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By | John Leyden 26th August 2006 01:03

Crypto browser plug-in aims for simplicity

A riddle wrapped in a Freenigma

German coders have developed a free encryption plug-in for webmail accounts. Freenigma comes as a browser plug-in for Firefox which works with Yahoo!, Gmail, Hotmail and other webmail accounts. The eponymous firm behind the technology wants to extend this service to other webmail and social network sites.

The software offers an implementation of GNU Privacy Guard and support of the OpenPGP standard to scramble and unscramble the content (though not the From and To) headers of webmail messages. Within the webmail client, a JavaScript-based "user script" handles the integration of the freenigma functionality in the webmail client as well as the encryption and decryption of mails. Freenigma's server copes with key management.

Freenigma is designed to hide the complexity of cryptography, often a barrier to adoption, behind a simple simple user interface. Users can sign up for the service at Freenigma's web site. Before encrypted emails can be exchanged punters will need to invite their contacts to sign-up too. Planned improvements include the ability to send encrypted emails to anyone using client programs that meet the OpenPGP standard (such as PGP).

That, along with an inability to encrypt email attachments, are definite areas of improvement and where dedicated (though slightly more complex) encrypted webmail services such as HushMail might be preferred by some. But a simple crypto browser plug-in is long overdue and the attempt to make encrypted emails easier to use is a positive development. You can find out more about freenigma in an FAQ here. ®

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