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How to Send Encrypted Emails in Thunderbird

thunderbird-encrypt-email-thumbPreviously, we've got shown you the best way to send encrypted email in Gmail. However, a number of the comments in the article mentioned this is dependent about the Chrome extension and is not a failsafe approach. An alternative way is always to manage your emails employing a desktop client, like Thunderbird, and manage the encryption from a desktop. Here is how you can send encrypted emails in Thunderbird.


Thunderbird, alone, does not come with the proportions to encrypt your email. However, by making use of PGP/GPG and enigmail, it is possible to easily encrypt your email in Thunderbird.


PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) could be the protocol employed to encrypt emails.


GPG (GNU Privacy Guard) will be the software that implements PGP.


Enigmail is often a Thunderbird extension that connects to GPG to implements the encryption.


To get going, we need to first install GPG and Enigmail on our computer.

For Linux

In Ubuntu and most Linux distro, GPG is installed by default. In fact, the “Passwords and Keys” (aka. seahorse) app in Ubuntu is an implementation of GPG.

To install Enigmail, simply hunt for it inside Ubuntu Software Center, or use the command inside the terminal:

sudo apt-get install enigmail

For Windows

Installing GPG in Windows is really as easy as installing the GPG4Win app.

For Mac

Similarly, install the GPG Suite for Mac to start.

Installing Enigmail in Thunderbird

Once you've got installed GPG on your OS, throw open Thunderbird and head to “Tools -> Add-ons”. Search for the extension “Enigmail”. Install it and restart Thunderbird for this to take effect.


You should now see an “OpenPGP” option inside menu bar.


Setting up OpenPGP in Thunderbird

Click the “OpenPGP” menu and select “Setup Wizard”. Select “Yes, I would like the wizard to acquire me started” and then click Next.


If you wish to sign your email, select “yes, I want to sign most of my email”. For selective signing, find the “No, I want to …” option instead. Click Next.


For the encryption, decide if you would like to encrypt all your outgoing email or on a per-recipient basis.


Next, the wizard will prompt one to change a couple of email settings to produce OpenPGP work more reliably. This includes disable HTML message, view message body as plain text, disable loading IMAP parts at will etc. If you've got made a specific settings to Thunderbird you need to use for all emails, select “No”. Else, it is possible to safely select “Yes” and allow it to go configures your mail settings.


The next step is always to create a fresh key pair for signing and encrypting your email. If you have already developed a keypair, it is possible to select it in the list. If not, select “Create a fresh key pair” option.


You will then have to go into the passphrase.


And lastly, click Next with the Summary page and will also start to produce the keypair.

thunderbird OpenPGP Summary

Once the keypair is generated, it'll prompt you if you wish to generate a revocation certificate. This certificate can be utilized to invalidate your private input case it gets lost or stolen.


Signing and Encrypting emails in Thunderbird

Open a new Compose window and begin to enter your message. To encrypt/sign your message, click “OpenPGP -> Encrypt Message” inside the menu bar. You can also select “Sign Message” as well. If necessary, attach your public key inside email so the recipient can also add it to their library.


Accessing Encrypted emails in Gmail

If you will get an encrypted email in Gmail, you'll be able to make use of Mymail-Crypt for Gmail for Chrome or WebPG (readily available for both Firefox and Chrome).

Final Thoughts

Thunderbird is employed by many people and due to its open-source nature, adding an encryption mechanism into it is very simple too. Once you have set it up, it will be possible to receive and send encrypted emails without much issue.

Image credit: Computer security by BigStockPhoto

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