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How to Encrypt Files in Linux

encrypt sensitive Linux files with PGP for Linux, GPG, or ZIP software

If your organization uses Linux operating systems to run key business processes, it’s important to implement tried-and-tested Linux security practices that support critical files as they transfer from one system to another. One requirement that pops up frequently for Linux users is file encryption. Linux files need to be encrypted seamlessly and quickly to prevent critical business data from being at risk while traveling to external networks, trading partners, or a cloud environment.

The good news is, there are several encryption solutions for Linux in the marketplace today. Any of these options will properly secure important documents without taking up too many resources or breaking the bank. Let’s explore the three most popular encryption technologies for Linux files:

Linux File Encryption: The Options

While this isn’t a comprehensive list, Open PGP, GPG, ZIP, and AES are the top contenders for protecting sensitive Linux files at rest. Explore how each option works and determine which method might work best for your organization’s encryption requirements with this article.

Open PGP and PGP for Linux File Encryption

For Linux users, the best place to start with file encryption is with PGP. PGP file encryption uses asymmetric cryptography, or public PGP keys, to ensure data authentication and helps organizations deal with non-repudiation by allowing recipients to "sign" received files with an embedded PGP signature.

Open PGP is the standard vendors must follow when delivering PGP-encryption features — keep an eye out for that term when looking at software options.

Most Open PGP solutions on the market offer logging (as does PGP) for encryption activity. This ensures your encryption processes are tracked for auditing and follow any regulatory or industry requirements your company must comply with. Robust automation features, like the workflows offered in GoAnywhere Managed File Transfer, can also be defined on Linux systems to ensure automatic file encryption and streamlined end-to-end data movement.

A secure file transfer solution can help simplify, safeguard, and automate PGP encryption processes for critical Linux data. Depending on the solution you’ve chosen, vendors may have verified their solution for interoperability with other PGP and Open PGP products. Others may offer a comprehensive Key Management System (KMS) that allows you to easily create, manage, import, and export private keys, public keys, and certificates for heightened security. A KMS system gives you an overview of what keys you have in the system, when they’ll expire, and more.

Related Reading: What is Secure File Transfer?

GnuPG Encryption for Linux

GnuPG (or GPG) is an open-source alternative to PGP encryption software. Other than being open source, which means it’s supported by a community and can be changed or developed to your liking, it is virtually identical to PGP and Open PGP tools.

GPG is free and defined by the Open PGP standard. The GPG Privacy Guard provides users with the resources they need to interface with a GUI or a command line. GPG is also frequently used on Linux systems. It can also open and decrypt files that have been encrypted by PGP software if your trading partners or third-party vendors use an Open PGP solution.

Related Reading: PGP vs. GPG: What’s the Difference?

GZIP and ZIP with AES Data Encryption for Linux

Depending on the solution you choose for encryption, you may be able to automate the zipping and unzipping of files that use ZIP and GZIP standards. That means when a file transfer is sent or retrieved from a partner, your sensitive Linux files will be automatically encrypted or decrypted without manual intervention.

A product like GoAnywhere MFT can create a ZIP file to package, compress, and encrypt multiple files before a file transfer. ZIP files for Linux can reduce disk space, minimize how long it takes to transfer a file, and keep related files in a singular location for easy organization. ZIP files can also be password protected to add an extra layer of security. Advanced Encryption Standard, or AES, can be used as a symmetrical form of encryption, in which one password will be used to zip and unzip the file.

Choosing a Solution to Encrypt Files in Linux in 6 Steps

Deciding on the right solution for your Linux file encryption needs comes with a lot of factors. A lot of it depends on your business and compliance requirements. With numerous vendors in the marketplace today, it’s worth asking these questions before you search for a secure way to protect your data:

1. What's your budget?

If you have a budget for a solution and need to comply with strict requirements, you’ll find plenty of robust Open PGP encryption, PGP for Linux, or other file transfer solutions available to try. GoAnywhere MFT may be a good place to start. Otherwise, if you need to go with free or open source, the GPG Privacy Guard provides resources on free encryption offers—just be sure you look at when the tool was last updated or patched to ensure utmost security.

For more information on when to use open-source software, read our Guide to the Pros and Cons of Open Source Managed File Transfer Software.

2. What other features could you benefit from?

An all-in-one Linux MFT solution like GoAnywhere bundles Linux file encryption together with other great features, like workflow automation, auditing and reporting functionality, cloud integrations, secure email, and industry-level protocols like SFTP, FTPS, AS2, and HTTPS. If there are other areas of the business your Linux systems and files could benefit from, an enterprise-level solution is a better value and better choice over a single-use encryption tool.

3. Do you need to maintain compliance with regulatory or industry requirements?

If so, go with a solution that knows these laws, regulations, and standards, and also has experience helping organizations keep their file transfers and cybersecurity practices in compliance.

4. How many files do you need to encrypt a week?

If you only need to encrypt files on an infrequent basis, say a couple a week, a single-use encryption tool for Linux may work well for you. However, if you’re a business that must encrypt or decrypt dozens, hundreds, or thousands of files a week, you’ll want to look for a Linus-ready PGP- or GPG-encryption solution that can handle the high volume of work required.

5. Is this for a short-term project? Or is this a permanent solution?

The longevity of the project you need a solution for should help determine what kind of product you look for. The shorter the project, the more likely a free solution like OpenPGP Studio will suit you. If you’re looking for a permanent solution, be sure to take time to budget, evaluate, and purchase the right product for your needs. Your wallet — and your file encryption processes — will thank you later.

6. Do you handle or process sensitive information, like personal data, PHI, or card information?

The more precious the information is, the more you’ll want to go with a vendor that has a proven track record for successfully encrypting, decrypting, and tracking sensitive data—in transit or at rest.

Related Reading: GoAnywhere Open PGP Studio vs. GoAnywhere MFT

Linux and Managed File Transfer

GoAnywhere’s secure managed file transfer solution supports all file transfer and encryption needs for Linux. Comprehensive workflow features and an intuitive interface help eliminate the need for any manual scripts, homegrown processes, or one-use tools that were traditionally needed in the IT space. GoAnywhere reduces costs, improves the quality of file transfers and file encryption, and helps organizations worldwide meet with key data security audits, in-house policies, and other regulations.

Implement GoAnywhere’s secure FTP technology alongside strong encryption technologies, like Open PGP, GPG, and ZIP with AES, to protect sensitive files while they move between you and your trading partners, third-party vendors, remote locations, and external systems. GoAnywhere creates encrypted tunnels between client and server systems to provide confidentiality for all transmissions. GoAnywhere's secure FTP servers also protect any user credentials that flow over a connection.

All types of Linux can run GoAnywhere, including RedHat, CentOS, SUSE, Debian, and Ubuntu.

Encrypt Linux Files Today – Request a Demo

Explore GoAnywhere’s Open PGP, GPG, and ZIP encryption for Linux files today. Request a personalized demonstration today to see our robust, affordable encryption software in action.


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