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Archive-name: pgp-faq/mini-overview
Last-modifed: 95/2/25

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          *** Frequently Asked Questions about PGP ***
                    Andre Bacard, Author of>
                   [Version February 25, 1995]
     This article offers a nontechnical overview of PGP to
     help you decide whether or not to use this globally
     popular computer software to safeguard your computer
     files and e-mail. I have written this especially for
     persons with a sense of humor. You may distribute this
     (unaltered) FAQ for non-commercial purposes.
What is PGP?
     PGP (also called "Pretty Good Privacy") is a computer
     program that encrypts (scrambles) and decrypts
     (unscrambles) data. For example, PGP can encrypt "Andre"
     so that it reads "457mRT&%$354." Your computer can
     decrypt this garble back into "Andre" if you have PGP.
Who created PGP?
     Philip Zimmermann <> wrote the initial
     program. Phil, a a hero to many pro-privacy activists,
     works as a computer security consultant in Boulder,
     Colorado. Phil Zimmermann, Peter Gutmann, Hal Finney,
     Branko Lankester and other programmers around the globe
     have created subsequent PGP versions and shells.
     PGP uses the RSA public-key encryption system. RSA was
     announced in 1977 by its inventors: Ronald Rivest of MIT,
     Adi Shamir of the Weizmann Institute in Israel, and
     Leonard Adelman of USC. It is called "RSA" after the
     initials of these men. PGP also employs an encryption
     system called IDEA which surfaced in 1990 due to Xuejia
     Lai and James Massey's inventiveness.
Who uses PGP encryption [or other RSA-based systems]?
     People who value privacy use PGP. Politicians running
     election campaigns, taxpayers storing IRS records,
     therapists protecting clients' files, entrepreneurs
     guarding trade secrets, journalists protecting their
     sources, and people seeking romance are a few of the law
     abiding citizens who use PGP to keep their computer files
     and their e-mail confidential.
     Businesses also use PGP. Suppose you're a corporate
     manager and you need to e-mail an employee about his job
     performance. You may be required by law to keep this e-
     mail confidential. Suppose you're a saleswoman, and you
     must communicate over public computer networks with a
     branch office about your customer list. You may be
     compelled by your company and the law to keep this list
     confidential. These are a few reasons why businesses use
     encryption to protect their customers, their employees,
     and themselves.
     PGP also helps secure financial transactions. For
     example, the Electronic Frontier Foundations uses PGP to
     encrypt members' charge account numbers, so that members
     can pay dues via e-mail.
     Thomas G. Donlan, an editor at BARRON'S [a financial
     publication related to THE WALL STREET JOURNAL], wrote a
     full-page editorial in the April 25, 1994 BARRON'S
     entitled "Privacy and Security: Computer Technology Opens
     Secrets, And Closes Them."
     Mr. Donlan wrote, in part:
          RSA Data Security, the company founded by the
          three inventors, has hundreds of satisfied
          customers, including Microsoft, Apple, Novell,
          Sun, AT&T and Lotus. Versions of RSA are
          available for almost any personal computer or
          workstation, many of them built into the
          operating systems. Lotus Notes, the network
          communications system, automatically encrypts
          all it messages using RSA. Other companies
          have similar products designed around the same
          basic concept, and some versions are available
          for free on computer bulletin boards.
     Donlan continues:
          Without security, the Internet is little more
          than the world's biggest bulletin board. With
         security, it could become the information
          supermarket of the world. RSA lets people and
          banks feels secure putting their credit-card
          numbers on the public network. Although it
          still  seems that computers created an age of
          snoopery, the age of privacy is at hand.
Aren't computers and e-mail already safe?
     Your computer files (unless encrypted) can be read by
     anyone with access to your machine. E-mail is notoriously
     unsafe. Typical e-mail travels through many computers.
     The persons who run these computers can read, copy, and
     store your mail. Many competitors and voyeurs are highly
     motivated to intercept e-mail. Sending your business,
     legal, and personal mail through computers is even less
     confidential than sending the same material on a
     postcard. PGP is one secure "envelope" that keeps
     busybodies, competitors, and criminals from victimizing
I have nothing to hide. Why do I need privacy?
     Show me a human being who has no secrets from her family,
     her neighbors, or her colleagues, and I'll show you
     someone who is either an extraordinary exhibitionist or
     an incredible dullard.
     Show me a business that has no trade secrets or
     confidential records, and I'll show you a business that
     is not very successful.
      On a lighter note, a college student wrote me the following:
     "I had a part-time job at a dry cleaner. One day I
     returned a diamond ring that I'd found in a man's coat
     pocket to his wife. Unfortunately, it was NOT her ring!
     It belonged to her husband's  girlfriend. His wife was
     furious and divorced her husband over this incident. My
     boss told me: 'Return jewelry ONLY to the person whose
     clothes you found it in, and NEVER return underwear that
     you find in pockets!' Until that moment, I thought my
     boss was a finicky woman. But she taught me the need for
     Privacy, discretion, confidentiality, and prudence are
     hallmarks of civilization.
I've heard police say that encryption should be outlawed because
criminals use it to avoid detection. Is this true?
     The next time you hear someone say this, ask him if he
     wants to outlaw the likes of Thomas Jefferson, the
     "Father of American Cryptography."
     Many governments, corporations, and law enforcement
     agencies use encryption to hide their operations. Yes, a
     few criminals also use encryption. Criminals are more
     likely to use cars, gloves, and ski-masks to evade
     PGP is "encryption for the masses." It gives average law
     abiding citizens a few of the privacy rights which
     governments and corporations insist that they need for
How does PGP work?
