm

      They could also pack multiple files into a single archive.

    2. Garrett Williams said on December 10, 2014 at 5:02 pm

      Because of this, I chose to have IFTTT just save all attachments instead of filtering to a specific sender or label. Multiple attachments worked just fine after that, though of course now I have various other attachments mixed in.
      I know this is an old comment, but it seems this solution should be mentioned.

      My main issue is that it doesn’t have the option of overwriting the old file, which puts a roadblock in my automation, as updated files must have a consistent name. Likely adding yet another online service to the mix to remedy that.

      @Martin: While a too-technical step for many people, asking for a zipped file might be a really nice test of computer literacy if hiring for a very technical job.

  4. Nathan Smith said on March 14, 2015 at 6:25 am

    “You can change the folder path where those files are transferred to however”

    Do you just change one or more?
    File URL
    File name
    Dropbox folder path

    My dropbox folder name for example is John Smith……………however the path to get there is John Work/Clients/Jane Client

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