Find out how to Use OpenPGP Encryption for Emails in Thunderbird

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Email message and lock icons representing email encryption.

Mozilla Thunderbird not too long ago built-in OpenPGP proper into the primary software. No add-ons are wanted for electronic mail privateness. OpenPGP’s world-class encryption is straightforward to arrange and use with out extra software program.

Thunderbird and OpenPGP

Model 78.2.1 of the Thunderbird electronic mail shopper has assist for end-to-end encryption (e2ee) constructed proper in. This integration means you now not want add-ons like Enigmail.

Thunderbird makes use of OpenPGP for encryption, which is a free, nonproprietary protocol. Based mostly on the freeware variations of Phil Zimmerman’s Pretty Good Privacy (PGP), it’s now very a lot its personal factor.

Thunderbird’s OpenPGP integration means that you can encrypt a message. Then, solely the folks you need to learn your message will probably be ready to take action. It additionally enables you to digitally signal a message so your recipient may be assured the message hasn’t been altered in transit.

OpenPGP makes use of the precept of pairs of private and non-private (or “secret”) encryption keys. To make use of OpenPGP, you should have a private and non-private key pair. Public keys are shared with anybody to whom you need to ship encrypted messages, whereas non-public keys are by no means shared with anybody else. Personal keys can be used to decrypt messages encoded with the matching public key.

The sender’s electronic mail shopper generates a random key which is used to encrypt the message. The random secret’s then encrypted with the recipient’s public key, and the encrypted message and key are then despatched to the recipient. The recipient’s electronic mail program makes use of the recipient’s non-public key to decrypt the random key. The random key can then be used to decrypt the encoded message.

Why not simply use the recipient’s public key to encrypt the message? This might work for messages despatched to a single recipient, however it might be too cumbersome for these despatched to a number of folks.

Essentially the most environment friendly strategy to distribute a message to a number of folks is to encrypt the message utilizing the random key. It’s because no public or non-public keys have been concerned at that time, making the encryption on the message person-agnostic.

For every recipient, the random secret’s encrypted utilizing that particular person’s public key. The entire encrypted keys are then despatched with the message. Every recipient can decrypt the copy of the random key that was encrypted utilizing their public key, after which use the random key to decrypt the message.

Fortunately, as soon as OpenPGP is about up, all of this occurs routinely.

We examined Thunderbird’s OpenPGP integration on an Ubuntu 20.10 laptop. On a Home windows 10 PC, all of the Thunderbird menu gadgets, settings, and dialogs have been named the identical and in the identical areas. So, in the event you’re operating Home windows, you need to be capable to observe the directions beneath, as effectively!

Checking the Thunderbird Model

OpenPGP integration arrived in Thunderbird 78.2.1, so that you’ll need to ensure you’re operating that model or greater. You should use your bundle supervisor to improve if needed.

When you use Enigmail, discuss with the upgrade instructions on the Mozilla assist pages. They embody recommendation about backing up your outdated Thunderbird profile earlier than you improve. This manner, if one thing goes unsuitable, you’ll be able to return to the earlier model.

By default, Thunderbird 78.x retains the traditional three-pane electronic mail interface: the accounts and folders within the sidebar, the listing of obtained emails on the prime, and the content material of the highlighted electronic mail on the backside.

Thunderbird email client default view

When you can’t see the Thunderbird menu bar, right-click the house to the best of the final tab, after which choose “Menu Bar” from the context menu. To see which model of Thunderbird you could have, click on Assist > About Thunderbird.

Thunderbird's help about dialog box

We’re operating model 78.5.0, so the OpenPGP integration will certainly be current.

If that is the primary time you’ve used Thunderbird, configure your electronic mail tackle and account particulars, after which confirm that electronic mail is functioning usually. You must have a working electronic mail account inside Thunderbird earlier than you’ll be able to arrange OpenPGP.

Producing a Key Pair

To generate a key pair, click on “Instruments,” after which choose “OpenPGP Key Supervisor.”

Tools drop-down menu

Click on Generate > New Key Pair.

OpenPGP Key Manager dialog box

A display screen filled with choices will seem. Click on the “Identification” drop-down menu and choose the e-mail tackle for which you need to generate keys. In case you have a number of identities configured in your Thunderbird shopper, ensure you choose the suitable electronic mail tackle.

Beneath “Key Expiry,” choose the lifespan of your keys or choose “Key Does Not Expire.”

In “Superior Settings,” you’ll be able to choose the kind of encryption and key measurement (the defaults are high-quality normally).

While you’re blissful along with your alternatives, click on “Generate Key.”

The Generate OpenPGP Key options dialog box

You’ll be requested to verify that you simply need to generate the keys for that electronic mail tackle; click on “Verify.”

Key generation confirmation dialog box

After your keys have been generated, an entry will seem within the “OpenPGP Key Supervisor” dialog.

