In a day and age where half of our daily activities are spent on the world wide web, leaving behind virtual footprints, the risk of our personal information being compromised is a constant worry. From our login information to our emails, everything is at risk of being intercepted by malicious users.
But there are various ways to try and prevent this from happening. And if one of your main concerns is about the privacy of your emails being hacked then you should consider using a service that will encrypt your messages for the ultimate security and privacy.
Traditional encryption methods are ‘symmetric,’ which means that a key can be used to encrypt data such as passwords as well as decrypt it. On the other hand, ‘asymmetric’ cryptography uses a separate ‘public’ key to encrypt data in addition to a ‘private’ key to decrypt it.
Asymmetric cryptography has been harnessed by programs like PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) to allow emails to be sent securely as users can share their public key with everyone they know to receive messages only they can decrypt.
The P2P communications protocol, Bitmessage, is a popular way to send encrypted messages to another person or to many subscribers. It is decentralized and trustless — meaning that you need-not inherently trust any entities like root certificate authorities. It uses strong authentication which means that the sender of the message cannot be spoofed, and it aims to hide “non-content” data, like the sender and receiver of messages, from passive eavesdroppers like those running warrantless wiretapping programs.
The Bitmessage client takes a step further by allowing you to generate any number of addresses when you can receive messages. As public key crypto is built in, even if someone were to intercept your messages they’d be unreadable. Better yet, messages are automatically digitally signed before being broadcast over the network making it almost impossible for somebody to impersonate someone else.
Provided are the steps you need to know to send a message via Bitmessage:
STEP 1: Download Bitmessage
The PyBitmessage executable can be run from any location such as a folder or USB drive. Please note however, that by default it will place your Bitmessage configuration in ‘%APPDATA%\PyBitmessage’. These files can be placed in the same directory as PyBitmessage by enabling ‘Portable mode’ once set-up steps have been completed.
STEP 2: Configure Network Settings
Once downloaded, Bitmessage will ask how you will connect to the internet. If your computer connects to the internet via a proxy server, choose ‘Let me configure special network settings first’. But if your computer connects to the internet without the need of a proxy server, you can safely select ‘Connect Now’ and then click the ‘OK’ button.
STEP 3: Create an ‘Identity’
The key to Bitmessages’ security lies in your ability to generate new ‘identities’. These are addresses your contacts can use to message you securely. To get started click ‘New Identity’ button on the bottom left of the Bitmessage client window. You can generate addresses in one of two ways. The first is to use a random number generator to create your addresses, which is also the quickest and easiest way to get started. Alternatively, the second method is to use a passphrase or passcode.
STEP 4: Back up Bitmessage keys
If you chose to create a Bitmessage identity using the random number generator, the configuration data will be saved to the file ‘keys.dat’ in ‘%APPDATA%\PyBitmessage’. If this file is lost or damaged, you won’t be able to send or receive any messages using the Bitmessage identities you previously created. To keep your messages safe, make sure to backup ‘keys.dat’ to a secure location. Remember that in the wrong hands this file can be used to impersonate you, so consider copying to an encrypted air-gapped drive. If you’ve chosen a deterministic address, write your passphrase down in a safe place. Check out our list of the top recommended passwords managers for tools to help you.
STEP 5: Manage your Bitmessage address
Any identities that you create are listed in the white box marked ‘identities’. The addresses are designed to be machine readable so first make sure to double click on each one and set a label to give it a more memorable and easy to remember name. You can also personalize these identities by setting avatars to each profile.
STEP 6: Manage your contacts
Once you’ve generated your own identities ask your friends to go through the preceding steps to do the same — this way, you all will be able to share your Bitmessage addresses with one another.
STEP 7: Send a test email
Now that your contacts are in your address book, click the ‘Send’ tab to compose your first message. Use the drop-down menu next to ‘From’ to select the identity from which you want to send the message. In the ‘To’ field enter the first few letters of a contact name e.g. “Al” for “Alice”. The Bitmessage client will auto complete the address for you. Use the fields below to enter a subject line and message body respectively. Click the ‘Send’ button at the bottom right.
STEP 8: Blacklists and Whitelists
The Bitmessage protocol has powerful built in protection against spammers, as each message sent requires the client to complete a ‘proof of work’ algorithm. The longer and more frequent the messages, the greater amount of system resources required.
You can also prevent spam by regularly disabling old identities and creating new ones so that only trusted contacts have your address. If all else fails, click on the ‘Blacklist’ tab. From here, you can block select addresses or setup an exclusive ‘Whitelist’ so that only messages from pre-approved addresses get through. To get started, choose between ‘Use a Blacklist’ or ‘Use a Whitelist’.
Next click ‘Add new entry’. Enter a meaningful label and then the address you wish to filter. Click ‘OK’ to save. The address will appear in the ‘List’ box.
STEP 9: Subscriptions
While sending messages in the way outlined in the previous steps is a great method for one-to-one communication, it’s not much good for messaging multiple people at the same time. The Bitmessage client supports subscriptions (also known as ‘Broadcast addresses’) to work around this problem. These function in a similar way to an email subscription.
To get started, select the ‘Subscriptions’ tab. By default your client is subscribed ‘Atheros’ which provides updates about Bitmessage such as when new versions are available. You can find a list of subscriptions for other topics on the Bitmessage forum. Click the ‘Add new Subscription’ button and paste the address of your chosen list in the ‘Address’ field. You can return the ‘Subscriptions’ tab at any time to view new messages.
STEP 10: Using Chans
Bitmessage supports the use of Chans (Channels). These are created by people using the same ‘description key’ e.g. ‘hello’ allowing them to view and respond to messages in the style of a message board. The Bitmessage forum contains a list of Chans, although you can create your own if you wish. To get started, head over to the ‘Chans’ tab and click the ‘Add Chan’ button. Take the time to read the dialogue box explaining how Chans work, then enter the address and click ‘Ok’. To unsubscribe from a Chan, right click and choose ‘Delete’.