Cryptographic Key

A parameter used with a cryptographic algorithm to transform, validate, authenticate, encrypt, or decrypt data. Cryptographic keys provide the “secret” portion of a cryptographic algorithm used to encrypt and decrypt data.


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A value that is used to encrypt or decrypt messages and is made public to any user and used with a private key in asymmetric cryptography. In an asymmetric cryptography scheme, the key that may be widely published to enable the operation of the scheme. Typically, a public key can be used to encrypt, but not decrypt, or to validate a signature, but not to sign.
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<p>FIPS 140-2, Security Requirements for Cryptographic Modules, May 2001.</p><p>This term refers to the accreditation used to distinguish between secure and well-established crypto modules produced in the private sector. It stands as a certification for those producers who need them to be used in regulated industries that typically collect, store, transfer, and share data that is deemed to be sensitive in nature but not classified.<br></p><p>FIPS 140-2 defines four levels of security, simply named "Level 1" to "Level 4". It does not specify in detail what level of security is required by any particular application.</p><p>Level 1<br>Security Level 1 provides the lowest level of security. Basic security requirements are specified for a cryptographic module (e.g., at least one Approved algorithm or Approved security function shall be used). No specific physical security mechanisms are required in a Security Level 1 cryptographic module beyond the basic requirement for production-grade components. An example of a Security Level 1 cryptographic module is a personal computer (PC) encryption board.</p><p>Level 2<br>Security Level 2 improves upon the physical security mechanisms of a Security Level 1 cryptographic module by requiring features that show evidence of tampering, including tamper-evident coatings or seals that must be broken to attain physical access to the plaintext cryptographic keys and critical security parameters (CSPs) within the module, or pick-resistant locks on covers or doors to protect against unauthorized physical access.</p><p>Level 3<br>In addition to the tamper-evident physical security mechanisms required at Security Level 2, Security Level 3 attempts to prevent the intruder from gaining access to CSPs held within the cryptographic module. Physical security mechanisms required at Security Level 3 are intended to have a high probability of detecting and responding to attempts at physical access, use or modification of the cryptographic module. The physical security mechanisms may include the use of strong enclosures and tamper-detection/response circuitry that zeroes all plaintext CSPs when the removable covers/doors of the cryptographic module are opened</p><p>Level 4<br>Security Level 4 provides the highest level of security. At this security level, the physical security mechanisms provide a complete envelope of protection around the cryptographic module with the intent of detecting and responding to all unauthorized attempts at physical access. Penetration of the cryptographic module enclosure from any direction has a very high probability of being detected, resulting in the immediate deletion of all plaintext CSPs.<br>Security Level 4 cryptographic modules are useful for operation in physically unprotected environments. Security Level 4 also protects a cryptographic module against a security compromise due to environmental conditions or fluctuations outside of the module's normal operating ranges for voltage and temperature. Intentional excursions beyond the normal operating ranges may be used by an attacker to thwart a cryptographic module's defenses. A cryptographic module is required to either include special environmental protection features designed to detect fluctuations and delete CSPs, or to undergo rigorous environmental failure testing to provide a reasonable assurance that the module will not be affected by fluctuations outside of the normal operating range in a manner that can compromise the security of the module.</p>
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A secret value that is used to encrypt or decrypt messages and is kept secret and known only to the user; used in conjunction with a public key in asymmetrical cryptography. The private or secret key of a key pair, which must be kept confidential and is used to decrypt messages encrypted with the public key, or to digitally sign messages, which can then be validated with the public key.
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An algorithm that relies on a “shared secret” encryption key that is distributed to all members who participate in communications. This key is used by all parties to both encrypt and decrypt messages. Encryption methodology in which the encryptor and decryptor use the same key, which must be kept secret.
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The security labels commonly employed on secure systems used by the military. Military security labels range from highest sensitivity to lowest: top secret, secret, confidential, and unclassified (top secret, secret, and confidential are collectively known as classified).
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