With PRISM news losing momentum and shifting to Snowden's whereabouts almost entirely, it is likely that the majority of the world population will have forgotten about it very soon. It is unlikely that anything will be done about it to prevent that data is grabbed by agencies around the world, so that users are left with protecting their data individually.
Secure Gmail is one of those solutions. The application is currently only available as an extension for Google Chrome which somewhat limits its reach, but it is a start and it has a lot going for it. First, it is Open Source which means that you can dive right into the source code to check it out before you start using the extension.
Second, it does the encrypting and decrypting on the local system, so that emails cannot be read by Google or anyone else listening unless the correct password is known or guessed.
Third, it is super easy to set up and use.
The first thing that you need to do is install the Secure Gmail extension for Google Chrome. Once you have done so you will find a new lock icon next to Gmail's compose button at the top. You click on it to create a secure message, or click on compose to create unencrypted emails instead.
The compose window highlights that the email is secured and you can use it as usual to write the message, add recipients and subjects and all that good stuff.
A click on send encrypted displays a password prompt that you need to complete. The password you select encrypts the message and needs to be known by the recipient so that it can be decrypted. You can optionally add a password hint to the encryption which may help the recipient figure out the password.
Most of the time though you may need to provide the recipient with the password as hints may help third parties with their decrypting attempts as well.
The email arrives encrypted in the recipient's inbox. Two different clear text messages are displayed on the screen depending on whether you have the Secure Gmail extension installed or not.
If you do have the extension installed, you get the message that it is encrypted, and that you need to decrypt the message with a password. The password hint is also displayed if it has been added by the sender.
A click on decrypt message with password opens a password prompt on the screen. Enter the password here and if it is correct, the original message is displayed on the screen.
If the Secure Gmail extension is not installed or if another browser is used or a third party email program, then you receive the message that the email is encrypted and that you need to download and install the extension first to decrypt it.
If you are looking for an easy to implement way to encrypt some of your emails, then Secure Gmail is definitely an extension to consider for that purpose. It is somewhat limited in terms of platforms it supports, and not the right tool if you want or require full encryption.
If you change passwords often, you may also run into decrypting issues eventually as it may be difficult to associate passwords with emails. There are a couple of ways, for instance by using the hint feature or by associating passwords with days, but even then, it may become too complex to be efficient.Advertisement
Advertising revenue is falling fast across the Internet, and independently-run sites like Ghacks are hit hardest by it. The advertising model in its current form is coming to an end, and we have to find other ways to continue operating this site.
We are committed to keeping our content free and independent, which means no paywalls, no sponsored posts, no annoying ad formats or subscription fees.
If you like our content, and would like to help, please consider making a contribution:
Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.