Fraunhofer Institute encryption promises secure E-mail for everyone

Today people can secure their email before digital snooping around: the “Popular encryption” software developed by the Fraunhofer Institute and is free of charge for private individuals. In order to make the project successful, many users will need to register.

The name says it: “Popular encryption”, even technical laymen should be in the future quite easily able to be able to send and receive encrypted emails. Since available today and for free software was developed by the Darmstadt Fraunhofer Institute for Secure Information Technology (SIT). Associated infrastructure operates the Deutsche Telekom in a high-security computer center.

The existing encryption solutions would hardly used because they were little user-friendly and too complicated for lay people, say the promoters of the project. Michael Waidner of the SIT is sure that “the citizens with the popular encryption can improve their digital sovereignty and guard effectively against unsolicited mass surveillance”.

How does the popular encryption work?

The so-called end-to end encryption ensures that a sender encrypts a message so that only the intended recipient can decrypt it again. Even if the message happened many servers on their way, their content is always confidential. The heart of this is a software installed on the computer of the user’s cryptographic keys in the right places.

This certification can be done via the Telekom. You have to be is not a customer, but for the Telecom account, registration is simple. There are other ways of the certification about the electronic ID card or personally at one of the booths from the Fraunhofer Institute.

Software sets up a private and a public key

Is the software is then downloaded, it is a private and a public key automatically according to the international standard, the S/MIME method (Secure / Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions) for each user. The public key is stored together with the E-Mail address on a server.

The private key is stored only on the user’s computer. A mail is to be sent, the official key of the receiver is requested before and the mail that encrypted.

In addition, the private key is required to read the mail. In turn, that means that also the recipient of the mail must use the popular encryption, otherwise there is an error message. You can choose however before on case by case basis, whether or not to encrypt the E-mail.

high-security computer center
Data center of Telecom: the Group operates the infrastructure for encrypting people in a high-security computer center. Photo: Deutsche Telekom

While the private key only for the user, the public keys are registered centrally. There you can ask for then, the public key of a user as in a phone book, because you would like to send him such an encrypted email.

The software supports only Windows

So far the E-mail programs are supported by the software Outlook and Thunderbird on Windows, as well as the browser Internet Explorer, chrome, and Firefox. IOS versions for Mac OS X, Linux, and Android were planned, it says. Also will working on a version which the key safely pass you from the desktop to mobile devices.

encryption promises secure E-mail
Base station by Vodafone in a student dormitory in Cologne: the so-called end-to end encryption ensures that a sender encrypts a message so that only the intended recipient can decrypt it again. Photo: Vodafone

In addition, that plans to, the user also spontaneously to encrypt an addition to the ad-hoc encryption, without previously registering with the central infrastructure Fraunhofer SIT.