A lot of people have heard of PGP encryption, but not many know how it works.

In this article, we hope to change that. We’ll explain what PGP encryption is, how it works, and the downsides to using it.

What Is PGP Encryption?

PGP encryption is a form of message encryption which makes it all but impossible for anyone to read messages besides the intended recipient. Think of a PGP encryption as a special code and your customized key is the only decoder ring that can crack the code.

PGP stands for Pretty Good Privacy.

Let’s now take a look at why it’s “pretty good.”

How Does PGP Encryption Work?

Imagine you have a box. You use this box to send and receive messages.

You can lock the box with a key so the messages contained in it are secure. So as long as the box is locked, the messages are safe and can’t get out. Your box’s greatest asset is also its greatest weakness.

See, if there’s no way to remove messages from the box when it’s locked, then there’s no way to put messages in it while it’s locked either. And if you need a key to take messages out, then you need that same key to put messages in it.

And what about the key?

If you have only one copy of the key, then you have to give your key to someone so they can put a message in your box. If you have multiple copies of the same key you’re just increasing the likelihood that someone with a key is going to lose their copy. That means some unknown person might have key access to your box. And what if the person who found this key isn’t someone you want reading your messages?

Do you see how quickly you could run into problems?

So how does PGP encryption solve these problems?

Imagine that PGP encryption is another box, but this one has two locks on it. Each lock has its own unique key. You can only use Key A on Lock A, and you can only use Key B on Lock B. Also, imagine that Lock A can only be locked. You can’t unlock it. And Lock B can only be unlocked.

Now you have one key to unlock the box, and everyone else has their own key that only locks their messages inside of the box. Now, even if they lose their key, nobody can access your box’s messages.

Everyone you know could have a copy of Key A but your messages are still safe because you’re the only one with a copy of Key B.

That’s a simplified explanation of what PGP encryption is.

Basically, it allows you to encrypt messages with one code, and it allows the receiver to unencrypt it with another code. But your code can’t encrypt their message and their code can’t unencrypt it.

That’s what makes PGP encryption pretty good.

How To Use PGP Encryption

If you want to learn how to use PGB encryption, simply complete the following steps.

  1. Create your own PGP keys
  2. Secure your PGP keys
  3. Share your public key
  4. Encrypt/Decrypt messages
  5. Read your messages

So let’s talk about each of these steps in more detail.

Create your own PGP keys

There are lots of different programs out there that can help you create PGP encryption keys. A simple Google search will help you find a tool that works for you. These online tools will give you a public key (one that lets others lock messages) and a private key (one that allows you to unlock messages.)

Secure your PGP keys

You can give you public key to whoever you want, but you cannot share your private key. If you do, that person will now have access to your encrypted messages too. Save your private key somewhere safe. If you lose your key, you will never be able to access those encrypted messages again. There’s no way to recover your private key. So take care not to lose it or give it away.

Share your public key

You can share the public key with everybody and anybody. It doesn’t really matter. The worst thing they could do is spam you with encrypted messages. Just keep your private key private.

Encrypt/Decrypt messages

One PGP encryption software service might look a little different from another, but the mechanics are all pretty similar.

There will be a couple of boxes. On the screen. The first one will ask for the public key of the message’s receiver. The second text box will be for your message. In the third text box, the program you’re using will populate encrypted text. You can copy and paste this text into an email or elsewhere and send it to whoever has the private key.

To decrypt the message you received, you paste your private key into one box and the encrypted text into another. The program will use this information to decrypt the message so you can read it.

It’s really that easy.

What’s Wrong With PGP Encryption

If all you’re wanting to do is send the occasional hidden message to someone, there’s nothing wrong with PGP encryption.

But if you’re a lawyer or an accountant, a PGP message probably isn’t good enough. You’ll want to send a variety of forms and files that aren’t just simple text files. And you may have to send them to people who aren’t very technologically savvy.

If that’s the case, there’s an increased chance that they will lose their private key or they simply won’t encrypt their messages in exchange for convenience and ease.

Additionally, there’s no good way to organize the communications you receive.

In other words, if you’re just looking to play spy online, PGP is probably for you. But if you run a business, then you’re going to need a lot more than pretty good encryption.

eFileCabinet Has What You Need

Do you need bank-grade encryption? eFileCabinet has it.

Do you need a system that can keep all of your documents perfect organized, yet accessible with a few keystrokes? eFileCabinet has that too.

Do you want to be able to specify who can and cannot see a given document? Not only can eFileCabinet do that, but it can also control who’s able to edit those documents.

eFileCabinet can do all of this while helping you go paperless.

If you need a software system that will allow you to send, receive, view, and edit confidential documents then you don’t need simple PGP encryption, you need eFileCabinet.

Request a free demo today to learn more about the best DMS out there. Fill out the form below to get started.