Thunderbird and OpenPGP

I recently helped some friends set up Thunderbird and OpenPGP; the combination is much more user-friendly now.

OpenPGP is end-to-end encryption for email. Each user generates a private and public key. Each user imports a copy of the other user’s public key in their Thunderbird setup (they can copy the keys onto a USB drive or even email them to each other). Then when they select the “Encrypt” button during message composition, Thunderbird does the rest: no one on the Internet can read the message body. (The message metadata, like the subject line and the fact that the users are emailing each other, is still visible to Internet mail server administrators.)

The OpenPGP + Thunderbird user experience in 2022 is quite straightforward! I was worried I would need to use add-ons and external programs, but nope, it’s all built-in, including keypair generation. Public key import/export via the key manager is simple. OpenPGP is also nicely integrated into the reading and composition interfaces, which clearly indicate message signing and encryption status. Nice work by the Thunderbird team!

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1 Comment

  1. @fitzsim is right that this is a fantastic, user-friendly tool for end-to-end encryption. After the public key has been added to the Thunderbird setup, the rest of the process is seamless as @fitzsim has described here. Bravo Thunderbird and OpenPGP!

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