     PGP is a type of "public key cryptography." When you
     start using PGP, the program generates two "keys" that
     belong uniquely to you. Think of these keys as computer
     counterparts of the keys in your pocket. One PGP key is
     SECRET and stays in your computer. The other key is
     PUBLIC. You give this second key to your correspondents.
     Here is a sample PUBLIC KEY:
Version: 2.7
- - - -----END PGP PUBLIC KEY BLOCK-----
     Suppose the PUBLIC KEY listed above belongs to you and
     that you e-mail it to me. I can store your PUBLIC KEY in
     my PGP program and use your PUBLIC KEY to encrypt a
     message that only you can read. One beauty of PGP is that
     you can advertise your PUBLIC KEY the same way that you
     can give out your telephone number. If I have your
     telephone nber, I can call your telephone; however, I
     cannot answer your telephone. Similarly, if I have your
     PUBLIC KEY, I can send you mail; however, I cannot read
     your mail.
     This PUBLIC KEY concept might sound a bit mysterious at
     first. However, it bcomes very clear when you play with
     PGP for awhile.
How safe is PGP? Will it really protect my privacy?
     Perhaps your government or your mother-in-law can "break"
     PGP messages by using supercomputers and\or pure
     brilliance. I have no way of knowing. Three facts are
     certain. First, top-rate civilian cryptographers and
     computer experts have tried unsuccessfully to break PGP.
     Second, whoever proves that he or she can unravel PGP
     will earn quick fame in crypto circles. He or she will be
     applauded at banquets and attract grant money. Third,
     PGP's programmers will broadcast this news at once.
     Almost daily, someone posts a notice such as "PGP Broken
     by Omaha Teenager." Take these claims with a grain of
     salt. The crypto world attracts its share of paranoids,
     provocateurs, and UFO aliens.
     To date, nobody has publicly demonstrated the skill to
     outsmart or outmuscle PGP.
Is PGP available for my machine?
     Versions are available for DOS and Windows, as well as
     various Unixes, Macintosh, Amiga, Atari ST, OS/2, and
     CompuServe's WinCIM & CSNav. Many persons are working to
     expand PGP's usability. Read the Usenet
     news group for the latest developments.
Are these versions of PGP mutually compatible?
     Yes. For example, a document encrypted with PGP on a PC
     can be decrypted with someone using PGP on a Unix
     As of September 1, 1994, Versions 2.6 and higher can read
     previous versions. However, pre-2.6 versions can no
     longer read the newer versions. I strongly recommend that
     everyone upgrade to Versions 2.6.2 or 2.7.
Where do I get PGP?
     For computer non-experts, the easiest way to get PGP is to
     telephone ViaCrypt (a software company) in Phoenix, Arizona at
     (602) 944-0773.
     PGP is available from countless BBSs (Bulletin Board
     Systems) and ftp ("File Transfer Protocol") sites around
     the world. These sites, like video stores, come and go.
     To find PGP, here are two options: 1) Learn how to use
     ARCHIE to search for files on the Internet. 2) Read
     BOARDWATCH magazine to find the BBSs in your area.
How expensive is PGP?
     The PGP versions that you will find at BBSs and ftp sites
     are "freeware." This means that they are free. People
     from New Zealand to Mexico use these versions every day.
     Depending on where you live, this "freeware" may or may
     not violate local laws.
     I use PGP Version 2.7 which is distributed by ViaCrypt in
     the United States [see below].
Is PGP legal in the United States?
     Yes. MIT's PGP Version is licensed for non-commercial use. You
     can it from ftp sites or BBSs. ViaCrypt's PGP Version is
     licensed for commercial use. You can get it from ViaCrypt.
     +++ Important Note +++. It is illegal to export PGP out of the
     United States. Do not even think of doing so! To communicate
     with friends in, say, England, have your friends get PGP from
     sources outside the United States.
What is a PGP digital signature?
     At the end of this document, you will see a PGP
     signature. This "digital signature" allows persons who
     have PGP and my PUBLIC KEY to verify that 1) I, Andre
     Bacard, (not a SPORTS ILLUSTRATED superstar pretending to
     be me!) wrote this document, and 2) Nobody has altered
     this text since I signed it.
     PGP signatures might be helpful for signing contracts,
     transferring money, and verifying a person's identity.
How difficult is it to learn PGP?
     PGP has around two dozen commands. It is a relatively
     easy program to learn.
Where can I learn more about the PGP and related subjects?
     The following News Groups are a good place to start:
        [to hear about electronic privacy issues]
        [to learn everything known about PGP]
        [to keep abreast of legal & political changes]
Anything else I should know?
     YOUR privacy and safety are in danger! The black market
     price for your IRS records is $500. YOUR medical records
     are even cheaper. Prolific bank, credit and medical
     databases, the Clipper Chip Initiative, computer matching
     programs, cordless & cellular phone scanners, Digital
     Telephony legislation, and (hidden) video surveillance
     are just a few factors that threaten every law abiding
     citizen. Our anti-privacy society gives criminals and
     snoops computer data about YOU on a silver platter.
     If you want to protect your privacy, I urge you to join
     organizations such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation
                           Bacard wrote "The Computer Privacy
   "Privacy permits you    Handbook: A Practical Guide to E-Mail
    to be yourself."       Encryption, Data Protection, and PGP
                           Privacy Software" [for novices/experts].
Introduction by Mitchell Kapor, Co-Founder of Electronic Frontier
Foundation and Creator of Lotus1-2-3.
          Book Available Spring 1995. Write for Details
[Bacard has been interviewed on hundreds of radio-talk shows about
his previous book ("Hunger for Power"), technology, and society.]
Version: 2.7

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