In this PGP message article, we discuss PGP (Pretty Good Privacy), how it works, and PGP security. We also discuss how to create a PGP-encrypted message using different tools and apps out there. PGP is a powerful data encryption program crafted by Phil Zimmermann and Symantec over thirty years ago in 1991. This encryption program guaranteed authentication and cryptographic privacy for various kinds of online communication.
Essentially, Pretty Good Privacy encryption programs are used for encrypting and decrypting emails, texts, disk partitions, and files with the main goal of increasing the overall security of various online communication channels. PGP text messages are messages that have been encrypted with a PGP data encryption program. The popularity of Pretty Good Privacy is based on two crucial factors and one of them is the system’s freeware encryption platform.
The second factor is related to Pretty Good Privacy’s encryption technology. More specifically, PGP relies on both public-key and symmetric encryption. This means that you can send a PGP message to someone you have never communicated with before without sharing private encryption keys. PGP and other popular, powerful encryption systems such as SSL encryption that secures most websites.
How PGP Message is Encrypted?
Many of these encryption systems just like PGP rely on a combination of two different types of data encryption including public-key and symmetric encryption. In symmetric data encryption, only one secret key is required to encrypt text messages and files and to decrypt them. The communicating entities using this type of data encryption have to exchange the secret key in order to decrypt messages.
In asymmetric encryption, one private and one public key are used for encrypting and decrypting and this is the biggest difference between symmetric and asymmetric encryption. Asymmetric encryption is also called public-key cryptography as public keys are used alongside private keys. PGP text messages rely on both public-key cryptography and symmetric encryption to add that extra layer of securing to text messages, files, and emails shared online.
The main question is, how PGP message is encrypted and decrypted. To understand how a PGP message is encrypted and decrypted, let’s look at one example. There is a user A and he or she wants to communicate with a user B by sending a PGP-encrypted message. User B will generate a private and public key. User B will share the public key with user A and save the generated private key. User A will use the public key to create a PGP message or to encrypt his or her message. User A will then send this PGP message and User B relies on his or her private key to decrypt this PGP message.
PGP Message – Encryption and Decryption
There are a bunch of PGP encryption tools and apps and most of these work the same as they rely on the same PGP encryption technology. PGP encryption message, email, or file always starts with Pretty Good Privacy generating a session key relying on one of two crucial algorithms. This session key is a massive sequence of randomly generated numbers and it is used just once. The session key is also encrypted using the intended recipient’s public key.
The public key used is tied to an individual’s identity and multiple people can use the same public key to send a PGP message to the recipient. Using his or her private key, the intended recipient of a PGP message decrypts it and accesses the content of the message. Essentially, PGP data encryption combines the security of asymmetric cryptography with the efficiency of symmetric encryption since encryption keys get encrypted as well.
Now, you may wonder why encryption keys get encrypted as well and the answer is quite logical. Public key cryptography or asymmetric encryption where the recipient and the sender use the same key is much slower when compared to symmetric encryption. Moreover, in symmetric encryption, senders must share encryption keys with the intended recipient in the form of plain text and this is not the safest option. This is why before sending a PGP message, symmetric keys (used by both sender and recipient) are encrypted using the public-key encryption technology (asymmetric encryption).
PGP Encrypt and Decrypt Messages
To send a PGP message, there are several steps to follow. As mentioned in the previous section, a PGP message uses two different types of encryption keys to encrypt and decrypt text messages including the private and the public key. To encrypt, the public is required and this encryption key is shared with the sender. The private key is also kept secret and is not shared with the sender. The private key is required to decrypt a PGP message.
To send a PGP-encrypted message, you need PGP encryption software that will assist you with encrypting your text message. There are many different PGP tools you can use to encrypt your text messages such as OpenPGP, Gpg4win, and GNU Privacy Guard. Great free PGP encryption tools for Windows are pfPgpEncryptor, Kleopatra, Go Anywhere OpenPGP Studio, PGPTool, and VeraCrypt.
You need to download one of this software to get started. One of the simplest is most certainly Gpg4win, so if you do not know much about PGP encryption, we recommend you get this tool. Once you have downloaded and installed Gpg4win or some other PGP encryption software, open it and click on the Generate Key Now button.
You can also generate new encryption keys by heading to the Keys section and clicking on the New Key button. You will be asked to provide your name and you can use your real name or fake. You will be asked to provide your email and you do not have to use your actual email address. Once done, you proceed to create a backup of your encryption key. This is an optional step. If you create a backup of your key, you will be asked to set a password and set a location.
Once you have generated your new encryption key-pair, right-click on it and choose Copy and your newly generated public key will appear in your clipboard. You can send this public key to anyone and receive a PGP-encrypted message. No matter what you do, make sure you never share your private key with anyone. If you will be sending a PGP-encrypted text message, you need his or her public key to get started. Once you have the key, you save it before importing it to your PGP encryption software.
Access the key by clicking on Clipboard. In the text area, type your text message and press the Encrypt button. Once here, click on the public key of the individual you want to send a PGP message. On the following pop-up, click yes and you have successfully encrypted your message. To decrypt a PGP message, the message must be encrypted with your unique public key. Once you have your PGP-encrypted message, open your clipboard and paste the message there. Choose decrypt and provide the password you have set up and the message has been decrypted.