What Is PGP?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Learn more about the meaning of PGP and how it is used as an encryption system and form of data security in the information technology (IT) world.

[Featured image] An IT support specialist is sitting outside on a lounge chair reading about PGP on their tablet.

PGP stands for pretty good privacy, an encryption system used for sending and managing encrypted emails and files. Encrypting the data and content of emails makes this method of communication more private, which is why PGP is used by those dealing with sensitive information. PGP is also used for decrypting emails, which ensures only the recipient can interpret the message sent directly to them. 

PGP combines public and private features of cryptosystems so that encrypted emails can be sent and received. First, PGP generates a random one-time-use session key. After the session key has been generated, the recipient's public key encrypts it. As the public key connects to that user’s identity, other users can send them messages with that key. The sender will send their encrypted PGP key to the recipient, and the recipient can then decrypt the message using their private key. 

By using a combination of public, private, and random keys, PGP ensures the protection of sensitive data. It builds on standard encryption forms by using symmetric key and public key encryption. The random key generation tactic prevents different users from using the same key and potentially accessing information not intended for them. 

Uses of PGP encryption

PGP is most commonly used for sending and receiving confidential messages or data, however, the following are some additional use cases: 

  • Create digital signatures

  • To confirm that an email has reached the intended recipient

  • To authenticate messages

  • Provides a sense of security and comfort when sending messages and data 

Who works with PGPs?

If you are working in the information technology world as an IT technician or computer security analyst, you are responsible for the protection of sensitive information by using firewalls or data encryption. You may develop security standards for your organization, which could include assisting employees with the installation and usage of PGP, allowing them to transmit important information in a secure manner. 

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On Coursera, you can start your IT career with the Google IT Support Professional Certificate. It is designed to help you learn how to install a variety of coding programs, develop customer support skills, and identify any issues with the technological programs. Upon completion, gain exclusive access to career resources like resume review, interview prep, and more.

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