A Digital Envelope is used to send encrypted information using symmetric keys, and the relevant session key along with it. It is a secure method to send electronic document without compromising the data integrity, authentication and non-repudiation, which were obtained with the use of symmetric keys.
A Digital envelope mechanism works as follows:
The symmetric key, which is used to encrypt the bulk of the date or message can be referred to as session key. It is simply a symmetric key picked randomly in the key space.
In order for the receiver to have the ability to decrypt the message, the session key must be sent to the receiver.
This session key cannot be sent in clear text to the receiver, it must be protected while in transit, else anyone who have access to the network could have access to the key and confidentiality can easily be compromised.
Therefore, it is critical to encrypt and protect the session key before sending it to the receiver. The session key is encrypted using receiver’s public key. Thus providing confidentiality of the key.
The encrypted message and the encrypted session key are bundled together and then sent to the receiver who, in turn opens the session key with the receiver matching private key.
The session key is then applied to the message to get it in plain text.
The process of encrypting bulk data using symmetric key cryptography and encrypting the session key with a public key algorithm is referred as a digital envelope. Sometimes people refer to it as Hybrid Cryptography as well.
The following were incorrect answers:
Digital-signature – A digital signature is an electronic identification of a person or entity created by using public key algorithm and intended to verify to recipient the integrity of the data and the identity of the sender. Applying a digital signature consist of two simple steps, first you create a message digest, then you encrypt the message digest with the sender’s private key. Encrypting the message digest with the private key is the act of signing the message.
Symmetric Key Encryption – Symmetric encryption is the oldest and best-known technique. A secret key, which can be a number, a word, or just a string of random letters, is applied to the text of a message to change the content in a particular way. This might be as simple as shifting each letter by a number of places in the alphabet. As long as both sender and recipient know the secret key, they can encrypt and decrypt all messages that use this key.
Asymmetric Key Encryption – The term “asymmetric” stems from the use of different keys to perform these opposite functions, each the inverse of the other – as contrasted with conventional (“symmetric”) cryptography which relies on the same key to perform both. Public-key algorithms are based on mathematical problems which currently admit no efficient solution that are inherent in certain integer factorization, discrete logarithm, and elliptic curve relationships. It is computationally easy for a user to generate their own public and private key-pair and to use them for encryption and decryption. The strength lies in the fact that it is “impossible” (computationally unfeasible) for a properly generated private key to be determined from its corresponding public key. Thus the public key may be published without compromising security, whereas the private key must not be revealed to anyone not authorized to read messages or perform digital signatures. Public key algorithms, unlike symmetric key algorithms, do not require a secure initial exchange of one (or more) secret keys between the parties.
CISA review manual 2014 Page number 350 and 351