Skip to content


Switch branches/tags

Name already in use

A tag already exists with the provided branch name. Many Git commands accept both tag and branch names, so creating this branch may cause unexpected behavior. Are you sure you want to create this branch?

Latest commit


Git stats


Failed to load latest commit information.
Latest commit message
Commit time

Created by blag. Forked from PR #39 and #40 of django-email-extras by Stephen McDonald.


django-secure-mail is a Django reusable app providing a mail backend to send opportunistically signed and encrypted emails using PGP. Also provided are models and an admin page to manage uploaded PGP keys.

Note that the provided backend only signs outgoing mail if the recipient has uploaded a valid public key. Users without valid public keys will not have their outgoing mail signed or encrypted.



The easiest way to install django-secure-mail is directly from PyPi using pip by running the command below:

$ pip install django-secure-mail

Otherwise you can download django-secure-mail and install it directly from source:

$ python install


  1. Add secure_mail to your INSTALLED_APPS setting and run database migrations:

    $ python migrate secure_mail
  2. Set EMAIL_BACKEND in your settings module to secure_mail.backends.EncryptingSmtpEmailBackend or one of the development/testing backends listed in Development and Testing.

  3. Set the SECURE_MAIL_GNUPG_HOME setting to a directory that contains the GPG keyring. If you are running multiple Django nodes, each node will need read and write access to this directory.

  4. Set the SECURE_MAIL_GNUPG_ENCODING variable to the encoding your GPG executable requires. This is generally latin-1 for GPG 1.x and utf-8 for GPG 2.x.

  5. Whle it is not required to send encrypted email, it is highly recommended that you generate a signing key for outgoing mail. Please follow the instructions in the Generate Signing Key section. All nodes that will be sending outgoing mail will need to have read access to the directory specified by SECURE_MAIL_GNUPG_HOME.

There are additional configuration options available. Please see the Options section for a complete list.

Generate Signing Key

Adding a private/public signing keypair is different than importing a public encryption key, since the private key will be stored on the server.

This project ships with a Django management command to generate and export signing keys: email_signing_key.

You first need to set the SECURE_MAIL_SIGNING_KEY_DATA option in your project's This is a dictionary that is passed as keyword arguments directly to GPG.gen_key(), so please read and understand all of the available options in their documentation. The default settings are:

    'key_type': "RSA",
    'key_length': 4096,
    'name_real': settings.SITE_NAME,
    'name_comment': "Outgoing email server",
    'name_email': settings.DEFAULT_FROM_EMAIL,
    'expire_date': '2y',

You may wish to change the key_type to a signing-only type of key, such as DSA, or the expire date.

Once you are content with the signing key settings, generate a new signing key with the --generate option:

$ python email_signing_key --generate

To work with specific keys, identify them by their fingerprint

$ python email_signing_key 7AB59FE794A7AC12EBA87507EF33F601153CFE28

You can print the private key to your terminal/console with:

$ python email_signing_key 7AB59FE794A7AC12EBA87507EF33F601153CFE28 --print-private-key

And you can upload the public signing key to one or more specified keyservers by passing the key server hostnames with the -k or --keyserver options:

$ python email_signing_key 7AB59FE794A7AC12EBA87507EF33F601153CFE28 -k -k

You can also perform all tasks with one command:

$ python email_signing_key --generate --keyserver --print-private-key

Use the --help option to see the complete help text for the command.

Once you have generated the signing key, you will need to configure secure_mail to use it. Set the SECURE_MAIL_KEY_FINGERPRINT setting to the fingerprint of the outgoing signing key you wish to use.


There are a few settings you can configure in your project's module:

  • SECURE_MAIL_GNUPG_HOME - String representing a custom location for the GNUPG keyring. If you are running multiple Django nodes, this should be set to a directory shared by all nodes, and the gpg executable on all nodes will need read and write access to it.

  • SECURE_MAIL_USE_GNUPG - Boolean that controls whether the PGP encryption features are used. Defaults to True if SECURE_MAIL_GNUPG_HOME is specified, otherwise False.

  • SECURE_MAIL_GNUPG_ENCODING - The encoding the local gpg executable expects. This option is passed through to the str.encode function. In general, it should be set to latin-1 for GPG 1.x and utf-8 for GPG 2.x. Check out python-gnupg documentation for more info.

  • SECURE_MAIL_FAILURE_HANDLERS - A dictionary that maps failed types to the dotted-path notation of error handlers. See the Error Handling section for details and an example.

  • SECURE_MAIL_ALWAYS_TRUST_KEYS - Skip key validation and assume that used keys are always fully trusted. This simply sets --always-trust (or --trust-model for more modern versions of GPG). See the GPG documentation on the --trust-model option for more detail about this setting.

