Do you need to send someone sensitive information through email? Regular email is sent “in the clear” and therefore is subject to interception by hackers. However, there are many options for sending private, sensitive information securely through email.
We have collected some links to sites providing solutions for sending secure email, secure one-time messages, and secure instant messaging, and encrypting files to send through email.
Infoencrypt is a free, web-based service for easily securing your messages. Simply enter the text of your message and the encryption password that will be used for both encryption and decryption. The program encrypts your message using a strong encryption algorithm, making it secure to send. Anyone who intercepts the encrypted message without the password will not be able to read the original message.
Infoencrypt does not require installation on your PC.
SafeGmail is a free extension for Google Chrome that allows you to send encrypted emails to anyone. The messages are encrypted and decrypted within the browser and remain encrypted in both the sender’s and receiver’s email inboxes. The messages also automatically expire after a random amount of time.
SafeGmail works with any recipient email provider. For more information about using SafeGmail, see our article.
RMail allows you to easily send emails with end-to-end security and compliance. Send encrypted email from your current email address (10 free messages allowed per month) and automatically receive a Registered Receipt™ record proving encrypted delivery and compliance with open tracking.
Sendinc is a web-based service that makes it safe and simple to transmit sensitive information via email. You and your recipients can use Sendinc for free. No software is required.
Sendinc secures your message by ensuring that your data remains encrypted from the time it leaves your computer through the time your recipients retrieve it. At no point in the process is your message data transmitted or stored in an unencrypted format. Sendinc further ensures the safety of your messages by verifying your recipients are in fact your intended recipients.
Messages are encrypted with a powerful randomly-generated encryption key that is emailed to your recipients in the form of a link. Sendinc does not save a copy of your recipients’ encryption keys and your message can not be decrypted without the key – not even by Sendinc. This means only your recipients can decode the message data.
Hushmail is a secure web-based free email service that looks and feels just like any other web-mail site, but adds strong encryption to your emails to protect your secrets from prying eyes. It uses standards-compliant encryption and provides mobile access (Android, iPhone, BlackBerry, etc.).
Paid plans are also available that provide additional storage, unlimited email aliases, dedicated technical support, and desktop access.
Lockbin is a free web application for sending private email messages and files. Lockbin ends message persistence, which means your email message will not be backed up on email servers or stored in backup files. Network sniffers can also spy on your email traffic while in transit. Use Lockbin to obscure the content of your message and avoid these hazards to your privacy.
No registration is required to use Lockbin. Your message and file attachments are protected by strong AES-256 bit encryption and your secret password. You invent the password and deliver it to the recipient using a different secure method, not email.
The free plan allows one user to send secure messages with secure file attachments up to 15MB. Files are stored for up to one month. You can also download free Lockbin Java desktop software and a free Microsoft Outlook add-in for sending and receiving Lockbin messages. There are also paid plans providing more features and allowing for larger limits on file attachments and for more users
iSafeguard is a software package that provides easy-to-use and highly secure encryption and digital signature solutions for everyone from big companies to individual users. The software allows you to sign and encrypt files, folders, and emails and verify digital signatures and countersignatures. It provides a secure text editor and allows you to wipe files, folders, and free disk space. It also integrates with the Windows shell.
The freeware edition of their software is for non-business, individual users. Although it lacks some of the features the enterprise and professional editions have it does provide powerful encryption and digital signatures capabilities, and security is as strong as the enterprise and professional editions.
All editions support using certificates from any Certificate Authorities, and handle certificate status checking automatically.
Sbwave Enkryptor is a free service that encrypts text messages for email delivery. The encrypted email is entered and sent via a web form. The recipient receives the encrypted message in a similar form, then simply enters the encryption code you chose and the message is decrypted.
There is no software to install, nothing to sign up for, and no ads attached to the messages. The service requires an encryption code that both you and the recipient know and a mail client that understands HTML such as Outlook Express, Netscape Messenger, Hotmail, NetZero, Lycos or any number of free email systems.
Safe-mail is a highly secure communication, storage, sharing and distribution system for the Internet. It provides email, instant messaging, data distribution, data storage, and file sharing tools in a suite of applications that enables businesses and individuals to communicate and store data with privacy and confidence. Every application is secured by state-of-the-art encryption ensuring the highest level protection and privacy to users. Within the overall system as with each application, security is not an add-on feature but has been designed into the fundamental architecture of the system.
The system is available at any time and from any location using any device or operating system, be it PC or Macintosh, Windows or Unix, Sun or i-mode enabled wireless device.
Safe-mail’s free service contains ALL the functionality of the Safe-mail system but is limited to 3Mb of storage space, less names in the address book, less folders, filters, smaller mail quota and reduced frequency of backup. To increase access to these resources, they offer a range of Premium Services.
