To encrypt something we translate it into cipher. To decrypt something we translate the cipher back to its standard intelligible representation.
This is typically involved in commerce-based web sites and email clients. It gives us that fuzzy feeling that everything is safe. We aren't exposing ourselves to the wolves of existence. I don't want people to know my credit card number...do you?
Web site encryption is basically a secure server. This means that they have a Digital ID authenticating their security. If you see a key or padlock at the bottom of your browser, you are on a secure site. This means that anything you enter on that web page (secret data) and submit will be protected from others eyes.
Email encryption is wrapping up your mail into secret code and sending it to another client for it to decode. This allows us to keep our information private amongst ourselves. We might want this if we are sending credit card information across the internet. Or we may just want to have our information unrevealed until it gets to the person that it suppose to go to. Either way, ENCRYPTING our messages is the way to do it.
To encrypt anything officially in the internet world we need what is called a Digital ID. This is the established proof that we are sending, or providing, safe encrypted information. Once we have a Digital ID we can attach it to our email and show the world our proof of encryption.
A Digital ID, or digital certificate, serves as an electronic substitute for a sealed envelope or your signature when you send messages across the Internet. Your Digital ID resides securely in your browser or e-mail software and allows you to encrypt and digitally sign your email.
This is the world internet effort to compensate for a non-trusting world. These prove our authenticity. We are good. We're private. We can encrypt.
If you want to get a Verisign Digital ID you can get them for personal reasons, server reasons, or developer reasons.
A digital ID is composed of a "public key," a "private key," and a "digital signature." When you digitally sign your messages, you are adding your digital signature and public key to the message. The combination of a digital signature and public key is called a "certificate."
Your email recipients can use your digital signature to verify your identity and use your public key to send you encrypted mail that only you can read by using your private key. In order to send encrypted messages, your address book must contain digital IDs for the recipients. That way, you can use their public keys to encrypt the messages. When a recipient gets an encrypted message, their private key is used to decrypt the message for reading.
Before you can start sending digitally signed messages, you must obtain a digital ID and set up your mail account to use it. If you are sending encrypted messages, your address book must contain a digital ID for each recipient.
Where do you get digital IDs?
Digital IDs are issued by independent certification authorities. When you apply for a digital ID at a certification authority's web site, they verify your identity before issuing an ID. There are different classes of digital IDs, each certifying to a different level of trustworthiness.
In order to obtain someone else's digital ID, you can ask them to send you digitally signed mail, or you can search the digital ID database on a certification authority's Web site. You can also search Internet directory services that list digital IDs along with other properties.
How do you verify a digital signature?
With "revocation checking," you can verify the validity of a digitally signed message. When you make such a check, Outlook Express requests information on the digital ID from the appropriate certification authority. The certification authority sends back information on the status of the digital ID, including whether the ID has been revoked. Certification authorities keep track of certificates that have been revoked due to loss or termination.
If you want to send some encrypted email, here is how to do it. First, get a personal Digital ID. You can do this from an independent source or through the menu structure of our email client.
Here is how do work with a Digital ID in Netscape Messenger and Outlook Express.