almost the beginning of time, it seems, man has had a need to keep information
private and, in many situations, needed to decipher information previously made
private by others. In our age of high technology these needs have grown
exponentially and become more complex.
In the past, the ability to encrypt information with relative strength could be
found only in the realms of governments. Thanks to a gentleman named Phil
Zimmerman, this ability has been brought to the masses. In 1991 Mr. Zimmerman
invented Pretty Good Privacy or PGP for short. PGP was designed to be high-grade
encryption software available for free to anyone who wished to use it.
One of the major aspects of PGP is that it utilizes "Public-Key
Encryption". In a nutshell, that means that you actually have two keys: a
Private Key that only you should have access to and a Public Key that you give
away to anyone you want. When someone wants to send you an encrypted file, they
use your Public Key to encrypt the file. Having done that, the encrypted file
can then only be decrypted by you using your Private Key.
One way to think of Public-Key Encryption is someone sending you a snail mail
letter in an envelope that only you can open. Anyone can see the envelope but
only you can read its contents.
Because of the US Government's restrictions on exporting high-grade encryption
technology, giving PGP to people outside the US was illegal. Because of this a
team of programmers lead by Werner Koch in Germany took it upon themselves to
write an Open Source, RFC2440 (OpenPGP) alternative to PGP called GNU Privacy
Guard, or GnuPG. Because GnuPG was developed outside of the US the export
restrictions didn't apply. It should be noted that PGP and GnuPG are virtually
identical (with a few exceptions