What Is a Private Encryption Key?

When available, a private encryption key is almost always a good idea because it prevents others from seeing your data without the password

A private encryption key is an extra-layer encryption algorithm used by some online backup services to help further secure your account.

With a private encryption key, your backed up files can't be seen by anyone unless they can provide the password that decrypts the key, thus revealing the data.

Is Setting a Private Encryption Key a Good Idea?

In one word? Yes.

Did you know that any cloud backup account without a private encryption key setup is open for the service to look at, anytime they want? It's true. In practice, they have better things to do than look through one person's dog photos, but it could happen.

However, if your files are encrypted using a private encryption key, not even the online backup service is able to view and unlock your files. They, just like anyone else, including the NSA, will need to know the correct passphrase before seeing any of your files.

And who knows that passphrase? Just you...and anyone you tell, of course.

More Information on Using a Private Encryption Key

A really important thing to know about private encryption keys, or more accurately the passphrase you set for yours, is that you can not, under any circumstances, ever forget it!

Normally, if you've forgotten the password to your account, you can easily reset it to a new one, and you can probably do this as many times as you like. However, because using a private encryption key means you, and only you, have access to the key, and by extension to your backed up files, it also means you'll lose access to all your data if you happen to forget the password.

So, it's of utmost importance to never forget the passphrase you used when you set up the private encryption key. No one can reset it for you, ever, even the backup service themselves.

Password managers are often used to store complex passwords so you're less likely to lose access to your accounts.

Also, a private encryption key can only be used if there's no data already on your account. This means if you decide you want to use a private encryption key after you've begun backing up files, you must wipe your account clean and start fresh.

Which Online Backup Services Have a Private Encryption Key Option?

Backblaze and Carbonite are just two examples of popular backup services that offer private encryption keys as options for at least some of their plans.

  • How long should a private encryption key be?

    Ultimately, the longer and more complicated the key, the better. However, in terms of consumer-grade security, the strongest possible encryption key is not necessary and can be needlessly complicated, making it difficult to remember and input.

  • What is public/private key encryption?

    Public/private key encryption generally refers to a message or file encrypted with a public key and then decrypted with a private key. Encryption is done through public keys and is kept safe by making the decryption dependent on unique, private keys.

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