Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Simple E-mail Encryption

Who’s reading your e-mail? Are you sure it is only the person you sent it to? Could it hurt you, or your business, (or, your election campaign?) if someone else was reading it? Wouldn’t it be great if you could ensure that only the intended recipient could read it?

In prior articles, I have explained (in my limited way) that the encrypting of files, and sending them to someone else, where they then need to decode them, is best done by the exchanging of “keys” in what is called “Public-key encryption” (for Wikipedia’s explanation on that, click here). I will not be lecturing on that today.. though, I invite you to click the link if you’re interested in (or curious about) cryptography.

It is not hard to understand how encrypting your writing — so that it can travel across the Internet in an unreadable format — is a “good thing”.. a desirable thing.. and would have serious benefits.
The encrypting of e-mails is often required by businesses, and they install cool (and expen$ive) machines on their networks that automatically encrypts all company e-mail. But what about us? Here at home? How do we do it? Can it happen automatically.. like it does at our job? Well, yes and no. The first step is to get yourself a “key”.

I mentioned in a previous article that I had started using a new (to me) e-mail client (Windows Live Mail) to access my webmail accounts. Live Mail, and all other e-mail clients (Outlook, OE, Thunderbird, etc.) natively support the use of “keys”, and allow you so “sign” and/or encrypt your e-mail with a single click… assuming you have taken a couple of steps first.
You may have noted that I have been putting the word key inside quotes; that’s because when I’m speaking at the level of how crypto works, I am actually speaking about algorithms and when I talk about using those keys, I am talking about “Certificates”. To encrypt your e-mail you need to get a Certificate… which is really a key (pair). Confusing, I know.

Tip of the day: Get a Certificate for your e-mail account(s). There are several Certificate Authorities that offer free Certificates for the personal use in e-mail, but I have found that if you are using any Microsoft products.. or you suspect that your recipient(s) may be using Windows and/or Outlook (which is a fairly good bet), you want to get your e-mail certificate here:
Today’s free link: Comodo Free Email Certificate

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Fill in the form, and use the e-mail address that you want to protect with encryption (If you use more than one e-mail address regularly, repeat this process for each one: each account needs its own Cert), and click on the “Advanced Private Key Options” link, and place a check in the “User protected?” checkbox, and enter a “Revocation password (twice). Click “Agree & C ontinue”.

A window will open telling you that a Certificate isimage being “requested on your behalf”.. agree. Now you will see the screen (pictured). Click “OK”.

If all goes as it should, the Comodo webpage will change to a “Congratulations!” page, and instructs you to check the Inbox of the account you created the Cert for. Do so. There will be an e-mail from Comodo containing a link. You will need to click it to complete the process (Copy>Paste links into the address bar of your browser, remember?!).

 

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Your e-mail will look like this. When you’ve copy>pasted the e-mail’s link into your browser’s address bar, and requested the Cert download, Windows will then automatically try to install it for you, but needs your permission..

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Click “Yes” to give it.

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This tells you you’re done, and now you can digitally “sign” your e-mail.. which is the first real step to exchanging encrypted email.. which I will describe tomorrow.
Now, e-mail a link to this article to the person(s) you want private conversations with, and tell them to click the link and follow the Comodo wizard and get their key.. you’re going to need it. Once you and they do this, encryption is a click away.

The conclusion of this How To is now available here.

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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September 18, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, e-mail, encrypting files, how to, Internet, security, software, tech | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Secure Gmail, repair Internet Explorer

A couple of quick tips to start the week, which were stimulated by reader questions.

Tip(s) of the day: How about that? Two for the price of one!
Tip 1) In response to public demand, Google has added a feature to its Gmail service which will force it to always use SSL encryption when you logon (https). This is particularly beneficial to those of you who use wireless, public computers, and/or public ‘hotspots’. All you need to do is turn it on.
[note: a secured session is not the same thing as encrypting your individual messages. For my How To on that, click here.]

To turn on the “always use” feature, log on to your Gmail account, and in the upper-right area, find, and click on the “Settings” link.
Now, scroll down to the bottom, and in the “Browser connection” option, click on the “always use https” radio button, and then click on “Save Changes”.
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That’s it. You’re done. Now your connection to the mail server will be encrypted and you’ll be protected from packet sniffers.

Tip 2) Sometimes programs get “corrupted” and just refuse to work right, and usually the way to repair them is to uninstall them (Add/Remove Programs), and then re-Install a fresh copy.
One of my more popular articles has been how to repair the hyperlinks function in IE when clicking on a link doesn’t open a new page (if that’s your issue, click here), and this tip goes a little further than that. (To see all my articles on Internet Explorer, click on “IE 7” in my Categories widget.)