New key entry in the OpenPGP Key Manager

When you generate keys for some other electronic mail addresses, these particulars will probably be listed right here, as effectively. To view the configuration of any of the listed keys, simply spotlight the entry within the listing, after which click on View > Key Properties.

Key Properties dialog box

Choose the radio button subsequent to “Sure, Deal with This Key as a Private Key,” after which click on “OK” if you’re able to proceed.

Exchanging Public Keys

You must have the general public key for every particular person to whom you’re going to ship encrypted messages. They’ll additionally want yours to ship encrypted messages again. There are just a few methods you will get somebody’s public key. They may ship it to you unannounced or you’ll be able to ask them for it. You may even attempt to discover it on-line.

Everytime you obtain an electronic mail with an connected public key, Thunderbird contains an “OpenPGP” button to the best of the e-mail header; click on it to import the general public key.

Email with a public key attached, showing the OpenPGP button

You would possibly obtain some warnings. For instance, if the message wasn’t encrypted or digitally signed, you’ll be instructed so.

When you’ve simply requested this particular person to ship you their public key, you may be fairly certain that is from them. If there’s any doubt, simply double-check with them by way of textual content, telephone, or some other non-email technique.

When you’re glad the general public key undoubtedly belongs to the particular person sending the message, click on “Import.”

OpenPGP message security dialog box

The identify of the sender and their electronic mail tackle will seem as affirmation. Click on “OK” to import the important thing.

Key import confirmation dialog

Some details about the imported public key will then seem. You’ll see who owns the important thing, the e-mail tackle related to it, the variety of bits the encryption is utilizing, and when the general public key was created.

Click on “View Particulars and Handle Key Acceptance.”

Imported key details dialog box

When you’re constructive the important thing got here from its proprietor, choose the radio button subsequent to “Sure, I’ve Verified in Particular person This Key Has the Right Fingerprint,” after which click on “OK.”

key proprties dialog box

That’s half the battle! We now have Alwa’s public key, so let’s ship him ours. To take action, simply begin a brand new electronic mail to the particular person to whom you need to ship your key or reply to certainly one of their emails. Within the electronic mail menu bar, click on Choices > Connect My Public Key.

Email Options drop-down menu

Then, you simply sort the physique of your electronic mail and ship it as ordinary. Once more, Thunderbird contains an “OpenPGP” indicator on the backside proper of the standing bar to let the message makes use of OpenPGP. If the e-mail is encrypted, you’ll additionally see a padlock icon, and if it’s digitally signed, you’ll see a cogwheel icon.

Email with OpenPGP indicator in the status bar

The choices for encryption and digitally signing emails can be found within the “Safety” part of the e-mail menu bar. You may as well connect your public key from this menu.

Security drop-down menu

While you’re prepared, simply ship your electronic mail.

Studying Encrypted Emails

Alwa can now reply to you and use encryption. While you obtain an encrypted, electronic mail you don’t need to do something particular to learn it—simply open it as ordinary. “OpenPGP” within the electronic mail header will embody inexperienced checkmarks to confirm that OpenPGP has decrypted the e-mail and that the digital signature has additionally been verified.

Recieivng an encrypted email in Thunderbird

The topic line of an encrypted electronic mail will probably be displayed as an ellipsis (…) till you open it. This prevents anybody from seeing the topic of any encrypted emails you obtain.

Encrypted email header replaced by three dots

Some folks do make their public keys obtainable on-line. To add yours, you first need to export it.

To take action, click on “Instruments,” after which choose “OpenPGP Key Supervisor.” Spotlight the important thing you need to export within the “OpenPGP Key Supervisor” dialog, after which click on File > Export Public Key(s) to File.

New key entry in the OpenPGP Key Manager

Save the exported file to your laptop (you’ll want to word the place you put it aside). Subsequent, open your internet browser and navigate to the OpenPGP Key Repository. Right here, you’ll be able to seek for present keys utilizing the e-mail tackle, key ID, or fingerprint.

You may as well add your personal key. To take action, simply click on “Add,” after which browse to the situation of your exported file.

OpenPGP central key repository

As soon as your secret’s uploaded, folks can seek for, discover, and obtain or import it into their very own electronic mail purchasers.

You may as well seek for on-line keys in Thunderbird. Simply click on “Instruments,” after which choose “OpenPGP Key Supervisor.” Then, click on Keyserver > Uncover Keys On-line.

When the “OpenPGP Immediate” dialog seems, sort the e-mail tackle of the particular person you’re on the lookout for, after which click on “OK.”

Searching for online keys from within Thunderbird

If a match is discovered, Thunderbird will provide to import the important thing for you; click on “OK” to take action.

Matching key details displayed in a dialog box in Thunderbird

Hold Your Secrets and techniques, Properly, Secret

Admittedly, not each electronic mail must be locked down with encryption and verified by a digital signature. Nonetheless, for some folks—like dissidents in oppressive regimes, whistleblowers, or journalists’ sources—privateness is usually a matter of life or dying.

Everytime you want extra privateness, Thunderbird makes it simple!

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