There are no advertisements, downloads or cookies. Safe-mail supports most hardware platforms and any operating system. Includes file storage, spam filters and anti virus protection. Full compatibility with most browsers, email clients and all relevant protocols including POP, SMTP, IMAP, S/MIME and Public Key Infrastructure (PKI).
Enigmail is a security extension to Mozilla Thunderbird and Seamonkey. It enables you to write and receive email messages signed and/or encrypted with the OpenPGP standard. Enigmail can also be used with Eudora OSE and Postbox (using a Postbox extension).
Enigmail is an email plugin. It cannot be run by itself. You need to use one of the supported email clients, the GNU Privacy Guard (GnuPG), and a little patience. You may also need to install the proper Enigmail language pack.
Comodo Free Secure Email Certificate
Comodo Free Secure Email Certificate allows you to protect your digital communications. The digital signature ensures confidentiality and provides secure message encryption with up to 256-bit security. The Comodo Free Secure Email Certificate is free for personal use, integrates with Microsoft® Office and major applications, and is trusted by popular email clients.
Email certificates provide the strongest levels of confidentiality and security for your electronic communications by allowing you to digitally sign and encrypt your mail and attachments. Encryption means that only your intended recipient will be able to read the mail while digitally signing allows them to confirm you as the sender and verify the message was not tampered with en route. Comodo’s email certificates are free for personal/home users and are available from as little as $12 per year for business users.
Mobrien.com offers a free encrypted email service that transmit your email text message in an encrypted form so that it cannot be parsed for key words while en route. What happens once it is stored on the receiver’s computer is up to them and the protective security measures they have enabled.
Your e-mail remains encrypted from the time it is sent and until it is received and decrypted by the intended recipient. The recipient automatically receives instructions for decrypting messages. No unencrypted message is transmitted across the internet.
Between transmissions, when your e-mail is stored on mail servers, the message remains encrypted and the content cannot be “sniffed” for specific key words, which is the manner in which email “eavesdroppers” select the emails they want to read.
Using Mobrien.com’s encrypted email service, there is no need to exchange passwords or complex public key details with encrypted email recipients. The recipients are automatically sent instructions for deciphering the encrypted email. Sending an encrypted email message using Mobrien.com is as simple as sending an ordinary email with a web client. Other email encryption methods require the sender and receiver to exchange public keys which is complicated, inconvenient, and not very practical when spontaneously sending encoded email messages.
SafeMess allows you to encrypt any message text in a few seconds. After the encryption is done, your message will appear unreadable to the human eye. Then you can send your message to a friend or save it to a file for later use. Your friend will only be able to read the message if he or she enters the secret password that you have chosen.
SafeMess can be used on any message and is suitable when the communication is done via an unsecured channel (like mail, IM, chat, etc.) or when you want to hide information from robots or filters.
The encryption script always runs locally in the browser on your computer. Therefore, your secret password and message will never be sent over the Internet to the SafeMess server.
Currently, you cannot encrypt more than 32 kilobytes of data (that is more than 10 printed pages of text) using SafeMess. All character sets are supported, including US, European, Cyrillic, Chinese and Japanese as long as the browser has support for UTF-8 encoding.
Crypto Anywhere is a program that is small enough to fit on a USB flash drive, providing free secure email on the go. Don’t have a computer yourself but want to protect your web based e-mail at your local internet cafe? Crypto Anywhere is for you. If you run Crypto Anywhere from a USB flash drive, you can encrypt your email without even installing software on your workstation. With Crypto Anywhere you can send and receive secure email to and from anyone with an email account – the recipients do not have to have Crypto Anywhere themselves.
Crypto Anywhere is free for personal and corporate use.
Opolis Secure Email Service
Opolis is a high-security email service. Combining the latest E-Mail security technologies, Opolis transmits, processes and stores all your confidential messages in encrypted mode. Accessible from all over the world, Opolis operates on your PC in parallel to standard email applications, such as Microsoft’s Outlook or Apple’s Mail. The Opolis Mail Client runs on any machine and does not require any specific configuration.
Opolis is a fully integrated service provider for all your confidential emails, combining a global infrastructure, server systems, backup facilities, storage and customer service.
Mailvelope is an easy-to-use Chrome extension that offers free, OpenPGP encryption for the most popular webmail services. It comes preconfigured for major webmail providers (Gmail/Google Apps, Outlook, Yahoo! and GMX) and integrates directly into the webmail user interface. It can also be configured to support other webmail services.
A Firefox version of Mailvelope is currently in development. An early preview can be found in the GitHub repository.
Trend Micro Email Encryption Client
Trend Micro Email Encryption Client is a plug-in for Microsoft Outlook that enables secure, confidential and private email communications between you and any of your Outlook contacts.