You can resolve many troublesome IE issues by “resetting” it (which also re-registers .dll’s).
For IE 7:
Click on “Tools” and then “Internet Options”.
On the Advanced tab, and then click the “Reset” button.
reset

For IE 6:
[note: I highly, sincerely, and ardently, urge you to stop using IE 6, and switch to 7, or Firefox 3, or Avant, or whatever. Please? It’s only the most hacked piece of software ever!]
a: Click Start, click Run, type “%systemroot%\inf” (no quotes) and then press Enter.
b: Find the Ie.inf file that is located in Windows\Inf folder.
c: Right-click the Ie.inf file, and then click Install.
d: Restart the computer when the file copy process is complete

Today’s free link: In one of the tips above, I mentioned Windows’ Add/Remove Programs tool (found in your Control Panel) which is the standard method for uninstalling programs from your machine. Long-time Windows users can attest that this utility doesn’t always work as it should, and completely remove all traces of the app you want gone. To really remove a program, you may want the power of a 3rd-party uninstall program, and the one that’s most recommended in the Geek community is Revo Uninstaller (also available in a portable version).

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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August 4, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, e-mail, how to, IE 7, Internet, PC, privacy, security, tech, troubleshooting, Windows | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Create a hidden folder for your private stuff

Sometimes a little privacy is nice. Today I’m going to show you how to hide a folder so that other people who use your machine won’t be able to see it, or its contents.
I hope all of you had a pleasant and enjoyable holiday weekend.

Tip of the day: Create a hidden folder for your private files. The first thing to consider is where to place the folder. You want it to be someplace you’ll remember easily, and someplace sort of out of the way. Some folks will put it right on their desktop, and there is a certain elegance to the “hide in plain sight” approach, but I’m going to bury it a little… inside my My Video folder (inside My Documents).

Navigate to the My Video folder (My Documents >My Video) and open it. If you have not loaded any video onto your PC, this window will be blank (empty). Now create a new folder. Right-click on any part of the blank area and select “New” from the list of choices, and a new list of choices appear — select “folder”.

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Now you will see a folder ready for a new name. I chose to name mine “stuff”, as it is fairly uninteresting and innocuous. If you want to make sure nobody is tempted to look in there, you could name it “efficiency reports 2005”, but you want to avoid an intriguing name, like “private”, “confidential”, “good stuff”, or “collection”.

Now we’re going to make the folder hidden: right-click on your new folder (“stuff” in my example) and select “Properties”. Down towards the bottom is a checkbox labeled “Hidden”. Check it, and click on the “Apply” button.

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Now when you navigate back to the My Video folder you will not see your folder. If you do, it should be faded, or “dim”. This means you have your Folder Options set to “show hidden files and folders”. This is normally off, by default; but to undo this setting, look (up) to the Tools menu and click it, and select “Folder Options” (the bottom choice) and then the View tab.

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Make sure the radio button “Do not show hidden files and folders” is selected, and then click on the “Apply to All Folders” button, or the “Apply” button if you only want to affect the My Video folder. Now the folder is invisible. To make it visible again, for when you want to use it, reverse the steps above to “Show hidden…”

Let us say you want to put a password “lock” on the folder to make it even more difficult for other users to look inside (should they locate it somehow). Right-click on the folder and select “Properties” again and click on the Sharing tab.

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Place a check in the “Make this folder private” checkbox and click “Apply”. Now the folder is protected with your User Account’s logon password. If you have not implemented a User Account password, you missed my very second Tech–for Everyone article; to see it, click here, you will now be warned that there’s no User Account password.

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answer “Yes”, and you’ll be taken to the User Accounts control panel.

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Since you will have to enter this each time you log onto the PC, I suggest you follow the rules of a strong password (complex), as discussed in the article above (the link) and write it down someplace as well.

Now you have a secure — and private — place to keep your personal files. But wait, there’s more!

Today’s free link: Because of the fact that hidden files and folders can be found by someone with a little savvy (like you, now that you know the “Show hidden files” command) and the password protection will only apply to network shares and when the other user have their own User Accounts… if you are sharing your UA (User Account), you need a 3rd-party tool to hide and encrypt the folder(s) you want to keep private. True Crypt is the free solution I recommend.

Copyright 2007 © Tech Paul, All Rights Reserved.

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September 4, 2007 Posted by | advice, computers, encrypting files, file system, how to, network shares, networking, passwords, PC, permissions, privacy, security, tech, User mode, Vista, Windows, XP | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments