Effective data security is the most important component in ensuring the security of data at rest, in use and in transit. One way of securing sensitive data in any state is through encryption. Encryption is the process of transforming plaintext into ciphertext, which is unintelligible to humans. Encryption encodes data such that it can only be deciphered by the intended recipients. Before encrypted data can be read or processed, it must first be decrypted. As such, encryption is the foundation of data security as it is the most effective and easy method of preventing unauthorized users from accessing sensitive data on a computer system (Kaspersky, 2022). Data encryption, which is used by both individuals and corporations, can safeguard information sent between a user’s browser and a server. Therefore, the purpose of employing data encryption software, also known as an encryption algorithm or cipher, is to construct an encryption system that could prevent unauthorized access to sensitive and confidential information.
What is a Cryptographic Key
In order to make data appear random, an encryption technique uses a cryptographic key. A cryptographic key is a string of characters used within an encryption algorithm to make data appear random (Cloudflare, 2022). Data is encrypted so that only those who know the correct decryption key can access the data. Therefore, using a cryptographic key, or a shared secret set of numbers between the transmitter and receiver, is how data is protected during transmission across an insecure channel. The receiver employs the decryption key to transform the encrypted data back into plaintext. The harder it is to crack a cryptographic key, the more secure the encryption
What are the Types of Encryption Techniques
Symmetric encryption and asymmetric encryption are the two most popular types of encryptions. The names indicate whether or not the encryption and decryption processes use the same decryption key.
Symmetric encryption is equivalent to private key encryption. To encrypt and decrypt data using symmetric encryption, both parties must have possession of the same secret key (Kaspersky, 2022). This approach is particularly useful for one-to-one and closed-system communication because the encoding and decoding keys are the same. If an adversary, such a hacker, manages to intercept the key, there is a high chance of compromise. The symmetric encryption process is very fast and provides confidentiality. Also, resource utilization is low as compared to asymmetric key encryption (Yumang et al., 2020). However, security is less as only one key is used for both encryption and decryption purpose.
With asymmetric encryption, a pair of keys; one public and one private which are generated separately but are mathematically related is used (Kaspersky, 2022). The owner of a public key will make it available to authorized third parties, while the owner of a private key will guard it closely. Therefore, data encrypted using a recipient’s public key can be decrypted only by the recipient’s private key. The asymmetric encryption process is slow and resource utilization is high with this encryption technique. However, this technique is more secure as two keys are used for encryption and decryption thereby providing confidentiality, authenticity, and non-repudiation. The mathematical technique employed, the security management of cryptographic keys, and the application’s implementation all contribute to the reliability of a system protected by asymmetric cryptography (Yumang et al., 2020).
To transform information into ciphertext, encryption methods are employed. Even though the encrypted data would appear random, it can be transformed back into plaintext by utilizing the decryption key and the original encryption technique. Encryption algorithms come in a wide variety of forms, each optimized for a particular set of use cases. When an existing algorithm is found to have security flaws, a new one is designed to replace it. There are many different types of encryption algorithms, but some of the most popular ones include:
The acronym DES describes the now-outdated Data Encryption Standard. DES is a symmetric encryption algorithm that has since become obsolete, given that it is vulnerable to brute-force attacks (Kaspersky, 2022). There are now superior encryption methods that have replaced DES.
3DES stand for Triple Data Encryption Standard. The term triple is used to indicate that the original DES technique is used three times to encrypt the data, making this a symmetric key algorithm. Though it is being phased out, Triple DES remains a reliable hardware encryption solution for use in sectors such as banking and government despite the fact that it is much slower when compared to Advanced Encryption Standards (Selent, 2010).
AES, which stands for Advanced Encryption Standard, is a new encryption standard that supersedes the older DES technique and is widely used by many organizations and governments. AES is a symmetric block cipher that is widely used to protect sensitive data at rest (Bernstein, 2022). This encryption algorithm uses three block cryptographic keys of AES128, AES192. AES256, to encrypt and decrypt data in blocks of 128 bits (Selent, 2010).
RSA was the first asymmetric encryption technique accessible. Because of its large key size, RSA is extensively used for transferring sensitive information. The initials RSA stand for the last names of the three mathematicians who first described this algorithm: Rivest, Shamir, and Adleman. Due to its use of a public and private key, RSA is classified as an asymmetric algorithm which is widely used in web browsers and applications (Bernstein, 2022).
Elliptic-curve Diffie-Hellman (ECDH) Encryption
Elliptic-curve Diffie-Hellman (ECDH) is an asymmetric encryption algorithm that allows two parties to establish a shared secret over an unsecured channel using elliptic-curve public-private key pairs. To establish a shared secret via an unsecured channel, two parties with an elliptic-curve public-private key pair can use the ECDH anonymous key agreement mechanism.
Bernstein, C. (2022). Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). TechTarget. https://www.techtarget.com/searchsecurity/definition/Advanced-Encryption-Standard
Cloudflare. (2022). What is encryption? | Types of encryption. Cloudflare. https://www.cloudflare.com/learning/ssl/what-is-encryption/
Kaspersky. (2022). What is Data Encryption? Kaspersky. https://usa.kaspersky.com/resource-center/definitions/encryption
Selent, D. (2010). Advanced encryption standard. Rivier Academic Journal, 6(2), 1-14. https://www2.rivier.edu/journal/roaj-fall-2010/j455-selent-aes.pdf
Yumang, A. N., Dimaunahan, E. D., Lazaro, J. B., Marinas, J. L. T., & Logatoc, J. E. G. (2020). Encryption and decryption of vital signs information through a symmetric based cryptography algorithm. ICBET 2020: Proceedings of the 2020 10th International Conference on Biomedical Engineering and Technology. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1145/3397391.3397423