Advantages & Disadvantages of Private Key Encryption

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Adopting encryption technology is one way for your business to protect vital information from prying eyes. The simplest form of encryption is private key encryption, and it can keep those without proper authorization from accessing client files, financial information and other vital documents. However, private key encryption has limitations, especially when compared to public key or other forms of encryption.



Private key encryption involves the encryption and decryption of files using a single, secret key. A simple example of private key encryption is replacing letters with numbers; only someone who knows the key, or which number to replace with which letter, is able to read the hidden message. In the world of encryption, the keys computers use to secure files are much more complex, but still rely on you having access to the key for decryption.


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Easy to Use

One of the advantages of private key encryption is its ease of use. Since the system only needs to perform a single, reversible mathematical equation to encrypt or decrypt a file, the process is almost transparent. You can encrypt entire file systems, protecting them from outside observers. As long as everyone who is verified has the cryptographic key stored on the system, file access is quick and easy.


Exposure Potential

The chief disadvantage of a private key encryption system is that it requires anyone new to gain access to the key. This access may require transmitting the key over an insecure method of communication. For example, if you want to communicate over email using a private key encryption system, you first must send the key to your correspondent. During the transmission, a third party can intercept that data and gain access to the key that locks your secure communications.


Effort Involved

Maintaining good security practices with a private key system can take some effort. The simplest encryption method uses a single key for everything, but this allows anyone with that key to decode all of your encrypted data. If you want to segregate among groups, you need to generate and manage multiple private keys. You also may need to encrypt the same data a number of times to provide it to different groups. In addition, using a single private key for everything opens you up to the potential of an outside attack, since everyone you share the key with is a potential target for malware infection or hacker assault. If an outsider compromises someone in a multiple-key arrangement, they can only access files and documents available to that person instead of the entire system.




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