Over the few decades, there has been exponential growth in online transactions, data storage, cloud storage and much more.
In an evolving online world, digital growth comes with security threats in the communication and exchange of data. Cybercrime is a major concern to all levels of businesses and organisations dealing with data. Data encryption is a standard and effective method to protect network security within an organisation.
This article will explain what data encryption is and the different techniques, algorithms, and types of data encryption methods.
What Is Data Encryption and How Does it Work?
Encryption is the process where complex algorithms are applied to encrypt messages, data, or files such that they can be read only by authorised persons. This ensures the confidentiality of the information.
Data encryption is defined as the process of safeguarding data from cyber threats by encoding it in a way, which can only be interpreted with the correct encryption key. Simply saying, data encryption converts readable data into an unreadable format to maintain the confidentiality of data during the transition.
With the elevated need for cyber security due to the risk of cybercrime, it’s becoming very important for an organisation to be familiar with basic encryption working and related terms.
Having read about what data encryption is, it’s time to understand how data encryption works.
The data or information to be encrypted is called plaintext or cleartext.
The plaintext data is then encrypted using different encryption techniques, mathematical calculations, and an encryption key.
There are numerous encryption algorithms to be used, varying based on the application and security requirement.
Applying the suitable algorithm and encryption key, the plaintext is transformed into a ‘ciphertext‘ (an encrypted piece of information).
Further, the ciphertext is transmitted over the communication channels.
At the receiver end, the ciphertext can be read in its original form once decoded using the correct decryption key.
What are the Major Types of Data Encryption Techniques?
Two major types of data encryption are symmetric and asymmetric encryption.
The encryption and decryption keys are the same in the symmetric type of encryption. That is, both the sender and receiver use that same key for any type of communication. This type of encryption is useful for closed systems, where there is negligible risk of third-party intrusion.
In this type of encryption, there are two types of encryption keys: public and private. The public key is used for the encryption of data and is communicated publicly to be used by anyone. On the other hand, the private key is used to decrypt the data and is available to the receiving party only.
Encryption Algorithm and its Types
The encryption algorithm in data encryption is used to change data/information into ciphertext. An encryption algorithm uses an encryption key to modify the data to look random. However, the data is recovered back into plaintext employing the decryption key.
The commonly used encryption algorithms are:
Triple DES (Data Encryption Standard) is a symmetric type of encryption technology. It is an advanced form of the Data Encryption Standard method wherein each information block comprises 64-bit data. The cypher algorithm used in triple DES is 3 times for each data block. In triple DES, three keys are used for encryption, and each of the keys comprises 56 bits. Such types of encryption algorithms are used to encrypt ATM pins and UNIX passwords. Typical applications using the algorithm are Mozilla Firefox and MS Office.
Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) is the most popular and broadly used symmetric encryption standard today. Advanced Encryption Standard comprises three block ciphers, and each of them uses cryptographic keys to execute data encryption and decryption in a 128-bit block. AES is also used in 192-bit and 256-bit keys to encrypt difficult goals.
A single key is applied for encryption and decryption and is used by messaging applications: WhatsApp, Signal, and computer platforms: VeraCrypt. AES is immune to all types of attacks besides brute force.
RSA is based on asymmetric public-key encryption and is commonly used to encrypt data transmitted over the internet. Based on an asymmetric algorithm, there is a public key for message encryption and a private key to decode the message.
The ciphertext in RSA consists of a vast amount of jumbled and confusing data, making hackers waste significant time trying to crack them.
The blowfish encryption algorithm is an alternative to Data Encryption Standard. It is comparatively faster and delivers better encryption security than the Data Encryption Standard.
This symmetric encryption algorithm divides the messages into blocks of 64 bits and encrypts them separately. It’s a flexible encryption method and is used by different e-commerce platforms for secure transactions.
The Twofish encryption algorithm shares some common characteristics with the blowfish encryption algorithm. It is based on a symmetric technique, where the block size is 128-bit, and the keys’ size can vary up to 256 bits. The Twofish encryption algorithm needs only one key for encryption and decryption and is ideal for hardware and software domains.
Cyberattacks are continually growing, forcing security professionals to develop new techniques and strategies to tackle them. As an aspirant or a professional in this field, updating yourself is the only way to stay ahead.
You need to keep evolving your knowledge about cyber security, ethical hacking and related topics, especially if you want to make a successful career in cyber security.