What are PGP Keys? – A Basic Beginner’s Guide on How It Works

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What are PGP Keys? – A Basic Beginner’s Guide on How It Works

PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) is an encryption program that provides cryptographic privacy and authentication for data communication. PGP was developed by Phil Zimmermann in 1991.

Essentially, PGP is used for data encryption and digital signatures. PGP is used for signing, encrypting, and decrypting texts, emails, files, directories, and whole disk partitions and to increase the security of email communications.



In encryption, a key refers to random strings of bit which serve to transform plaintext into ciphertext so that it is unreadable to snoopers, as well as transforming from ciphertext back to plaintext.

Symmetric Encryption (Source: InfoSec Institute)



PGP is a critical component to online privacy widely used to encrypt messages online.

There are plenty of reasons why PGP would be useful to you:

  • It is Edward Snowden approved!
  • It is easy to set-up for any regular Internet user.
  • Keep naked photos of your cat private by encrypting your emails, texts, files & more.
  • Referred to as the “closest you’ll get to military-grade encryption” available to the public.
  • Traditional emails can and may be stored on servers for up to 60 days. Emails’ offline storage, however? That is all game for email service providers.



As opposed to symmetric encryption, PGP encryption is a type of asymmetric encryption involving two keys; a public and private key. A public key is used only for encrypting, while a private key is used for decrypting.

If a sender wants to send a message to a receiver; the sender encrypts the plaintext message with the receiver’s public key. This creates the ciphertext which the receiver can then decrypt using their own private key.

Here is a scenario:

1) Grumpy Cat wishes to send an email to Doge but wants to keep it encrypted.

2) Doge creates a public & private key.

3) Doge sends the public key to Grumpy Cat.

4) Grumpy Cat encrypts the email with Doge’s public key & sends it.

5) Doge decrypts the email using his own private key.

This is the basic principle of PGP encryption.



Did you know that you can also encrypt your Facebook communications using PGP keys?

Here is how to add a PGP public key in Facebook:

1) In Facebook, go to your Settings > Security and Login.

2) Scroll down to Encrypted notification emails and click Edit.

3) Download the Facebook’s public key as shown below.

4) Open the file using a Notepad app. Hit that Ctrl + A and copy everything as shown in ‘A’. Then, go back to Facebook and hit Ctrl + V into the textbox as shown in ‘B’.

5) Tick the box under it which states Use this public key to encrypt notification emails that Facebook sends you? and click Save Changes.

6) Facebook will then prompt you to enter your password for security purposes.

7) Head over to your profile page. Click on About. Under your Contact and basic info, you will be able to see the PGP Public Key.


Read also:

How To Quickly Spot Scam Emails: 5 Things To Know

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