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PGP for WebMail (Pt 2)

OK so now everything is installed by following Pt 1 of this series.  But you do not have anyone to use your new spy skills with, do not worry this part will walk you through

  • Looking up a key
  • Adding a key
  • Explaining what keys are

To explain how PGP works will get into a lot of technical speak about crazy math, random numbers and all that stuff that is boring to most people. So we will skip all that and explain it in a simple way so anyone can understand how it works without all that foreign stuff. (Note: you can skip this section if you want to).

We will use grandmothers secret recipe because everyone has a grandmother and she was probably the best cook ever in the history of the world. If yours was like mine she probably did not go by a recipe book, it was all in her head. But she did write them down on index cards.

Think of your e-mail as that recipe on the index card. We want to keep it safe and secure so no one can steal our recipe, so we put it in a safe-deposit box at the bank. But we do not want to lose the key to the safe-deposit box, so we hide the key in a nice big fireproof safe. Grandmothers recipe is now locked away and safe.

Now one day you decide to make a batch of those cookies. But we need to get the recipe out of the bank to do this. We first have to get our key out of the safe first before we head down to bank. So we use the combination (your password) and open the safe and take out the key. Next we drive down to the back and show them our key and ID (fingerprint) and they let us into the vault. We then use the key to open the safe-deposit box and we can now read the recipe.

This works great for just me, but say I feel generous and want to share the recipe with my sister. We do not want her going in my safe and getting the key because I keep other stuff in there. So I send her a copy of the key that she puts it in her safe. Now she has a key and her own ID for that safe-deposit box and anything in it. This lets us share the recipe while still keeping it nice and safe.

That is a rough idea of how PGP works. Now with that in mind, you created your private-key and locked it in the safe with a combination (password) which allows you to get your public key (safe-deposit box key & ID or fingerprint). The public key is what we share with others so they can verify you are who you say you are and read the recipe. But we need get a copy of that key.  This is what we are about to do and this can be done a couple of different ways.

  1. Look it up on a key server
  2. Ask the person to send us their key

For this part of the guide we will take the easy route and look up the key. When we go to write our e-mail as shown before in Pt 1, we click on the pencil and type in the e-mail address for the person we do not have a key for on our keyring, then you will see a window similar to the one shown.











Notice the e-mail is in Red and the red warning below it? This lets us know that we do not have a key for this person. But do not fret, you can still sign the message with your key. Then when they ask what that stuff is you can help them set it up like a pro.  But they might already have a key out there, we just need to go look it up. To do this click the lock icon in the top right of your browser window.

pgp icon






That will bring up your options menu so you can click Options like so.

pgp menu














Once that is open you will want to click Key Management which should look like this.








This will list the keys you currently have on your key-ring. But the person we are wanting to send an e-mail to is not listed. So we go check the public servers and see if one is available. This is simple and only needs to know the persons e-mail address. Click on Import Keys on the left side of you window and it should look like this










In this window you will type in the e-mail address of the person and press Search. This will open a window like this one.











When you click the link it will open their key. This will give you a window like the one below with a bunch of random letters and numbers.












Click on the random bits and it will take you back to your import window which will look like the one below.










If you see the green bar then the key was successfully imported and will show up like below in your Display Keys.








That is all there is to it. Now you can send e-mails using this persons key quickly and easily. When you get an e-mail from them you can then verify that it did in fact come from that person. If you would like my e-mail is in several of the screen shots that you can use to search for and import a key. This will help you get started, and if you have questions you can contact me.

Be sure to look for the next part as we go over signing keys and building your web of trusted people.

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