Here in this guide, we take a look at PGP encryption (Pretty Good Privacy), we check how PGP encryption works, what it does, and how it helps you to boost your online and internet privacy, as well as messaging security. PGP encryption that stands for Pretty Good Privacy was first developed by Symantec and authors Phil Zimmermann, PGP Corp, and PGP Inc. The author of the most used encryption technology for emailing is also known for his remarkable work in other encryption protocols including Zfone and ZRTP.
Today, Phil Zimmermann works for the Silent Circle company known for its Silent Phone encrypted messaging app. Initially released in 1991, PGP encryption is a program used for encrypting and decrypting files, texts, and other forms of directories with the main goal of increasing the data security and privacy of email communication. Today, this encryption program works across numerous devices that run on Windows, Linux, and macOS operating systems.
What is PGP Encryption?
Released back in 1991, the technology behind PGP encryption is constantly upgraded and updated so that it can outsmart anyone out there who is looking for ways to access and steal your private data. Technology such as PGP encryption is much needed today when we consider the amazing, massive flow of private, confidential data that is shared on a daily basis. When you are not careful enough, you put your private data out there for anyone to access and steal.
This is where PGP encryption tools and apps come to help you protect your private data from any danger lurking in the digital world. The most accepted definition of this technology is that this is a software, encryption program that protects data communication by using cryptographic privacy. In other words, PGP encryption is an extremely valuable tool you turn to in order to encrypt your private messages, files, or some other kind of data.
With this tool, you make data you store on your device or the data you share with friends or family members online unreadable to anyone who is not the intended recipient of such data. When your private data stored on your device and shared using online is unreadable, hackers or third-parties cannot access and modify it even if they can access its location. Since they cannot decipher such data, that data has no value to them.
How Does PGP Encryption Work?
This leads us to another major topic and that is how PGP encryption work. In the most basic sense, PGP encryption that protects your sensitive, confidential data always requires two keys and one of those keys is a public key and the other one is a private key. A public key is used by the compiler or sender of data or information to make that data inaccessible and unreadable while a private key is a key that the intended recipient or someone else needs to access such PGP encrypted data.
In other words, you need a private key to access and decrypt PGP encrypted data and only with such a key, you can make encrypted data readable. In PGP encryption, both public and private keys are always unique and randomly generated which means encrypted data is always protected from third-parties or hackers. To understand it better, imagine having a box that you want to protect. Using a public key, you lock this box just as you encrypt private data.
This locked box can only be opened with a special key and the same applies when accessing encrypted data. Only the person with the required private key can access such data. It also should be noted that PGP encryption secures data both at rest and in transit. In other words, PGP encrypted data is safe on your device or at rest as well as while during transmission from your device to the intended recipient’s device so there is no wonder why it remains one of the best data privacy and security tools.
- Public Key: Used to encrypt private data
- Private Key: Used to decrypt private data
- Digital Signature: Created when the data is encrypted
In the previous section, we have not discussed digital signatures and they are also important for PGP encryption. Digital signatures are very similar to handwritten signatures and in PGP encryption, such signature allows the intended recipient to be one hundred percent sure that the data shared comes from the right person. Every time data of any kind is encrypted, a digital signature is created as private and public keys are connected.
Is Its Secure?
Now that you understand what is PGP encryption, let’s see is it safe and secure. Even though PGP stands for Pretty Good Privacy, it is not just okay but it is the best data security and data privacy technology out there and it is most certainly secure. Used for digital signatures and data encryption, Pretty Good privacy is provided by the GNU Privacy Guard or for short GPG by Free Software Foundation.
As previously mentioned, it also uses all of those three concepts described above including private and public keys alongside digital signatures. When you PGP encrypt data, the plaintext is first compressed before a one-time session key (public key) is created. Then, the encrypted data is shared with the intended recipient and he or she uses the randomly generated public key to decrypt data.
PGP encryption is extremely used when it comes to online payment transactions. When payments are not secured this way, payments, as well as their associated payment files, can be accessed and viewed by outside parties. Besides, PGP encryption is also extremely useful for email communication. In fact, it is the de facto privacy and security standard for such communication channels.
Besides providing data security for email communication, PGP encryption is also extremely valuable for all sorts of other online communication options. When used the correct way, PGP encryption offers the very best, military-grade data privacy and security. When used the correct way, it allows you to protect and shield confidential data so you should definitely consider using PGP encryption the next time you want to share something private and confidential online and there is a bunch of great tools out there to help you.