Since regular email is transmitted “in the clear,” it is vulnerable to interception and eavesdropping on the internet and by online email providers such as Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail. Safe, secure, and free for non-commercial use, Trend Micro Email Encryption Client ensures that no one except you and your recipients can read your encrypted email messages and attachments.
Simply click the “Send Private” button from Outlook to encrypt your email message and any attachments with 256-bit AES, the same encryption standard approved for used by US government agencies.
Crypt4Free is a free program that allows you to encrypt every kind of file on every kind of medium, whether floppy disk, removable hard drive, zip drive, tape drive or other, using the proven encryption algorithm, DESX. It offers full .zip support, providing the ability to browse for existing .zip archives, extract their contents, and even create new .zip archives.
The program also allows you to send encrypted files and messages via the internet and to encrypt email text (or any other text message) to send it securely via e-mail, chat, or instant messengers like ICQ, AOL Messenger, Microsoft Messenger, etc. The recipient must enter the password to read this message.
Crypt4Free provides a user privacy tool that removes all internet traces, such as URL history, typed URLs, Favorites, Recycle Bin, typed passwords in web forms, etc. There is also a built-in file shredder that allows you to wipe the contents of the original, pre-encrypted file.
The company that offers Crypt4Free, SecureAction, also sells a program called Advanced Encryption Package Professional for $49.95. The program offers features not available in the freeware version, such as creation of self-extracting archives, integration with Windows Explorer, complete command line support, RSA algorithm support, and 17 additional encryption algorithms and 19 additional secure files erasure algorithms.
dsCrypt is an AES/Rijndael file encryption program with a simple, multi-file, drag-and-drop interface. It features optimal implementation, performance and safety measures. dsCrypt uses an advanced encryption algorithm and offers unique options for enhanced security. It is available as a small, self-contained, and dependency-free file you can run on your PC or on a USB flash drive.
Files you encrypt are converted into encrypted .dsc files. If you use dsCrypt to send a private message to someone via email, the recipient simply has to drag and drop a .dsc file onto the dsCrypt program window, type the correct password, and the file will be decrypted and made usable again.
MEO is file encryption software for Windows or Mac or Windows that allow you to encrypt and decrypt files of any type. Protect sensitive data against unauthorized viewers with the latest data encryption technologies to keep your documents safe and secure.
Use MEO to easily send encrypted emails, or create self-extracting encrypted files so the receiver can open the encrypted files on any Windows or Mac computer without needing to install the encryption software on their machine. MEO also provides context menu integration so you can encrypt files outside of the MEO program.
The free version is available for non-commercial use.
Encrypt Files is a free, lightweight but powerful program that allows you to encrypt your files and folders and password protect them. It supports 13 encryption methods. You have the option to shred the original files after encryption or to make the files hidden after encryption. The software must be installed on both the sender’s and recipient’s computers. When you encrypt a file, a new copy of the file is created that is encrypted, leaving the original file alone. You can then choose leave, delete, or shred the original file.
ThreadThat is a free web-based service that allows you to easily conduct online, bi-directional, passkey-protected, anonymous communication using secure threads in your own private, encrypted message center. A secure thread is a series of exchanges between two or more individuals arranged in one convenient continuous conversation that can be accessed with a single mouse click. There is no limit to the number of messages or files on a Thread and no limitation on the length of time the conversation spans. All messages and files are encrypted while in-transit and while at-rest and can only be accessed by other invited ThreadThat users. Threads only exist on ThreadThat servers, never on an end-user computing device.
ThreadThat does not require that you download and install any software and there is no advertising, games, SPAM, or malware.
Burn Note is a free web application that allows you to have private conversations online. Enter a note and protect it with a password. When you click Send, a link is generated. Send the link and communicate the password to the recipient. Once they have read the note, or the specified time period has passed, the note self destructs. The recipient can securely reply to your note.
Every message on Burn Note is automatically deleted and uses patent-pending technology to prevent copying. Deleted Burn Notes are completely erased from the Burn Note servers after a certain amount of time you specify, so it is impossible for anyone to retrieve them.
QuickForget.com is a free, web-based service that allows you to share secret messages that self destruct after a set amount of time. Enter a message and get a link you can share with the recipient of your message. You can set the number of views allowed and also the amount of time before the message self-destructs. Once a message is deleted, it is gone forever. If you try to access to access the message after it is deleted, a message displays, saying, “Sorry, I’ve already forgotten the secret.”
Privnote is a free service that allows you to send private message that self-destruct after being read once. You do not need to register or create a password. You simply write your note, click the red button to create a link, and then send that link to the desired recipient. When the person accesses that link, they will see the note in their browser, and the note automatically self-destructs. No one, not even the same person who viewed the note, can access the note again.
