Unlikely duo hosts talk about email encryption


Jonathon Dunlop and Benito Luongo Vegas talk to students about email encryption and how it is used and what it is used for.
Photo by Lindsey Fiala

LINDSEY FIALA | Online Editor

Two very different groups came together for an informative and interactive talk about message encryption.

The College Republicans and Computer Science club met in the Library and Academic Resource Center to discuss the history of encryption and how it was used throughout history and how it is used today.

Jonathon Dunlop, vice president of the College Republicans, and Benito Luongo Vegas, president of the Computer Science club, created a PowerPoint to aid in explanation of what message and email encryption is and why it is used.

According to Vegas, the two decided to work together because of how well they got along and their shared interests.

“It’s not so much anything political-related; it’s more about personal interests,” Vegas said. “I know it is a weird combination, but it is fun and it attracts more attention.”

According to the presentation, cryptography, the act of encryption, changes readable messages to gibberish and is heavily based on mathematical and computational algorithms. It is used in the practice of secure communication.

Cryptography is typically used for protection of sensitive, private information such as proprietary and personal information like social security numbers.

They made the talk interactive by having all audience members go to igolder.com, a website which offers a PGP, or pretty good privacy, encryption freeware.

While on the site, users will be given a PGP public key, private key and a message box where users enter the message they wish to encrypt.

To send and decrypt each other’s messages, both parties must have their own private and public keys. They must share their public keys with one another along with the encrypted messages in order to decrypt them with their own private keys. Users should never share their private key with anyone.

According to both Dunlop and Vegas, this way of communication is extremely safe.

“[Without a key] if you use many very powerful computers to try and decipher the algorithm, it would take around five plus years to decrypt,” Vegas said.   

Vegas set up a Google doc and shared it with all audience members, allowing everyone to share their public keys so they could practice encrypting and decrypting messages with one another.

This event was held right before the College Republicans’ Current Issues Explained, which is put on every Thursday at 7:15 p.m. in Harmon 136. All are welcome to attend. Every week a new topic is discussed.