I am always disappointed to see how few liberty folks know what a PGP key might be, much less have one to share. This is a huge omission, and I aim to fix it.
THE CITY WALLS
Imagine life in the old days, with walled cities and roving bands of knights, brigands and thieves. When trouble was close, everyone withdrew to within the city walls for safety. To stay outside would have been to invite disaster. This is a very close analogy of the situation we find ourselves in now.
The Internet is being massively monitored by states, spies (of many types) and myriad crooks, both organized and rogue. Hanging around in the open is ridiculous… but that is precisely what you are doing without encryption.
You don’t feel unsafe? Then wise-up; you are anyway. Denial and childish oblivion is not territory you should defend.
Our city walls are encryption, and it is embarrassingly cheap. Not using it is simply foolish.
As far as anyone knows, good encryption has never been broken. The proof of this is that quite a few more people would have been detained for questioning if it were.
PRETTY GOOD PRIVACY
The type of encryption that is best used for messages (like emails) is called public-key cryptography, and the standard version of it is called Pretty Good Privacy, or PGP.
PGP was written by a young cryptographer named Phil Zimmerman – who nearly went to jail when his friends released it to the world. Believe it or not, encryption programs were classified by the US government (and others) as “munitions” prior to that time. The state did not want cryptography to be available to people.
Zimmerman nearly spent years in jail to give cryptography to you – spend a few minutes learning about it now.
When using PGP and other programs of the same type, you start by generating a key-pair. (Keys are merely long, unique strings of numbers.) That is, the program creates two keys for you. One is called a private key; the other is called a public key.
The public key is the one you give to all your friends. It allows them to encrypt messages to you.
The private key is the one that you use to decrypt messages from your friends.
The two are related to one another, but not in any way you should worry about – it’s all crypto stuff inside the program.
The above cannot be too hard for you to understand.
Is easy! Sure, like anything with computers, it takes longer the first time. Get over it.
To send a message to your friend:
- Write the message in your word processor.
- Highlight and cut.
- Click on your encryption icon, and then click “encrypt message.”
- Pick the keys to encrypt to: your friend’s and yours.
- Click encrypt. (Your clipboard now contains the encrypted text.)
- Paste into an email.
Is that too hard?
To decrypt a message from your friend:
1. Copy the text of the email.
2. Click on your encryption icon, and then click “decrypt message.”
3. Enter your passphrase into the window that pops up. (Your clipboard now contains the encrypted text.)
4. Paste the decrypted text into a document.
5. Read it.
Oh wait, I said “passphrase.” Another terror, there: It’s just a long password. Use a phrase and toss in a number or two for spice. Ho hum.
Get off your butt and do it. Here’s how:
PGP: http://www.pgp.com/ The for-pay version. Not expensive and they really help you.
GPG: http://www.gnupg.org/ The free version. Does the same thing, without the extras.
GPG for Windows: http://www.gpg4win.org/
So, there you have it. Spend half an hour and act like a serious person. Either that, or be like the guys who march around with signs and say, “Oh, yeah, we’ll triumph over the state, but we’ll just ignore the fact that we’re doing it from inside their armed camp. We can’t be bothered to go inside the walls.”
People – even most liberty people – avoid facing-up to any threat from their enemies. “Ignore that stuff, it’ll always be painless and we don’t have to really risk anything.”
So, are we serious, or are we pretending?
© Copyright 2010 by Paul A. Rosenberg
Paul Rosenberg is the CEO of Cryptohippie.com