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Simplifying OpenPGP – Streamlining Sharing Encrypted Files Securely with Third Parties

by Prime Factors
January 9, 2024

Hand using laptop with digital graphics overlaid on the image.Every day, businesses share sensitive information outside the enterprise, such as sending purchasing files or other documents containing personally identifiable information to trading partners, resellers, or third parties. Safeguarding this data is crucial to avoid a breach and comply with regulations, which is why organizations often implement file encryption infrastructure to keep sensitive information secure while it travels. But encrypting files is only helpful if the trading partners can unlock the files at the right time for the right parties, which can involve complex integration or sharing specific encryption keys with every file.

OpenPGP is a common standard that enterprises can use to address this, allowing them to share encrypted files with external parties using public key cryptography. To put it simply, when a company uses OpenPGP to send encrypted files, there’s a public key and a private key used to lock and unlock (and verify) the data. Just as it sounds, the public keys can be shared publicly with trading partners, while private keys are never published. If someone were to get ahold of the information in transit, even with the public key, they would need the private key to access it. And while OpenPGP helps securely send encrypted files, managing the cryptographic keys used for OpenPGP can become very complex. This is especially true when the number of trading partners grows larger, if multiple applications are used to lock and unlock data, or if the OpenPGP deployment must function across more than one data center.

For smaller organizations who may be handling one or two private keys with OpenPGP, the process can be more manageable. However, if you’re a part of a larger enterprise dealing with hundreds of keys across a variety of trading partners, things can get complex fast. You must manage both distributing keys and imported keys received from external applications and parties. You must match the right data with the right keys, with the right applications, with the right algorithms, at the right time, for the right partner. Add in multiple datacenters (which might need to individually manage all these items), and it can be very messy.

There are plenty of freeware solutions that support OpenPGP algorithms and transform data for you, but the algorithms are not typically the problem. The real challenge is in key management and orchestrating the appropriate controls, tracking, and coordination across many private and public keys. Little to no functionality related to this is generally offered by freeware OpenPGP solutions, leaving enterprises to manually wrestle through the most challenging components of securing files for third parties.

Here at Prime Factors, we worked with a prominent player in the printing industry that had been using open-source software to try to solve their OpenPGP needs. Despite their attempts at using freeware, they cited that OpenPGP was an “unknown monster”, and they needed better operational processes to manage their keys. Ongoing challenges led one of their end users to suggest that they identify a better, more robust solution. When we shared how our encryption and key management solution could help simplify everything, they embraced the idea of enlisting the help of EncryptRIGHT, which has allowed them to streamline their access controls, key management, and securing of data between multiple data centers while improving their overall visibility and efficiency.

Below, we’ve outlined why implementing a centralized key management solution helps simplify sharing encrypted files securely with third parties using OpenPGP.

The Benefits of Centralized Key Management for OpenPGP

With a centralized key management system, you can easily reduce the cumbersome nature of OpenPGP key management challenges. Controls provide clear insight into key management processes across multiple environments and channels that spreadsheets or multiple key files simply don’t provide.

With the right centralized key management software, you can achieve greater efficiency, simplicity, and security for your keys.

Improved Efficiencies

Matching up keys with the right data and the right algorithm is fragmented and time-consuming, which many organizations still leave up to manual processes and something that OpenPGP freeware doesn’t address. Some companies still manage their keys out of spreadsheets, which is not only an insecure way of managing your private keys, but it’s also disorganized and can create more work than necessary.

One of the advantages of centralized key management is the substantial time savings it brings to the table by eliminating manual processes that are subject to human error and lack of visibility. This is exactly what Prime Factors’ EncryptRIGHT software is designed to do. IT administrators and security personnel don’t have the burden of hunting down keys but have a complete view of the cryptographic keys used to secure data. EncryptRIGHT supports OpenPGP algorithms, so you’re able not only to apply the appropriate keys with the right data but also transform the data into its secure state without involving any other encryption software.

With EncryptRIGHT, you can rotate, exchange, and expire keys automatically on a schedule. It’s all available and systematically programmed into one platform, saving countless hours on key management.

More Simplicity

A centralized key management platform not only simplifies key storage but also eases the burden of key generation and distribution, as well as matching up keys with specific data sets. Keeping track of which keys match which pieces of data is not only time-consuming, but complicated when you have so many keys across the enterprise.

Consolidating all these management tasks in one location simplifies these complexities. With your key management in one place, it’s easier to distribute keys, manage and lock and unlock incoming and outgoing data. Everything is consolidated, so this makes the jobs of security professionals much easier and streamlined, reducing manual effort, human error, and ultimately, enhancing security.

Better Security

In today's interconnected business environment, where data is dispersed across geographies and shared with external collaborators, seamless key rotation is essential for thwarting potential security breaches related to sensitive data. Frequently rotating your keys prevents someone from gaining access to sensitive data.

Private keys sitting on a desktop, in spreadsheets, or even disorganized across multiple systems, also creates an inherent risk of being compromised. The risk of key loss or theft is higher when an additional layer of security is not integrated into your key management and storage. Think about how external parties are handling their keys, as well. Are they using freeware or spreadsheets that apply proper access controls to data, or could keys be floating around unprotected through their enterprise—leaving your data potentially exposed to unauthorized parties?

Centralized key management doesn’t just mean better organization for your keys. Sure, this is a major business advantage, but where and how you store your keys is crucial for achieving optimal security. EncryptRIGHT solves this with a secure key vault that supports importing, encrypting, and storing keys. There’s no need to have files and spreadsheets of key information loosely floating around on desk drives. EncryptRIGHT empowers a stronger data security posture with versioning, digital signing, and elimination of multiple key files.

More Than Centralized Key Management: An All-Inclusive Data Security Solution

In addition to simplifying secure file sharing, EncryptRIGHT’s key management functionality supports OpenPGP standards to securely transfer, manage and rotate cryptographic keys. The software can also be configured as a PGP key server, enabling trading partners to access the platform and retrieve updated keys. Nevertheless, EncryptRIGHT is more than a key management solution—it encompasses encryption, access controls, audit logging, and reporting on any changes to your OpenPGP infrastructure.

This only scratches the surface of what makes EncryptRIGHT a data security powerhouse. It's an all-encompassing platform that empowers you to define how your data is protected, offering a multitude of security functions within a single code base. This higher level of security combined with reduced development costs, improved operational efficiencies, and minimized human error is what makes EncryptRIGHT an all-inclusive data security platform that gives peace of mind for data security while driving positive business impacts.

Interested in learning more about building better data security and key management for your organization? Get in touch with a security expert today.

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