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Summary:

Information security is a very important consideration when using computer networks (including the Internet).  Security is one of many reasons corporate IS departments exist. However for your own personal and work-related communications, how do you ensure your emails and instant message conversations don’t fall victim to […]

Locked DownInformation security is a very important consideration when using computer networks (including the Internet).  Security is one of many reasons corporate IS departments exist.

However for your own personal and work-related communications, how do you ensure your emails and instant message conversations don’t fall victim to prying eyes?

With a distributed team, individuals might have valuable information that is transferred over the wire. Here are some ways you can encrypt the data you exchange with others.

To exchange secure messages via email, look into PGP.  PGP stands for Pretty Good Privacy and works like this: if you want to send someone an encrypted email, first find your recipients’ public PGP key.  The public PGP key is a cryptic batch of letters and numbers that, when used with plug-in software, will allow you draft the email to them.  When the recipient gets the email, they decode the message with their private PGP key and can read the message in its entirety.  For PGP options, check out PGP Corporation, and for a freeware option take a look at GNUPGP along with this instruction set.  PGP mail plug-ins exist for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

SkypeIf you are looking to secure your instant messages, conduct voice conversations, and swap files, Skype is a great tool.  This VoIP program features full encryption that has yet to be compromised, not even the German government has gained access to it.  Skype is cross-platform and runs on Linux, Windows, Windows Mobile, and Mac OS X.

BitWiseAdditionally, for encrypted instant messaging, BitWise IM is a second option.  They feature a free Personal edition that offers cross-platform IM conversations.  For business communications, BitWise Plus is available for a one-time fee.

(top photo credit: Flickr User ButterflySha)

  1. I just don’t want people at my end or on the receivers end sniffing the packets and grabbing the IM, so I use Meebo and encourage others to. If you’ve got both ends https-ing to Meebo, at least its not being sent in plaintext back and forth to the server.

    Obviously not as secure as other options, but a nice tradeoff in that it is very easy to use and get others to buy into.

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  2. s/mime is another option to sign and encrypt e-mails. link to wikipedia and to a “beginners guide” by Mark Nobel.

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  3. it’s not only to encrypt your data, there are so many people sending important info via email and no one even signs his/hers emails. i’m a webworker for 8 years now and only saw one (!) business so far at least signing their mails when submitting a quate or sending a bill.

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  4. I’d certainly recommend GnuPG for encryption and signatures. I have another really useful tool I use in Internet cafes etc.

    I have an Ubuntu server running at home, with an OpenSSH server running on port 443. Port 443 is useful as it is normally HTTPS/SSL so it usually sales through any outbound rules on the firewall.

    On my laptop, I run an SSH client (ssh or Putty). I connect as follows:

    putty user@myserver.com -D 8080 -P 443

    Now I configure my browser and IM client to use a SOCKS proxy that is now running on 127.0.0.1:8080. All of the traffic is now tunnelled over SSH to my server at home, meaning it’s as secure as being at home, and doesn’t suffer from the usual insecurities associated with open Wifi access points.

    I also use this on-site to bypass fascist corporate proxies.

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  5. [...] Encrypt your communications for added security and Mac vs. PC Speed: It Doesn’t Matter from Web Worker Daily [...]

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  6. [...] Encrypt your communications for added security and Mac vs. Computer Speed: It Doesn’t Matter from Web Worker Daily [...]

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