The patent describes a method and apparatus for securely distributing an initial Data Encryption Algorithm (DEA) key-encrypting key by encrypting a key record (consisting of the key-encrypting key and control information associated with that key-encrypting key) using a public key algorithm and a public key belonging to the intended recipient of the key record. The patent further describes a method and apparatus for securely recovering the distributed key-encrypting key by the recipient by decrypting the received key record using the same public key algorithm and private key associated with the public key and re-encrypting the key-encrypting key under a key formed by arithmetically combining the recipient's master key with a control vector contained in the control information of the received key record. Thus the type and usage attributes assigned by the originator of the key-encrypting key in the form of a control vector are cryptographically coupled to the key-encrypting key such that the recipient may only use the received key-encrypting key in a manner defined by the key originator.
The patent further describes a method and apparatus to improve the integrity of the key distribution process by applying a digital signature to the key record and by including identifying information (i.e., an originator identifier) in the control information of the key record. The integrity of the distribution process is enhanced by verifying the digital signature and originator identifier at the recipient node.