A note about emails, security and staying safe online #GPG #encryption

From today, if you receive an email from me you’ll notice some weird nonsense characters at the start and end of the message that look a little like this:


What it means

Don’t worry, there’s nothing wrong with your email, it’s supposed to look this way. What it means is that it’s been signed with my digital signature so that you can be 100% sure that the message that appears between the ‘nonsense’ has definitely come from me and hasn’t been changed by anyone along the way.

Think of it as a way of making sure that nobody’s tampering with your mail before it gets to you.

How to use it

To check this, you need to use a tool that can verify the PGP/GPG signature. There are lots of these available, and best of all they are free. You can find out more about what tool will be best for you in this post on the lifehacker blog: https://lifehacker.com/how-to-encrypt-your-email-and-keep-your-conversations-p-1133495744.

You’ll also need a copy of my PGP/GPG public key, which you can download from here.

Or you can learn how to use the Enigmail tool – that I use – by visiting https://emailselfdefense.fsf.org/ from the free software foundation.

Better, safer, alternatives

Email is not a secure way to communicate. It’s like sending a postcard in the mail, anyone can read what you write while it’s on the way. Thankfully, there are lots of better ways:

  • Encrypted email – it’s not very user friendly, but it works using the exact same tools as the PGP/GPG signatures above, read : https://lifehacker.com/how-to-encrypt-your-email-and-keep-your-conversations-p-1133495744 or https://emailselfdefense.fsf.org/ if you want to know more.
  • WhatsApp – is completely end-to-end encrypted, so as long as you keep your phone safe nobody can read your messages or listen in on your calls, not even WhatsApp or Facebook themselves. This makes it a million times safer than email. You can find me by searching for my phone number 07762 846 191.
  • Telegram & Wire – like WhatsApp these apps provide secure messaging. They are different, though, in that they were built from the ground up to respect your provacy and security. If you are at all serious about your privacy – use them.
    You can find me by looking for:
    – matsims on Telegram (or visiting https//telegram.me/matsims)
    – mathew.sims@outlook.com on Wire


Although I’m not an IT expert, if you’re not sure about any of this I’m happy to lend any help I can; or at least point you in the direction of someone else who can. Just get in touch with me (using any of the usual methods) and I’ll be happy to do what I can to lend a hand.

Best wishes,


Image credit: Blondinrikard Fröberg used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

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