Encryption For The Uninitiated

With governments poking their nose into people’s affairs and the increased prevalence of spying on their population it seems more encryption is needed to keep one’s communications private.

But how one wonders. The FBI, CIA and almost all of the worlds ‘secret’ agencies have a back door into the standard social platforms, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and most of the others.

There are platforms such as Telegram and a few other relatively small platforms they do NOT have a back door in but that will change very quickly as pressure mounts on the owners of such platforms to provide a back door. So far Telegram has been successful and even the Russia Government could not get a back door in. But Telegram is the hot topic for the agencies at the moment and they are fighting to get into that using security as a justification for poking their nose into your affairs. Citing the old adage, “If you have nothing to hide why are you worried?” Well of course that is not the issue. The issue is that each individual has a right to privacy.

So how do you keep your personal communications PRIVATE?

There is a simple way and you do not need to be a nerd to use it. It is called Open PGP (Open Pretty Good Privacy) (https://www.openpgp.org/) and it was developed by Phil Zimmermann in 1991 and was designed to be used for data encryption and digital signatures. PGP can be used for signing, encrypting, and decrypting texts, emails, files, directories, and whole disk partitions and to increase the security of email communications. There are variations, for business for example as well as personal but the basic Open PGP is fairly easy to use.

The concept is very simple: you can encrypt text, making it unreadable to anyone who doesn't have the key to decode it. First, PGP generates a random session key using one of two (main) algorithms (algorithms: In mathematics and computer science, an algorithm is a finite sequence of well-defined, computer-implementable instructions, typically to solve a class of problems or to perform a computation. Algorithms are always unambiguous and are used as specifications for performing calculations, data processing, automated reasoning, and other tasks.Wikipedia) This key is a huge number that cannot be guessed, and is only used once. Next, this session key is encrypted. When you send a message using PGP, the message is converted into unreadable ciphertext on your device before it passes over the Internet. Only the recipient has the key to convert the text back into the readable message on their device.

In fact you can use PGP to encrypt emails for several people at once, provide messages with digital signatures and encrypt images and other files. In the version of PGP for companies there is a kind of back door: you can set up the program so that