You’re booking your Alaskan cruise and the travel agent shoots you an email. He needs your Social Security Number for the insurance form. You’re about to reply when a suspicion crosses your mind–is it safe to send this info via email?
Your daughter needs to buy her college textbooks and emails you for your credit card number. Besides the nagging concern that she may use it to supply her dorm party, you wonder if your credit card number can be intercepted in cyberspace.
You’ve polished up your resume and need to email it to a headhunter. But you’re a bit paranoid. What if a competitor for the position snags it? Or worse, what if your boss is spying on you?
Your concerns are real. Did you know that whenever you send an email it travels from your computer through multiple servers? If you’re in a public place using a WiFi connection it’s even riskier; you may be sharing private info with the guy sitting at the next table.
The American Heritage Dictionary defines encryption as “using a secret code so as to be unintelligible to unauthorized parties.” In other words, encrypting your email allows you to send it securely without lurkers being able to read it.
Here’s how it works. You compose an email and then encrypt it before you hit the send button. When it reaches the intended recipient, it will read just like a normal email. However, if it lands in an unauthorized mailbox, the email will not be readable because it will be filled with random, garbled letters.
So instead of this:
Jim: let’s discuss my compensation and benefits for the VP of Investments position.
The encrypted email would read something like this:
Smo3v rG9s20p wn4JKt mp2nGse gpaEnP24s p4dB Fxqot3 mp9P 7ekP4a jPo2vX
Pretty neat, huh?
So how do you do this? It’s easier than you think. There are two ways to send encrypted Gmail.
The first way is to simply type an additional letter into your browser window. You normally access your mail through the URL http://mail.google.com. This is the default for Google’s email system.
If you want to send your email securely, however, simply use https://mail.google.com instead. See the difference? It’s the addition of the letter “s” after http. The “s” stands for secure. Your email box will function and appear the same as before. The only difference is that now all your email will be sent encrypted until it reaches its final destination. Typing in the one extra letter is all that it takes.
The second way to encrypt your email involves making it a permanent setting. If you’re concerned you won’t remember to manually type in the extra “s” whenever you need to send email securely, you can set up your Gmail account so that every email goes out automatically encrypted.
To make the secure setting your default, click on Settings at the top of the page.
Scroll down to the bottom of the screen. Go to Browser connection.
Check Always use https. Click Save Changes.
You’re all set! Your email is now as secure as Fort Knox.