Be Smart About Sensitive Email

December 2005
by Reid Goldsborough

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Certain things about the
Internet seem to be common sense. If you want to communicate something
sensitive, instead of posting it to a public online discussion forum, send a
private message through email to your recipient alone. If you want to avoid
potential problems with sensitive matters communicated through email, delete
messages after you read them and/or ask your recipients to do so.

In both these cases, what seems to
be common sense is wrong.


messages can be intercepted.

Email is as private as a postcard.
Although it happens relatively rarely, email can be read by others en route.

Encryption utility programs
prevent this from happening by ensuring that only your intended recipients can
read your messages and that you’re the one who sent them. For some time now the
standard has been Pretty Good Privacy (, a program from PGP Corp.
that provides excellent privacy for sensitive email.

The for-pay version automatically
encrypts email and instant messages and lets you send “self-decrypting”
messages to people who don’t have the program. The free version, available for
personal, noncommercial use, lets you manually encrypt and decrypt messages.
You can try the for-pay version for free for

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