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Key management is the provisions made in a cryptography system design that are related to generation, exchange, storage, safeguarding, use, vetting, and replacement of keys. It includes cryptographic protocol design, key servers, user procedures, and other relevant protocols.

Key management concerns keys at the user level, either between users or systems. This is in contrast to key scheduling; key scheduling typically refers to the internal handling of key material within the operation of a cipher.

Successful key management is critical to the security of a cryptosystem. In practice it is arguably the most difficult aspect of cryptography because it involves system policy, user training, organizational and departmental interactions, and coordination between all of these elements.

These concerns are not limited to cryptographic engineering. Key management requires both technical and organizational decisions, and as a result, some aspects of key management risk being neglected by managers and engineers, out of concern that the problem is technical or managerial, respectively.

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