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PGP vs. Open PGP: What’s the Difference?

Learn how PGP and OpenPGP encrypt your files

Encryption standards become more and more important every day. With the rise of data breaches, it’s critical now more than ever for organizations to raise the level at which they protect their information. Partly, educating employees has presented itself as an easy way to make data safer. However, taking the time to choose the right method of encryption is the most effective way to make your data safer. Today, we’re going break down PGP and Open PGP, two methods of encryption and decryption that have operated as industry standards for some time.

What is PGP?

PGP, or Pretty Good Privacy, originated with the company PGP Inc. Who owned the original rights to PGP encryption software in 1991. PGP was created for the purpose of communicating without worrying about unwanted individuals eavesdropping.

Now, file encryption with PGP is responsible for the encryption of text messages and email. PGP handles this by encrypting messages with a random key that is then encrypted by the receiver's public key which can only be decrypted with a private key that only the receiver has. Only the recipient can decrypt the file or message because of the private key.

This is all well and good, but PGP is not an open patent. It is owned by a company called Symantec. This, long story short, is why the source code of PGP was released to the public (source code is protected by the first amendment) after being created by Phil Zimmerman. That’s when the public had access to Open PGP.

What is Open PGP?

Because PGP is a patented product, it has not always made sense for international use. A group called the OpenPGP Working Group eliminated the need to license PGP. Most email clients provide support for Open PGP, which is still under active development.

Open PGP is a key-based encryption tool that encrypts files so that only intended users are able to access it. OpenPGP uses two cryptographic keys to secure files, one public key that is used to encrypt the file, one private key that can decrypt files. Open PGP doesn’t act as a connection type so it can be used with standard FTP, SSL or SSH connections.

Open PGP works very similar to how PGP works. However, because it is supported and developed by the PGP community, there are other standards that branch out of it such as GnuPG, otherwise known as GNU Privacy Guard (GPG).

PGP vs. Open PGP: A Quick Summary

So, what are the differences between PGP and Open PGP?

PGP: A proprietary encryption solution owned by Symantec.

Open PGP: The IETF-approved standard that describes any encryption technology that uses processes interoperable with PGP.

Organizations will continue to develop software based on these systems because of the need for encryption of critical data.

Automate Your Encryption

Adding the power of automation to your encryption implementation takes your cybersecurity stance to a higher level. Check out this guide, Why Automating Encryption and Decryption Makes Good Cybersecurity Sense, for complete details and suggestions for encryption strategies based on your unique business needs.

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There are many methods of encrypting data. Two prominent methods of doing so are PGP and OpenPGP. That’s what we’ll be breaking down.