Securing Email Messages and Files Using PGP

If you want to protect individual files on your laptop, you can use the Encrypt utility within PGPmail. This will allow you to select individual files to encrypt, prompting you as to which public key should be used for this purpose. If you select your own public key, you’ll be the only one who can decrypt the new encrypted version of the file. This is a great security feature, as it helps to ensure that if your laptop is ever lost or stolen, rogue users will not be able to access your sensitive files.

Finally, the PGPmail utility also includes utilities to securely delete files from a drive and wipe free disk space clean. These utilities exist because deleting a file is Windows doesn’t necessarily remove it from disk permanently, allowing it to be recovered with undelete utilities. If you want to be sure that a particular file (or free space on a drive) is securely deleted, then be sure to use these tools, an example of which is shown below.

PGP is an exceptionally secure method of protecting your data and email messages. However, the security it provides is only as good as your protection of your private key. If your private key ever becomes compromised or stolen, data can no longer be considered secure. To that end, if you ever lose your private key, you’ll never be able to open any files encrypted with your public key, so be careful to export it and store it safely in the event that you reinstall your operating system. If you do lose your keys, you’ll need to run the PGP Key Generation Wizard again to create a new key pair, of which the public key will need to be redistributed to users you communicate with.

Looking for a little more information on PGP? If so, fire up your web browser and visit the following sites:

www.pgp.com The official PGP homepage, including documentation and links to download the free PGP Personal Desktop software.

www.pgpi.com An international mirror site that allows users in different countries to download PGP documentation and files from different servers and in different languages.

www.gnupg.org Home of GnuPG, PGP-compliant software for systems running Linux. This version is compatible with PGP, but suffers from some interoperability issues.

www.openpgp.org Home of the Open PGP Alliance, a consortium of organizations dedicated to the standardization of free PGP-based cryptography on the Internet.

Author: Dan DiNicolo

Dan DiNicolo is a freelance author, consultant, trainer, and the managing editor of 2000Trainers.com. 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.