How to encrypt emails: A guide to Mailvelope

Regardless of whether it’s confidential company information, sensitive health data intended for your doctor, or discreet letters to the lawyer: All kinds of content can be sent quickly and easily by email with just a few clicks. But sending confidential information by email is risky. The good news: Encrypting emails has never been easier.

Emails can in principle be easily intercepted before being delivered: Your content travels, for the most part, in plain text, unscrambled through the internet. Intercepting your emails does not even require sophisticated hacking knowledge. Simple programs for network monitoring (so-called sniffers) can be found everywhere on the internet.

Email: Only secure with encryption

If content in emails should remain secret, only encryption can help. This ensures that only the sender and recipient can read the email; only parties with the right key can correctly reassemble messages from a mess of characters. This technology has been around for a while – it’s just that it tends to be quite complicated.

Mailvelope makes encryption easier

The idea: The exchange of public keys required for encryption now runs automatically in the background. Up until now, the users themselves had to laboriously swap keys back and forth. Now all you have to do is install the “Mailvelope” extension, generate a key once – and you can start sending your emails securely. You can find out exactly what this looks like below.

Mailvelope: Not perfect yet

Unfortunately, more than a few small things are missing to ensure the perfect email encryption. So far there is no client support: If you would like to manage your emails via Outlook or Thunderbird, you cannot send encrypted emails via Mailvelope for the time being. Sending attachments is also complicated. Documents and images cannot be attached directly to messages, but must be encrypted separately. Ultimately, Mailvelope is limited to PCs – smartphone users are left out. Nevertheless, Mailvelope is a step in the right direction and helps to ensure that emails are finally more secure.

How to set up Mailvelope in three easy steps

Step 1:

Mailvelope is available as a browser extension for Firefox and Google. Open the page mailvelope.com and click on Download Mailvelope. Follow the instructions.

Step 2:

Then click in the browser on the Mailvelope icon, then Generate Key. Enter your name, your e-mail address and any password into the fields and confirm with Create .

Step 3:

Your public key is automatically transferred to a key server. To confirm, you will receive an email from “Mailvelope Key Server” with the subject line “Confirm your email address”. Do this by clicking on the link contained in the message. Important note: Open the message directly via your webmailer; this is the only way to decrypt the message. This works with the major providers such as Gmail, simply by clicking on Show message. You can then open the message with the password you created in step 2 and click on the link.

How to send encrypted emails with Mailvelope

Sending encrypted messages only works if the recipient has also set up Mailvelope. If this is the case, click the button for writing a new message in the webmail interface. A Mailvelope symbol then appears in the window. Click on it, then click Compose Secure Email. A new window will open.

Enter the recipient’s email address and the message in the field below. Once that’s done, click on Encrypt . The window closes. Now type in a subject line (it remains unencrypted) and send the message on its way by clicking Send .

This post is also available in: German

Leor is a copywriter and content marketer for Avira.
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