Key Distribution

By: Jesse Miller

For conventional encryption to work, the two parties or hosts should have the same key, and that key must be protected from access by others. This key may provide encrypted message. Frequent key changes are usually desirable to limit the amount of data compromised if an attacker learns the key. Therefore, the strength of any cryptographic system results with the key distribution technique, a term that refers to the means of delivering a key to two parties that wish to exchange data without allowing others to see the key.

Key distribution can be achieved in a number of ways. There are various combinations by which a key can be selected for A and B:- A key can be selected by A and physically delivered to B, A third party can select the key and physically deliver the key to A and B, If A and B have previously and recently used a key, one party can transmit to the other the new key, which has been encrypted by using the old key, and If A and B each has an encrypted connection to a third party C, C can deliver a key on the encrypted links to A and B.

The first two options call for manual delivery of the key. For link encryption, this is reasonable requirement because each link encryption device is going to be exchanging data with only its partner on the other end of the link. In a distributed system, any given host or terminal may need to engage in exchanges with many other hosts and terminals over time. Each device needs a number of keys. The problem gets magnified when this system is used for WAN.

Third possibility is to encrypt either link encryption or end to end encryption. If an attacker ever succeeds in gaining access to one key, then all subsequent keys are revealed. Even if frequent changes are made to the link encryption keys, the changes should be done manually. To provide keys for end to end encryption requires encryption of the key along with the data.

Link encryption can be ignored, but it can be added or not as per requirement. When two end systems (hosts, terminals,) wish to communicate, they establish a logical connection, all user data are encrypted with a one time session key.

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A permanent key is a key used between entitles for the purpose of distributing session keys.

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