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Encrypt Web Based Email with Mailvelope

Encrypt Web Based Email with Mailvelope

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Mailvelope is an open source browser plugin for both Firefox and Chromium. This plugin will allow you to encrypt and decrypt any email using your own public and private keys. Mailvelope offers more options than Streak because it is not limited to the Chromium browser and Gmail. Mailvelope utilizes Public Key Encryption while Streak relies on a shared password. Mailvelope can be used to encrypt email on the following email services: Gmail, Yahoo® , Microsoft Live®, and many others. If you do not see your email provider, Mailvelope will allow you to enter it into its settings (we will go over this further down). Mailvelope is extremely simple to use and we will show you the basics for encrypting email with Mailvelope.

First you will need someone’s public encryption key to encrypt email. You can use your own public key to test out the  functionality of Mailvelope and encrypt an email to send to yourself. If you do not know how Public Key Encryption works, you can start by looking at this page.

If you are using Firefox, download the plugin here. If you are using Chromium, download the plugin here.

We will be showing you the Firefox version of Mailvelope. There is hardly no difference in the two. Click on the Mailvelope plugin icon in your browser you will see this drop down image. Click on the +Add button to begin configuring your email to be used with Mailvelope:


mailvelope-browser-plugin


Next you will see the default email providers. Find the email service you are using and select it:


If you do not see your email service listed click on +Add New Site. You will then be prompted to enter the specific information to get the email service setup with Mailvelope. Here is the example of adding Gmail to Mailvelope. If you need help adding your email client post in the comments section of this page.


In the Key Managment tab,  you will need to generate encryption keys if you do not have any, or upload both your public and private keys. You can also simply copy and paste the public and private keys to be saved in Mailvelope. This is also where you would upload all your friends public keys. It is your responsibility to keep your private keys safe. Your keys are not uploaded anywhere, they stay resident on your computer where you have control of them. For good measures always encrypt your Hard Drive, keep your computer clean of Malware, use a firewall, and limit others access to your computer or user account etc.

Mailvelope stores the keys in the local storage of the browser and only there. This is a file in the user data directory of Chrome or the profiles folder of Firefox. If you clear temporary browsing data this will not affect the key storage of Mailvelope. If you delete the Mailvelope Chrome extension, then the key storage will also be removed from your file system. For the Firefox add-on the local key storage is currently not purged on uninstall due to a bug (You will not need to access this area, this is just for informational purposes).


* If you want to generate encryption keys up to 8192 bits using android to use with Mailvelope, look here. Or you can generate new 8192bit keys from our key generation page.


You can also import newly created keys here:


Now go into the options tab, security. At the bottom I would suggest the following options to be chosen (image below):

Where are the decrypted messages displayed:

In a separate popup from Mailvelope – If you choose On the page of the mail provider you render the possibility of your decrypted email to be cached on your email server. Gmail auto saves any text in this area by default. Let’s not give them our clear text email. It is ok to leave the encrypted version in your inbox.

Where do you want to compose your mail?

In a separate text editor window belonging to Mailvelope – Again I use the example of Gmail. When you type your email in Gmail’s compose email area, the text is automatically saved to Google’s servers. If we are encrypting an email for privacy, we wouldn’t want anyone to have access to the clear text version.

 


Next, log into you online mail service and click Compose to begin composing an email. Here is an example of what you would see if you were using Gmail. You would want to click on the Mailvelope icon presented to you in Gmail’s New Message screen.


Now you should see Mailvelope’s Compose Mail screen. You can now safely begin composing an email to be encrypted:


Once you have composed your email click on Encrypt. Now you must select the recipients public key so the email can be encrypted for them:


Your email will now encrypt using the selected recipients public key. Click Transfer.


Now Mailvelope will safely transfer the encrypted message to Gmail’s New Message screen for final deployment. Your clear text message never touches Google’s servers.


If the recipient of a Mailvelope encrypted email has the Mailvelope plugin, they will see this for their encrypted message. They will then have to click on the Mailvelope envelope icon and enter their Private Key password to decrypt their message. Done! This concludes the Mailvelope tutorial.

Mailvelope is great for those who wish to add PGP encryption to their mainstream web based email accounts. If only Mailvelope deployed perfect forward secrecy this would have been a better choice.


If you want to generate encryption keys up to 8192 bits using android to use with Mailvelope, look here. You can also generate encryption keys up to 8192 bits using our online PGP key generator.

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