If you’ve become more and more paranoid about your data and communications, chances are you’re looking for (or already have found) encryption tools for your Android device. Thankfully, the Google Play Store has plenty of options available for those looking to add another layer of security to their devices. Once such option is OpenKeychain. This particular take on encryption is based on the OpenPGP standard, makes it easy for you to create a key, and integrates with other apps (such as K9 Mail, Conversations, and more).

I want to walk you through the process of getting OpenKeychain installed, creating your key, exporting your key, and importing keys from other users.

Installing OpenKeychain

To install this handy encryption app, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Google Play Store on your Android device
  2. Search for openkeychain
  3. Locate and tap the entry by Sufficiently Secure
  4. Tap Install
  5. Read the permissions listings
  6. If the permissions listings are acceptable, tap Accept
  7. Allow the installation to finish

At this point you should see the OpenKeychain launcher on your homescreen or in your App Drawer (or both). Tap the launcher to fire up the app.

Creating your key

From the OpenKeychain main window (Figure A), tap the CREATE MY KEY button and walk through the simple creation wizard.

Figure A

OpenKeychain running on a Verizon-branded Motorola Droid Turbo.

The steps for creating your key are:

  • Enter your name (or nickname)
  • Add an email to be used for secure communication
  • Create a strong password for the key
  • Review your information
  • Tap CREATE KEY (Figure B)

Figure B

Creating your key in OpenKeychain.

At this point you should see your key listed in the My Keys window (Figure C).

Figure C

Your personal key ready for use.

Importing keys

You can import keys three different ways:

  • Searching by email address on line
  • Importing from file
  • Scan QR code

Let’s add a key via search. To import a key, tap the + button on the My Keys window and then tap Key Search (Figure D).

Figure D

Adding a new key by search.

Tap Key Search and then enter the name or email address of the person whose key you want to add. After entering the name, tap the search button, and then locate the key you want to add. Tap the checkbox next to the key(s) to be added and then tap Import selected keys (Figure E).

Figure E

Adding a key for Linux creator, Linus Torvalds.
Exporting your key for others to use

We will share our key, via Gmail. In order to export your key for others to use, follow these steps:

  1. Open OpenKeychain
  2. From My Keys, tap your personal key
  3. In the top right corner, tap the menu button (three vertical dots)
  4. Tap Extended information
  5. Tap the sharing button in the Share with… section (Figure F)
  6. Locate and tap the Gmail entry
  7. Add a recipient and a subject to the email and tap the Send button

Figure F

Sending your key to another user.

That user can then import that key into whatever encryption app they use.

If you happen to use K9 Email, you can go into Account Settings | Cryptography and select OpenKeychain to be used as your encryption solution. K9 will then draw your encryption keys from OpenKeychain and the rest is, as they say, history.

OpenKeychain happens to be one of the easiest encryption tools available for Android (that also happens to best follow OpenPGP standards). If you want to get the most out of your Android device, and do so with a nod to heightened security, you might want to consider adding OpenKeychain to your must have list of apps to use.