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1.11 Key Escrow for Careless Users

It is prudent to keep your key in a safe place so that when you misplace your own key you can retrieve a copy of the key rather than conceding that all your encrypted files are irretrievably lost. It would be a security risk to have all users' keys stored unencrypted somewhere. The database of keys could be stored encrypted with a key known to the server that was storing the database, but this would mean that someone who had access to that machine could access all the user keys. Another possibility is to encrypt the key in a way that can only be reconstructed with the cooperation of several independent machines. This is feasible, and we'll discuss it more in §24.9.1 Key Escrow.

Some applications don't require recoverable keys. An example of such an application is login. If a user loses the key required for login, the user can be issued a new key. A user may therefore want different keys for different uses, where only some of the keys are escrowed. For applications that do require recoverable keys, protection from compromise can be traded off against protection from loss.

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