It really just works


Encryption has a reputation of being notoriously difficult to use. There were probably good reasons to believe this at one time, but that time has passed. I finally realized this a while ago when I had to deal with the problems caused by a canceled credit card. I found some fraudulent charges on one of my credit cards. I had the old card canceled and a new one issued, but that caused another problem.

I collect books. Some books are hard to find, so I have standing orders placed with several book dealers. If they ever find a copy of books that I’m looking for in the price range that I can afford, they’ll bill my credit card and ship me the book. So when the credit card number that I used for these orders was canceled, I had to get a new number to several book dealers throughout the world. I decided to send my credit card number in an encrypted e-mail, and used Voltage’s VSN hosted e-mail service to do it.

Unsure that the recipients would be able to read the encrypted e-mails, I also sent another message that explained that an encrypted e-mail would follow that contained my new credit card number and that they should let me know if there were any problems.

Nobody asked for help.

Every single recipient was able to decrypt and read the messages that I sent them and update the credit card number that they had on file for me. That’s almost certainly proof that encryption is now easy enough for the average user.

Imagine trying to do that five years ago. You’d probably have an e-mail exchange that would go something like this:

"OK, you first need to get a digital certificate."

"A what?"

"No, really, it’s easy. Just go to this URL and fill in the form."

"OK. Wait a minute. What’s my ‘organizational unit?’ What’s my ‘locality?’ Do I really have to read and understand this ‘certificate policy?’ That looks like a job for my lawyer."

"Never mind. I’ll just e-mail you my credit card number in the clear."

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