Email encryption is a task that's often misunderstood and frequently confusing. In fact, I can't think of anyone on my list of friends right now--geek or otherwise--who actually encrypts their email. That's not because email encryption is a bad thing. In fact, there are some pretty compelling benefits to being able to conceal the contents of a message. Suppose you have to quickly email a friend or loved one access to your online banking account for some reason. You aren't going to want to just send that information straight into the digital ether. An unhappy coworker or an industrious packet sniffer can pick out the contents of your message and compromise your security in a short amount of time.
You usually have to walk through a ton of hoops to get your hands on powerful email encryption. It's a hodgepodge of certificates, authentications, digital signatures, strings of text exchanged as keys, et cetera. Or, at least, it was. A helpful piece of freeware called Comodo SecureEmail is attempting to simultaneously reduce the headache and maximize the benefit of email encryption. I'm proud to report that it's super-easy to use so long as you know how to work your way around a typical configuration screen. More importantly, it's a great way to set up the encryption handshake between you and new email contacts without rendering you lifeless from all the different options and authentications.
Comodo's options are as numerous as they are detailed--going into all of them right now would double the size of this mini-review. Here's the gist: You create an encryption certificate and start sending your contacts unencrypted and encrypted emails depending on your preferences. When a contact receives an encrypted email for the first time, he or she has one or two options: download Comodo to view the contents of the message or, if you've allowed it, use a one-time-only, secure Web form to view the message. The first option will automatically add said contact's digital certificate to your library, completing the handshake.
It's as easy as that--you don't have to fuss with a prearranged sharing of keys or any of that mess. Just send the email and let Comodo take care of the rest: Simple, secure, speedy.
Each week, Maximum PC picks a new free or shareware download as its favorite of... the week. Have a nifty application that you can't live without? Twitter David Murphy @acererak with your latest suggestions.