I once co-wrote a book on enterprise email where I likened email encryption to a “sucking chest wound.” That was in 1997, when you had to do all the encryption key management on your own, a daunting task to say the least.
While things have improved considerably since then, encrypting messages is not as simple as it could be, and requires careful study if you want to have truly private communications that can’t be viewed by your competitors – or your government.
In the past, recipients of encrypted emails had to share the same system as the sender, and many email clients were difficult to configure. Today, many products have a “zero knowledge encryption” feature, which means you can send an encrypted message to someone who isn’t on your chosen encryption service. Just provide them a passphrase to decrypt their message and to compose a reply to you, or in some cases they can read the message by just authenticating themselves. After this first communication, your recipient is able to exchange encrypted messages with you quite easily.
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