There is no time limit by which the link must be viewed or it will be self-destructed. The one feature Privnote has that OneShar.es does not is a check box that allows you to receive notification when the message has been read.
OneShar.es is a free service that allows you to share confidential information with others that you don’t want to send through email or post on instant messaging services. The information shared is encrypted from you to OneShar.es and stored encrypted. OneShar.es cannot read your information. It is assigned a unique URL that you can share. The provided URL can only be accessed once. Once someone visits the URL you send them, the information is unlocked so they can view it, and then the message is deleted. You can specify minutes, hours, or days by which the message will be self-destructed if not viewed. The maximum amount of time is 3 days.
OneShar.es does not require a password or registration and can also be used on Android and iOS devices.
How-To Geek previously showed you how to use OneShar.es to send self-destructing sensitive information to someone.
Steganos LockNote is a small, simple program that allows you to store private text in filessecurely. For example, if you purchase a download-only program, you can use LockNote to store the product key or serial number that goes with that program in the same folder, so you always know where to find it. The program works like Windows Notepad, but when you save the file, you’ll be prompted for a password.
In addition to using LockNote to store personal, private data, you can use LockNote to send someone a private message. Enter your message in LockNote, password-protect the message, and then send the LockNote file to your recipient via email. When your recipient opens the LockNote file on their PC, all they have to do is enter the password and they can read your message.
You can also add protection to the file by putting it in a secure, encrypted vault using an encryption program. We list some options for that later in this article.
For more information about using LockNote, see our article.
Free File Camouflage
Free File Camouflage is a free program that allows you to hide your files inside a jpeg image. The software can be used with the main interface or via the Windows Explorer “send to” context menu (the first time you only need to select a directory with some images).
All the files are encrypted using AES and hidden inside an image. If someone tried to open your camouflaged image, all they see is the image.
If you use this method to send someone a private text message in a file hidden inside an image, the recipient must use Free File Camouflage to de-camouflage the file. If sending the camouflaged image through email, we recommend that you add a password when encrypting the file into an image.
For more information about using Free File Camouflage, see our article.
The remaining two options for securing data allow you to create encrypted file vaults in which you can store private files. As long as your recipient knows the password required to open the vault, you can use this method to send private information to people via email. Simply attach the encrypted vault file to an email message.
If you are looking for a simple and powerful way to encrypt everything from system drives to backup discs to everything in between, TrueCrypt is a free, open-source tool that will help you lock up your files. It is an on-the-fly encryption application that allows you to work with encrypted files as you would work on files located on a regular drive. TrueCrypt allows you to create a virtual, encrypted disk within a file and mounts it like a real hard drive. Encryption in TrueCrypt is automatic and transparent, as well as real-time.
Once you have created your virtual, encrypted disk in a file, you can email that file. The recipient needs to have the TrueCrypt software installed and the password used to protect the file.
SafeHouse Explorer is a free, portable encryption program available to everyone as a free download in order to promote data privacy and to help you to protect your confidential files. It makes your secret files invisible and hides them from snoopers, intruders and anyone else who doesn’t have your permission to view them. Use SafeHouse Explorer to create private storage vaults to store sensitive files. These vaults can be as large as 2GB each.
SafeHouse Explorer uses passwords and maximum-strength 256-bit Twofish advanced encryption to protect your storage vaults, completely hiding and defending your sensitive files, including photos, videos, spreadsheets, databases and just about any other kind of file that you might have. The program can protect files residing on any drive, including memory sticks, external USB drives, network servers, CD/DVDs, and even iPods. SafeHouse Explorer is easy to use, providing a Windows Explorer-like drag-and-drop interface.
If you use SafeHouse Explorer to send someone private information via email, your recipient can access the SafeHouse storage vault using the free SafeHouse Explorer program. However, you can also create a self-extracting .exe encrypted storage vault that your recipient can simply run to open and access the files within the vault. Creating a self-extracting .exe file automatically includes the SafeHouse Explorer program in the storage vault file. When you run the file and enter the password, SafeHouse Explorer starts and the storage vault is automatically opened.
SafeHouse Explorer is a full featured program and will never expire.
Sophos Free Encryption
Sophos Free Encryption is a program that allows you to send encrypted data by creating password-protected archives you can send using most email programs. When you encrypt your data, the files are automatically compressed and the archives are automatically added to new email messages. Encrypted files can be self-extracting so recipients don’t need special software to open the file; all they will need is the password.
If you have discovered other useful methods of sending sensitive information through email, let us know in the comments.
Lori Kaufman is a freelance technical writer who likes to write geeky how-to articles to help make people's lives easier through the use of technology. She loves watching and reading mysteries and is an avid Doctor Who fan.
- Published 02/2/13