One of the easiest things you can do to protect your privacy is to encrypt your email using the Secure MIME (S/MIME) feature built into your desktop and mobile email applications.
Nothing you can do is 100% secure, but if you’re smart, you can at least make it difficult for hackers and unnamed government agencies from easily snooping on your email.
Comodo.com offers free Email Certificates for personal use, and their servers are outside the US, where they are no subject to NSA snooping.
Sign-up is free, and instructions are available from the website.
Instructions for other Linux, Mac and Apple iOS Clients:
- Linux (Evolution, et al)
- Ars Technica — How to secure your e-mail under Mac OS X and iOS 5 with S/MIME
Email encryption is not a simple topic, but the key to getting started is to get your email certificate. Once you have the certificate, it is usually easiest to download the certificate from the computer or mobile device where you will use it. Most modern OSes will import your new certificate for you, and from there you should only have to enable “encryption” or “Secure MIME” and select the appropriate certificate from the list presented by your mail client.
Finally, you can learn a lot more about email encryption from the article Email Encryption using PGP and S/MIME, from Tech Republic.
Once you have your email setup for Secure Email, it’s time to get your friends and family onboard, because you and your recipient(s) all need to have S/MIME setup on your devices to send and receive encrypted email.
Step 1: Share your Public Key
The easiest way to do this is to create an email to send to all of your friends and family. Digitally Sign the email with your new certificate.
Step 2: Import Public Keys From Your Friends
Digitally Signed Emails from your friends and family will have their public key attached. You can import this key and associate it with their contact information. Once you have imported their public key, you can send them encrypted emails to the addresses listed in their public key.
Step 3: Send Encrypted Emails
Once you have imported your friend’s public key(s), you can, and should start using encryption by default.
Keep in mind that you can only view these emails on devices where your “private” key (used to encrypt the email) has been setup, so email sent through Web mail services like Yahoo and Gmail will appear to be blank with an attachment that you cannot read. This is a good thing because it means that emails you send through these services cannot be read by anyone, even if they somehow get access to the server and read your email there.