  • SECURE_MAIL_SIGNING_KEY_PASSPHRASE - A passphrase that is passed to GPG when generating or printing private signing keys. Defaults to ''.

  • SECURE_MAIL_SIGNING_KEY_DATA - A dictionary of key options for generating new signing keys. See the python-gnupg documentation for more details.


        'key_type': "RSA",
        'key_length': 4096,
        'name_real': getattr(settings, 'SITE_NAME', ''),
        'name_comment': "Outgoing email server",
        'name_email': settings.DEFAULT_FROM_EMAIL,
        'expire_date': '2y',
        'passphrase': settings.SECURE_MAIL_SIGNING_KEY_PASSPHRASE,
  • SECURE_MAIL_KEY_FINGERPRINT - The fingerprint of the key to use when signing outgoing mail, must exist in the configured keyring.

Sending PGP Encrypted Email

Once the backend is configured and specified by the EMAIL_BACKEND setting, all outgoing mail will be opportunistically signed and encrypted. This means that if a message is being sent to a recipient who has a valid public key in the database and the GPG/PGP keyring, the backend will attempt to sign and encrypt outgoing mail to them.

Error Handling

This backend allows users to specify custom error handlers when encryption fails for the following objects:

  • The plain text message itself
  • Any message attachments
  • Any message alternatives (for instance: HTML mail delivered with a plain text fallback)

Error handlers are called when an exception is raised and are passed the raised exception.

def handle_failed_encryption(exception):
    # Handle errors

def handle_failed_alternative_encryption(exception):
    # Handle errors

def handle_failed_attachment_encryption(exception):
    # Handle errors

The default error handlers simply re-raise the exception, but this may be undesirable for all cases.

To assist with handling errors, the package provides a few helper functions that can be used in custom error handlers:

  • force_send_message - Accepts the unencrypted message as an argument, and sends the message without attempting to encrypt or sign it.
  • force_delete_key - Accepts the recipient's address as an argument and forcibly removes all keys from the database and the GPG/PGP keyring.
  • force_mail_admins - Accepts the unencrypted message and the failing address as arguments. If the address is in the ADMINS setting, it sends the message unencrypted, otherwise, it mails the admins a message containing the subject of the original message and the original intended recipient.
  • get_variable_from_exception - Accepts the exception and a variable name as arguments, then digs back through the stacktrace to find the first variable with the specified name.

To specify a custom error handlers, set keys in the SECURE_MAIL_FAILURE_HANDLERS setting dictionary in your project's to the dotted-path of your error handler/s:

    'message': 'myapp.handlers.handle_failed_encryption',
    'alternative': 'myapp.handlers.handle_failed_alternative_encryption',
    'attachment': 'myapp.handlers.handle_failed_attachment_encryption',

You do not have to override all of the handlers, you can override as many or as few as you wish.

Development and Testing

This package provides a backend mixin (EncryptingEmailBackendMixin) if you wish to extend the backend or create a custom backend of your own:

class EncryptingLocmemEmailBackend(EncryptingEmailBackend, LocmemBackend):

For a working, real-world example of using the EncryptingEmailBackendMixin in another Django app, check out the emailhub.backends.secure_mail.EncryptingEmailBackendMixin from the django-emailhub project:

In addition to the provided EncryptingSmtpEmailBackend, this package ships with a few more backends that mirror the built-in Django backends:

  • EncryptingConsoleEmailBackend
  • EncryptingLocmemEmailBackend
  • EncryptingFilebasedEmailBackend

Database Models

PGP explanation

Using python-gnupg, two models are defined in secure_mail.models - Key and Address which represent a PGP key and an email address for a successfully imported key. These models exist purely for the sake of importing keys and removing keys for a particular address via the Django Admin.

When adding a key, the key is imported into the key ring on the server and the instance of the Key model is not saved. The email address for the key is also extracted and saved as an Address instance.

The Address model is then used when sending email to check for an existing key to determine whether an email should be encrypted. When an Address is deleted via the Django Admin, the key is removed from the key ring on the server.

Alternative Django Apps

Other Django apps with similar functionality are:

  • django-email-extras - Provides two functions for sending PGP encrypted, multipart emails using Django's template system. Also provides a mail backend that displays HTML mail in the browser during development.
  • django-gnupg-mails - Provides a GnuPGMessage (subclass of Django's EmailMessage) to send PGP/MIME signed email.

Both of those apps require third party app developers to "opt-in" to sending encrypted mail. This project automatically encrypts and signs all outgoing mail for all apps.


PGP-encrypting mail backend for Django







No releases published


No packages published