Securing Email Messages and Files Using PGP

Privacy and data security in the Internet age are huge issues. Many of us send hundreds if not thousands of email messages per year, and give little thought to what happens after we hit the Send button. We naturally assume that the message will arrive in the mailbox of our intended recipient, and that this person will be the only person to see our message. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.

Given the open and inherently unsecured nature of email (and by extension, the Internet), there’s nothing stopping anyone – from hackers to government – from tracking your correspondence. This may not be as simple as it sounds here, but with a little time, money and effort it is not nearly as difficult as you might imagine.

Much in the same way that you might put a letter in an envelope to hide its contents, there are also methods available to secure your email and data files. Of the methods that exist, Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) is among the most secure, in that it makes use of what is known as public key cryptography to both securely encrypt and digitally sign messages and/or data files.

PGP was originally developed by Phil Zimmerman in 1991. Shortly after the release of version 3, the US government laid criminal charges against him, claiming that PGP encryption was ‘munitions grade’. Although the charges were eventually dropped, the fact that the US government went to such lengths gives you an idea of how secure PGP is.

Author: Dan DiNicolo

Dan DiNicolo is a freelance author, consultant, trainer, and the managing editor of He is the author of the CCNA Study Guide found on this site, as well as many books including the PC Magazine titles Windows XP Security Solutions and Windows Vista Security Solutions. Click here to contact Dan.