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Encrypt and decrypt messages using Enigmail

Get started with Enigmail

Learn to encrypt and decrypt messages using Enigmail

Learn how to

Encrypt a message

Once both you and your correspondent have successfully imported and validated and signed each other's public keys, you are ready to begin sending encrypted messages and decrypting received ones.

Step 1. Open Thunderbird

Open Thunderbird and click thunderbird_81 to write an email.

Step 2. Turn on Force Encryption

To Encrypt the message click Enigmail -> Message will not be encrypted and select Force Encryption as shown in the follow screen: thunderbird_84

Step 3. Turn on Force Sign

To Sign the message click Enigmail -> Message will not be signed and select Force Sign.
Note: To verify that your message will be both encrypted and signed, check that the following two icons appear highlighted at the bottom right corner of the message pane as follows: thunderbird_85

Step 4. Send the message

Click thunderbird_83 to send the message. You may be prompted for password to use your private key to sign the message.

Step 5. (optional) Encrypt attachments

If you are attaching any file to your message, you may need to select the option Encrypt/sign message as a whole and send it using PGP/MIME and click OK button, in the following screen: thunderbird_86
Note: When you encrypt each attachment separately, the names of the attached files are not encrypted and are being send in clear text! This may result in leaking sensitive information!

Using PGP/MIME ensures that all email text, attached files and their names are encrypted and hidden. Refer to the metadata lesson to learn more about these dangers

Install and set up Enigmail

Refer to the detailed guide Tactical Technology Collective has put together for help setting up and starting to use Enigmail.


  • (en/topics/understand-4-digisec/4-secure-communications/1-1-intro.md): Know how to securely communicate
  • (en/topics/understand-4-digisec/1-encryption/1-1-intro.md): Learn about encryption basics

Tactical Technology Collective: Thunderbirg, Enigmail, and OpenPGP for Windows