From bobrankin@MHV.NET Thu Oct 23 14:24:05 1997
Date: Tue, 21 Oct 1997 00:17:54 -0400
From: Bob Rankin 
Subject: TOURBUS - 21 Oct 1997 - Encryption for the Masses

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   TODAY'S TOURBUS TOPIC: Encryption - The Digital Privacy Solution

Sending e-mail is like sending a post card - any postal clerk along
the way can read your note.  In cyberspace, unethical sysops or
hackers may sneak a peak at your digital dispatches.  And even your
boss may be monitoring your e-mail.  The solution?  Put your
electronic communication in a digital envelope, with user-friendly
encryption tools.

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If encryption conjures up images of spy, counter-spy and secret
decoder rings, you're thinking along the right lines.  Government and
military agencies have been using encryption to try and keep messages
secret ever since the smoke signal.  In recent years, online privacy
has become a big issue, keeping mathematicians and computer
scientists ever scrambling in the quest for unbreakable ciphers that
will keep sensitive communications from falling into the wrong hands.

So What Is Encryption...

... and how does it work?  Basically, encryption means scrambling a
message with a hopelessly complicated mathematical formula, rendering
it unreadable to anyone except you and those who have the secret key
to decode the message.  This is a little different than those
crypto-quips on the funny pages where one letter stands for another.
The latest encryption methods are so powerful that it would take even
the fastest computer hundreds or thousands of years to crack the code
by trial and error.

Several years ago, a programmer by the name of Phillip Zimmerman
invented some encryption software that could create mathematically
unbreakable ciphers.  The U.S.  government considered this a threat
to national security, since it would allow foreign spies to
communicate securely.  So they classified Zimmerman's PGP (Pretty
Good Privacy) software as a munition, and made it illegal for export.
But of course that didn't stop it from spreading all over the world,
and it got poor Zimmerman in a heap of legal trouble.

Just this year, the Feds dropped charges against Zimmerman and
liberalized policy concerning the export of cryptographic software.
Zimmerman now heads PGP, Inc.  which offers an array of security and
crypto software that makes it easy for any computer user to encrypt
files and electronic messages.

Do I Really Need Encryption?

Businesses rely on the Internet every day to send confidential
information back and forth between customers, suppliers and
employees.  And individuals use e-mail to send messages that may
contain sensitive information.  If you're worried about competitors
stealing your plans, if you're afraid to tell a co-worker what a jerk
your boss is, if you're concerned that someone in cyberspace may be
reading your love letters or stealing your credit card number, then
you really do need encryption!

You wouldn't want to plan corporate strategy or negotiate a sensitive
business deal in a crowded elevator.  And you'd never send tax
records to your accountant on a post card.  So if it's important and
has to travel by e-mail, assume that someone is watching, and assure
your privacy with encryption.  The point is, your electronic mail and
computer files deserve the same protection routinely given to other
forms of communication.

Remember too, the threat doesn't always come from evil hackers
lurking in the shadows of the online world.  If a co-worker nabs your
password by watching over your shoulder, kiss your private files and
e-mail good- bye.  Same thing applies if your PC or laptop is stolen.
If your LAN guru has too much time on her hands, she can probably
view your files or intercept any data that gets passed around the
office.  You may even fall victim to company policy which gives
managers the right to monitor electronic correspondence.

If you've never used encryption technology, all this stuff about
ciphers and secret codes may seem a bit daunting.  And if you've used
older versions of encryption software, such as PGP version 2, you may
have been frustrated by the command line interface and lack of
integration with e-mail tools.  The good news is that now you can
easily secure your files and messages with a point and a click.  PGP
for Personal Privacy, Version 5.0 is a slick package that integrates
nicely into the Windows 95/NT and Mac desktops as well as popular
e-mail clients like Eudora and Microsoft Exchange.

The Keys To The Kingdom

PGP software uses a system where two keys, one public and one
private, are used to encrypt and decrypt information.  In order to
send an encrypted message, the sender must know the recipient's
public key.  Once the message is encrypted, only the recipient can
decode it with his private key.  It's kind of like a public vault
with a key hanging next to it.  Anyone can walk by, put a package in
the vault and lock it, but it can only be opened by the person who
has the private key.  Here's a quick overview of how this dual-key
encryption works, in the context of Internet e-mail.

- Alice creates a message for Bob.
- Alice gets a copy of Bob's public key.
- Alice encrypts the message using Bob's public key.
- Alice sends the encrypted message to Bob.
- Bob decrypts Alice's message with his private key.
- Bob reads the message.

It might seem like a lot of extra work, and indeed it used to be.
Early encryption tools lacked integration with e-mail systems and did
not provide a convenient way for the sender to get the public key of
the recipient.  A message had to be created with a text editor or
word processor, exported to a plain ASCII text file, encrypted, and
then pasted into the e-mail program.  But before encrypting, you had
to send a message to the recipient, asking for his or her public key,
and wait for the reply.

Point & Click Crypto For The Masses

Fortunately, you don't have to be a geek to use encryption anymore.
The new PGP V5.0 integrates with popular e-mail clients so encryption
takes place seamlessly inside the e-mail program.  For example, in
Eudora you just click the lock icon to indicate that you want to
encrypt your message.  Then you click the send or queue button like
you would normally.

And the PGP software even looks up a recipient's public key
automatically by querying several online databases called key
servers.  If you're going to receive encrypted mail, you should
register your public key in one of these servers to make it easier
for the senders.  (The PGP software makes it easy to do that.)

When you receive encrypted e-mail from another user, you can decrypt
the message by clicking the open lock button on the toolbar.  After
you view the decrypted message, you decide whether to save the
information or retain it in its encrypted form.

In addition to securing your e-mail, you can also encrypt and decrypt
hard disk files.  You may well have word processor documents or
financial data that you'd like to keep private.  PGP V5.0 puts
encryption and decryption features right on the Windows task bar and
the Mac's Finder.  You can drag and drop a file on the PGPmenu icon
to encrypt, and double click to reverse the process.  A special
passphrase that only you know makes it impossible for others to
access your encrypted data.  So if your laptop is stolen at the
airport, your data is safe.  Well, as safe as possible in the hands
of a thief, anyway.

Steak Knives Not Included

If you want to get your mitts on a copy of PGP for Personal Privacy
5.0, it'll set you back about fifty bucks.  Depending on your needs,
that may be a small price to pay for your online privacy.  But if
you're looking for crypto on a budget, try PGPfreeware 5.0 instead.
It's free for non-commercial use by individuals, includes the
easy-to-use graphical user interface, but lacks some of the advanced
features found in the deluxe version.

You can download either version from the PGP Inc.  website at, but for some real fun grab a copy of Eudora Light (it's
free) with PGPfreeware bundled in.  You can find this package at  Both the Windows and Mac versions require 8MB of RAM
and will chew up about 15MB of disk space.  PGP V5.0 is not available
for DOS or Windows 3.1, but you can download an older version (PGP
2.6.2) for those platforms.  PGP 2.6.2 will still do an excellent job
of securing your data, but lacks a graphical interface and
integration with e-mail programs.

*----------------------[ DECRYPT THIS, BILL ]-----------------------*

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See you next time!  --Bob

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