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I want to send a password protected email using gmail. Yes I Know I could attach a document, and protect that instead, but I would like to protect the email body, if that is possible?

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migrated from superuser.com May 24 '11 at 8:52

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up vote 18 down vote accepted

No, that is not possible with email. Such a function is not specified in the email protocoll. The only possibility would be to encrypt the text in your email body with a tool like PGP or S/MIME. The recipient needs to enter his private password to decrypt the email body. But you need a email client or third party tools to support this (as well as your mail recipient).

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+1 for PGP suggestion. One of the few tools that takes care of all three major security factors. –  Anonymous May 24 '11 at 8:45
    
Great answer, wish the Gmail web interface had this built in. –  JL01 May 24 '11 at 11:31
    
@JL01: Most people wouldn't be too happy to store their private keys on Google's servers (see also: Hushmail). And client (browser)-side implementations would be far too slow. Even writing a 486 emulator in JavaScript is far simpler than the whole OpenPGP suite. –  grawity May 24 '11 at 15:14
    
@grawity How about gnupg.org ? –  Cawas May 25 '11 at 15:36
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@Cawas: It isn't very complicated to use once you grasp the concepts of public-key crypto and Web of Trust. However, the installation might be confusing: GPG itself is command-line and can't deal with mail. There are a couple of key management GUIs and plugins for mail clients, even bundled into a single GPG4Win package, but even the size of said package is scary. Downloading GPG + Thunderbird + Enigmail can be much easier, IMHO; everything can then be done inside Thunderbird. –  grawity May 25 '11 at 21:20
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Use an Imap client with PGP functionnality, such as Thunderbird with enigmail.

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If you do, the recepient needs to do the same. –  Svish May 24 '11 at 10:35
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If you're interested in encrypting an email with moderate strength but not willing to go through the PGP rigamarole, you could use a Vigenere cipher. It uses a previously agreed-upon word (the key) to apply a rotating Caesar Shift. If I applied the word "protect" to this paragraph, this is the output:

Xw mhy'tx xehxvglivr br ggrimixkgv rb xqcba nwml ohsvftxg liisgkva qlh gsv pxczbri md xc mlthjxv mlg IVG fbkcfpicei, ahj tcnpf nhv o Omixcvfx Gkiwvf. Bx wltj o ivgoxfilpa tvisxh-wide khvf (mwv yxc) vh pgdec c kdkommpz Rrslet Lwztm. Mh B pgdemgw iys pstw "eicmiem" if hamu ipiozvciw, kvbw kl iys hyvijk:

You can use this page to decrypt that or encrypt your own. Note that the Vigenere cipher is not invulnerable to cracking, but it's definitely stronger than rot13, and is a ton simpler than private-public key systems.

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It's especially vulnerable if you keep the punctuation and upper/lower case. For example, "mhy'tx" can be narrowed down to a couple of plaintexts in English. –  grawity May 24 '11 at 15:01
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