Security

How to use the Nylas PGP plugin to encrypt/decrypt N1 email

If you passed on the Nylas N1 email app because of security concerns, put those fears aside because PGP encryption is now integrated into the tool.

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Image: iStockPhoto

Nylas is the company behind the N1 email client, which has been polarizing. Some users felt it was a security risk because N1 required the use of Nylas' servers to pull email from your provider so it can be viewed on the client.

Nylas has finally added PGP encryption to N1, and they've done a very good job with it. I'll show how to work with the new Nylas PGP plugin and how to encrypt/decrypt messages.

What to know before creating an encryption key

Nylas went the open source route (PGP) for its encryption. Nylas integrated N1 with Keybase, but you do not have to use that service as long as you have the means to create and export your own public keys.

Since N1 is only available on Linux, you should already have everything you need to create your keys. If you're not a fan of the command line, you can always use a third-party system or even the built-in key generating system within N1. Regardless of how you do this, you'll need a PGP key to use for encryption, as well as the keys of those who will be sending you encrypted messages.

The addition of PGP on N1 is available in the latest release of the client. Install that version, and you're ready to go.

SEE: Encryption Policy (Tech Pro Research)

Generating a key with Nylas

If you don't have a key and don't want to bother with the command line, you can let N1 generate your key for you. Here's how.

  1. Open N1.
  2. Click Edit | Preferences.
  3. Click the Encryption tab.
  4. Click Generate New Keypair (Figure A).
  5. Enter your email address.
  6. Type in a strong password for your private key.
  7. Click Generate A New Keypair.
  8. Do some work on your computer so PGP can do its thing.

Figure A

Figure A
Image: Jack Wallen

Creating a new keypair in N1 is simple.

With the new keypair generated, you're ready to go on your end. However, you still need to import keys from those you wish to send encrypted emails; otherwise, they won't be able to open said missives.

Importing a key

Say you've been sent a public key (it will be in the form of a public key block) — copy that key to your clipboard, and then you can import it into N1. Here's how.

  1. Open N1.
  2. Click Edit | Preferences.
  3. Click the Encryption tab.
  4. Click Paste In New Key.
  5. Paste the copied key block into the text block area.
  6. Enter the email address associated with the key (Figure B).
  7. Click Save.

Repeat these steps until you've imported all the necessary public keys.

Figure B

Figure B
Image: Jack Wallen

Adding a user's public key to N1.

Sending an encrypted email

Compose an email as you would normally to an address for which you have imported a public key. When you're finished composing the email, click the lock icon (Figure C); the body of the email will be replaced by an encryption block. Now hit Send.

Figure C

Figure C
Image: Jack Wallen

Composing an email to be encrypted.

Decrypting an email

When you receive an encrypted email in N1, decryption is as easily handled as encryption. The incoming email will contain a Decrypt button. Click that button and then enter the password for your public key (Figure D). The email will decrypt so you can read its contents.

Figure D

Figure D
Image: Jack Wallen

Decrypting an email in N1.

Encryption for all

I realize that Nylas is a Linux-only email client, but most other clients have encryption options available. Do yourself a favor and get familiar with how your email client of choice works with encryption. There will come a day when you need the added layer of privacy in your communications. Now you know how to make it happen with N1.

Also see

About Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.

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