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What is PGP Encryption Tool and How Does It Work?

PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) is an encryption technique that may be used to transmit encrypted emails as well as encrypt sensitive information. PGP has established the de facto standard for email security since its inception in 1991.

PGP’s popularity stems from two sources. The first is that the system was initially provided as freeware, and as a result, it quickly gained popularity among users looking for an extra layer of protection for their email communications. The second benefit is that, because PGP employs both symmetric and public-key encryption, it allows users who have never met to transmit encrypted communications to one another without having to exchange private encryption keys.

How Does PGP Encryption Work?

PGP has some similarities to other encryption systems you may be familiar with, such as Kerberos (which is used to authenticate network users) and SSL (which is used to encrypt data) (which is used to secure websites).

PGP encryption, at its most basic level, combines two types of encryption: symmetric key encryption and public-key encryption.

It’s helpful to look at a diagram to understand how PGP works:

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Because the mathematics underpinning encryption may be somewhat difficult (though you can seek up the math if you want), we’ll stick to the fundamentals here. This is how PGP encryption works at its most basic level:

  • First, PGP uses one of two (primary) techniques to produce a random session key. This key is a big number that no one can predict and is only used once.
  • The session key is then encrypted. This is accomplished by utilising the public key of the message’s intended receiver. The public key is linked to a specific person’s identity and may be used by anybody to send them a message.
  • The sender delivers the receiver their encrypted PGP session key, which they may decode using their private key. The receiver may now decode the actual message using this session key.

This may appear to be an odd method to go about things. Why would we want to encrypt the encryption key?

pgp encryption tool

The solution is straightforward. Symmetric encryption is much, much faster than public key cryptography (where both the sender and recipient have the same key). Symmetric encryption, on the other hand, necessitates the sender sharing the encryption key with the receiver in plain text, which is unsafe. PGP combines the efficiency of symmetric encryption with the security of public-key cryptography by encrypting the symmetric key using the (asymmetric) public-key system.

PGP Encryption Uses

PGP is mostly used for three purposes:

  • Encrypted email sending and receiving
  • Confirming that the person who gave you this mail is who they say they are.
  • Encrypting files on your computer and on the cloud.

The first of these three applications – sending secure email – is by far the most popular. But first, let’s take a look at all three.

Encrypting Emails

Most individuals, like in the example above, use PGP to send encrypted emails. Activists, journalists, and others who deal with sensitive material were the primary users of PGP in its early years. In truth, the PGP system was created by Phil Zimmermann, a peace and political activist who just joined Startpage, one of the most prominent private search engines.

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PGP’s popularity has skyrocketed in recent years. As more individuals become aware of how much data companies and governments gather on them, a large number of people are now using the standard to keep their personal information private.

Digital Signature Verification

PGP may also be used for email verification, which is a similar application. For example, if a journalist is dubious about the identity of someone sending them a message, they can use a Digital Signature in conjunction with PGP to authenticate it.

Digital signatures operate by combining the sender’s key with the data they’re providing via an algorithm. This creates a “hash function,” which is another mechanism for converting a message to a fixed-size data block. The sender’s private key is then used to encrypt the message.

PGP Encryption Tool

The data is then decrypted by the receiver using the sender’s public key. The receiver will be notified if even one character of the message has been modified in route. This might mean the sender isn’t who they claim to be, that they tried to forge a Digital Signature, or that the message has been tampered with.

Encrypting Files

PGP may also be used to encrypt files. PGP offers a very secure technique of encrypting data at rest, especially when used in conjunction with a Threat Detection and Response Solution, because the algorithm employed by PGP – often the RSA algorithm – is almost unbreakable. Indeed, this technique is so safe that it’s been employed in high-profile malware like the CryptoLocker virus.

PGP Corp., which owned the rights to the PGP technology, was bought by Symantec in 2010. Through solutions like Symantec Encryption Desktop and Symantec Encryption Desktop Storage, Symantec has been the major manufacturer of PGP file-encryption software since then. This programme encrypts all of your files with PGP and hides the intricacies of the encryption and decryption operations.

How Do I Set Up PGP Encryption?

PGP encryption is often set up by downloading an add-on for your email application and then following the installation instructions. This type of add-on is available for Thunderbird, Outlook, and Apple Mail, and we’ll go through them in detail below. In recent years, a variety of online email systems have emerged that contain PGP as a default feature (the most famous being ProtonMail).

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There are a variety of large-scale software options available for people seeking to utilise PGP to encrypt their information. PGP-based products from Symantec, for example, include Symantec File Share Encryption for encrypting data shared over a network and Symantec Endpoint Encryption for complete disc encryption on PCs, mobile devices, and portable storage.

PGP Encryption Software

If you want to start utilising PGP encryption, you’ll most likely need to obtain some software that automates the encryption and decryption process. There are a variety of products available to do this, but you should know what to look for.

PGP Encryption Tool

How to Select PGP Software

  • Your key motivation for adopting PGP is to ensure that your messages are secure. As a result, while shopping for PGP software, security should be your first priority. Though PGP is unbreakable in and of itself, certain implementations have been broken in the past. Because finding these flaws is nearly hard unless you are an expert developer, the best way is to search for any disclosed vulnerabilities in the product you are considering.
  • Beyond that, deciding on PGP software is a personal (or company) decision. It’s doubtful that you’ll need to encrypt every email you send, so installing an add-on for your regular email client may be unnecessary. Instead, try sending essential emails using an online PGP provider.
  • Finally, look for a software company that offers dedicated assistance, whether through a customer service team or a user community. Learning to use PGP can be frustrating at times as you traverse the system for the first time, and you’ll almost certainly require assistance at this point.

Conclusion

PGP encryption is a useful tool for safeguarding your data, privacy, and security. It lets you to send emails in a very simple and safe manner while also allowing you to verify the identity of the persons with whom you are interacting. PGP add-ons are available for most major email programmes, making this type of encryption quite simple to install.

All of this is to say that secure email is merely one facet of cyber security. You should also utilise a comprehensive data security platform and Data Loss Prevention software in addition to PGP. Using as many tools as possible to secure your privacy and security is the best way to go.

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