Stealth surfing

You've probably heard that you shouldn't put anything in an e-mail message you wouldn't put on a postcard. That's sound advice. Your boss and your IS department can lawfully read any e-mail sent to a corporate e-mail box. But since e-mail hops around in unencrypted form between servers on the Internet and ends up in online e-mail boxes that are extremely vulnerable to hacking, anyone intent on invading your privacy can read it.

Lock it up: if you have nothing to hide but occasionally send a sensitive message, you can attach the message as a password-protected Microsoft Word file (select Save As, and from the dialogue box click either Tools or Options), and send the password in a separate message. Or you can use a zip compression utility (which also has a password-protection option) to compress a file in any other format. When you create a zipped file, click the Password button and enter a password. To extract that file, you must first type the password. These techniques aren't ideal - the encryption that's used in Word and WinZip isn't particularly complicated, and you have to send your password in unencrypted form.

Get all keyed up: you can achieve a more robust level of e-mail security by using key pair encryption. The sender encodes mail with one key - the recipient's "public" key - and the recipient decodes it using a unique "private" key. You never know the other party's password, and they never know yours. It's much like a bank's safe deposit box: to open it, you need your key and the bank's key.

Probably the best-known encryption program is PGP (Pretty Good Privacy), which lets you pick a level of encryption from a range of 768 bits to 3072 bits - much higher than the 40- or 60-bit level of encryption in your browser. PGP is distributed in various forms, including PGP Freeware, a download for non-corporate use that integrates with Eudora and Outlook Express. If you use another e-mail client, you can copy messages to the Clipboard and then encrypt the contents of the Clipboard by using a little program in your Windows tray called PGPKey. In general, the higher the encryption level, the slower the process, so something in the middle of PGP's range - say, 1024 bits - is usually best (that is, it protects like Fort Knox and doesn't take forever to use).

Hush-hush sweet e-mail: end-to-end encryption without the hassle of separate keys is available with the free HushMail e-mail service at Web-based HushMail uses encryption as strong as PGP's default setting (1024 bits). Encryption and decryption take place inside your system, via a PC-based Java app, so everything on the Web remains indecipherable even to sophisticated hackers. Both sender and recipient must use HushMail accounts - a minor inconvenience.

Use a digital shredder: register for a free secure e-mail account at The site's software encrypts mail up to 2048 bits and uses a virtual private network to connect your PC and the mailbox. The virtual shredder obliterates messages immediately after the reader closes them, or after a specified interval. The service is free, supported by advertising in the e-mail client software, and very secure.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Matt Lake

PC World
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Armand Abogado

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

Wireless printing from my iPhone was also a handy feature, the whole experience was quick and seamless with no setup requirements - accessed through the default iOS printing menu options.

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?