Posts Tagged PGP

OpenPGP, PGP and GPG: What is the difference?

Posted by on Thursday, 18 July, 2013

With privacy capabilities of encryption methods such as PGP (Pretty Good Privacy), data security can be heightened and privacy can be achieved.  There are various approaches, however, and various elements of comparison for each of these acronyms.  This article will explore the differences between PGP, OpenPGP, and GPG (GNU Privacy Guard), offering brief histories of their creations and summaries of their capabilities.

PGP (Pretty Good Privacy)

The company, PGP Inc., owned the rights to the original PGP encryption software.  This software was developed by Phil Zimmermann & Associates, LLC and released in 1991 to ensure the security of files that were posted on pre-internet bulletin boards.  From 1997 until 2010, the software changed hands several times until it was acquired by Symantec Corp., who continues to develop the PGP brand.

PGP encryption uses a combination of encryption methodologies such as hashing, data compression, symmetric-key cryptography and public key cryptography to keep data secure.  This process can be used to encrypt text files, emails, data files, directories and disk partitions.

OpenPGP

Automate OpenPGP EncryptionZimmerman, one of the original PGP developers, soon began work on an open-source version of PGP encryption that employed encryption algorithms that had no licensing issues.

In 1997 he submitted an open-source PGP (OpenPGP) standards proposal to the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force), to allow PGP standards-compliant encryption vendors to provide solutions that were compatible with other OpenPGP-compliant software vendors.   This strategy created an open and competitive environment for PGP encryption tools to thrive.

Today,  OpenPGP is a standard of PGP that is open-source for public use, and the term can be used to describe any program that supports the OpenPGP system.

GPG (GNU Privacy Guard)

GnuPGP was developed by Werner Koch and released in 1999 as an alternative to what is now Symantec’s software suite of encryption tools.  It is available as a free software download, and is based on the OpenPGP standards established by the IETF so that it would be interoperable with Symantec’s PGP tools as well as OpenPGP standards. Therefore, GPG can open and unencrypt any PGP and OpenPGP standards file.

GPG provides a graphic user interface when integrating into email and program systems such as Linux.  Some software solutions for encryption utilize GPG coding, while others encrypt using command line functions in a menu-based Perl script.

A variety of popular solutions have developed their PGP encryption products following the OpenPGP standards.  Some of these products include GoAnywhere OpenPGP Studio and GoAnywhere Director.

Summary

OpenPGP is the IETF-approved standard that describes encryption technologies that use processes that are interoperable with PGP.  PGP is a proprietary encryption solution, and the rights to its software are owned by Symantec.  GPG is another popular solution that follows the OpenPGP standards to provide an interface for end users to easily encrypt their files.

As the need to encrypt and protect data becomes ever more critical, organizations will continue to develop software based on these three systems.

 

Daniel Cheney

Daniel has been the IT Director at a healthcare company for the last 12 years and a longtime beneficiary of GoAnywhere Director and the IBM i platform. He is also a technical analyst and writer for various technical and social media projects with Humanized Communications.

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Encrypting Files with OpenPGP

Posted by on Monday, 11 April, 2011

When our users send a file over the Internet there are really just a few things that seem important to them at the time:

a)      Is the file complete?

b)      Is it being sent to the right place?

c)      Will it arrive intact?

and — if the data is sensitive —

d)     Will the intended recipient (and only that recipient) be able to use it?

That’s where encryption comes in: By scrambling the data using one or more encryption algorithms, the sender of the file can feel confident that the data has been secured.

But what about the file’s recipient? Will she/he be able to decode the scrambled file?

Encryption, Decryption, and PGP

For years, PGP has been one of the most widely used technologies for encrypting and decrypting files. PGP stands for “Pretty Good Privacy” and it was developed in the early 1990s by Phillip Zimmerman. Today it is considered to be one of the safest cryptographic technologies for signing, encrypting and decrypting texts, e-mails, files, directories and even whole partitions to increase the security.

How PGP Works

PGP encryption employs a serial combination of hashing, data compression, symmetric-key cryptography, and, finally, public-key cryptography. Each step uses one of several supported algorithms. A resulting public key is bound to a user name and/or an e-mail address. Current versions of PGP employ both the original “Web of Trust” authentication method, and the X.509 specification of a hierarchical “Certificate Authority” method to ensure that only the right people can decode the encrypted files.

Why are these details important for you to know?

Growing Pains for PGP

PGP has gone through some significant growing pains – including a widely publicized criminal investigation by the U.S. Government. (Don’t worry! The Federal investigation was closed in 1996 after Zimmerman published the source code.)

One result of PGP’s growing pains has been the fragmentation of PGP: Earlier versions of the technology sometimes can not decode the more recent versions deployed within various software applications. This PGP versioning problem was exacerbated as the ownership of the PGP technology was handed off from one company to another over the last 20 years.

And yet, because PGP is such a powerful tool for ensuring privacy in data transmission, its use continues to spread far more quickly than other commercially owned encryption technologies.

Fragmentation and the Future of PGP

So how is the industry managing the issue of PGP fragmentation? The answer is the OpenPGP Alliance.

In January 2001, Zimmermann started the OpenPGP Alliance, establishing a Working Group of developers that are seeking the qualification of OpenPGP as an Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) Internet Standard.

Why is this important to you? By establishing OpenPGP as an Internet Standard, fragmentation of the PGP technology can be charted and – to a large degree – controlled.

This means that the encrypted file destined for your system will be using a documented, standardized encryption technology that OpenPGP can be appropriately decrypted. The standardization helps ensure privacy, interoperability between different computing systems, and the charting of a clear path for securely interchanging data.

The OpenPGP Standard and Linoma Software

OpenPGP has now reached the second stage in the IETF’s four-step standards process, and is currently seeking draft standard status. (The standards document for OpenPGP is RFC4880.)

Linoma Software uses OpenPGP in its GoAnywhere Director Managed File Transfer solution. Just as importantly, Linoma Software is an active member of the OpenPGP Alliance, contributing to the processes that will ensure that OpenPGP becomes a documented IETF Internet Standard. This will ensure that your investment in Linoma’s GoAnywhere managed file transfer software remains current, relevant, and productive.

For more information about OpenPGP and the OpenPGP Alliance, go to http://www.openpgp.org. To better understand how OpenPGP can help your company secure its data transfers, check out Linoma Software’s GoAnywhere Director managed file transfer (MFT) solution.

Thomas Stockwell

Thomas M. Stockwell is one of Linoma Software's subject matter experts and a top blogger in the industry. He is Principle Analyst at IT Incendiary, with more than 20 years of experience in IT as a Systems Analyst, Engineer, and IS Director.

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