I have a great deal of sensitive data about my company and myself that I should like to keep from prying eyes. I even have a file of passwords I should like to protect. I exchange e-mail with officers of my company around the world and it is not always possible to do so via a secure network. What can I do to protect all this data? I have heard of things like PGP but I am told it can be really difficult to use. Another problem is that people in the company use different operating systems. So I need a solution that will work with various versions of Microsoft Windows, as well as Macintosh, Linux and Solaris. Is this even possible? Name and address supplied PGP, which stands for Pretty Good Privacy, is one of the foremost solutions today for encrypting data. It uses up-to-date encryption algorithms and is freely available on the internet. PGP has an interesting history because the United States government considers it a munition and its export is strictly controlled. As with most things digital, however, the cat got out of the bag a long time ago and the source code for PGP has been readily available since the early 1990s. For those who wish to be proper and safe, it would be better to get PGP from a site outside the US. PGP will run on almost every computer. The latest version, PGP 8.0.2, is fairly easy to install. To make it work, you will need to download the software and then create a public and private key for all those with whom you wish to exchange secure messages. A private key is an encryption/decryption key known only to the party or parties who exchange secret messages. A public key is a service provided by some designated authority as an encryption tool that, combined with a private key, can be used to encrypt messages effectively. Ideally, you will then publish the public keys so that they are readily available to anybody who wants to send you a secured message. When you wish to encrypt a message, you choose the person you wish to send it to and encrypt the message with their public key. Theoretically, PGP should be simple enough to set up and, if you do not mind spending just a little money, you can get a far more user-friendly version of the product. It does not take rocket science to make PGP work but the interface leaves much to be desired. It takes a basic understanding on how computers and file systems work, and beginners should probably leave it to others. The best way to succeed is to work with a friend. I have been able to exchange encrypted messages written on a Macintosh or Linux machine with others using Windows. It does mean that there will be an extra step or two when you create messages but it is worth it if you want the security. To encrypt a message for yourself, just use your own public key. You can find out all you ever wanted to know about PGP at www.pgpi.org . Questions to Tech Talk will not be answered personally. E-mail Danyll Wills at firstname.lastname@example.org .