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Learning the difference between PGP and SSL

I am somewhat familiar with secure socket layer (SSL) and have been using it to FTP files via the Internet, but have no knowledge of pretty good privacy (PGP). We were recently asked by one of our business customers whether we could FTP files to them using PGP. How does PGP work? How is it different from SSL?

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PGP has been around since 1991. It first became popular in use with the need to secure e-mail messages. Today it is popping up in business practices more often than not. Using SSL or a virtual private network (VPN) to protect and share files between businesses can be considered overkill.

The difference between PGP and SSL is that PGP is encryption of stored data while SSL only encrypts data while it is being transported. If you are transferring sensitive information such as credit card numbers you will want to use SSL. If you are storing data such as file transfer protocol (FTP) servers you will want to use PGP. As you can see, PGP is a powerful tool for securing FTP and can make your life much easier.


For more information on this topic, visit these other SearchSecurity.com resources:
  • Tip: Encryption gets easier with PGP Version 8.0
  • White paper: SSL Theory and Practice


  • This was first published in May 2003

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