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Encryption

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Encryption keeps digital information safe using special math techniques called cryptography. It makes data unreadable by converting it into a different form known as ciphertext.

Authorized users can turn the ciphertext back into readable information using a special key or password. This process is called decryption.

Encryption is crucial for keeping sensitive information safe from hackers. For instance, websites use encryption to protect credit card and bank account numbers, making it harder for thieves to steal identities or commit fraud.

How Encryption Works

The strength of encryption depends on how long the security key is. Back in the late 20th century, web developers used either 40-bit encryption, which had 240 possible combinations, or 56-bit encryption.

However, by the end of the century, hackers were able to crack these keys. This led to the introduction of a 128-bit system known as the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) for web browsers. Established in 2001 by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology, this system offers key lengths of 128, 192, and 256 bits. Most banks, militaries, and governments use 256-bit encryption for stronger security.

Types of Encryption

Asymmetric Encryption

Asymmetric cryptography is a method used when making things very secure is more important than doing it quickly, and when we need to check someone’s identity. This kind of security is used for digital signatures when signing a document online and in blockchain to approve cryptocurrency transactions.

In asymmetric-key cryptography, we use separate keys for encrypting and decrypting information. RSA and PKI are types of asymmetric encryption.

RSA is a common way to encrypt data using a public key and then decrypt it using a private key, ensuring secure data transfer. Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) manages encryption keys by providing and handling digital certificates.

Asymmetric Encryption encrypts and decrypts the data using two separate yet mathematically connected cryptographic keys.

These keys are known as:-

  1. A private key
  2. A public key.

A message that is encrypted with the private key must be decrypted with the public key and vice versa. The public key is easily derived from the private key but the reverse is nearly impossible.

Symmetric Encryption

Symmetric encryption is a method used when fast processing matters more than making things extremely secure. It works by using a single secret key to both scramble and unscramble the message. This type of encryption is often seen in credit card transactions.

There are different kinds of symmetric encryption. One example is Data Encryption Standards (DES). It’s a basic encryption method that turns plain text into 64-bit blocks and changes them into scrambled text using 48-bit keys. Another example is the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), which is widely considered the best for keeping data safe. It’s used all around the world and is the standard for the U.S. government.

Benefits of Encryption

Encryption keeps digital data safe on computers and over the internet. It’s important, especially as more organizations use different types of cloud systems. They worry about keeping data safe on public clouds and in complex setups.

When it comes to cloud security, the cloud service providers do their part, but customers also need to keep their data safe. This means protecting sensitive information while still letting the right people access it for their work. It’s not just about encrypting data; it’s also about managing encryption keys well and controlling who can access what, as well as keeping records of who accesses what.

Both businesses and regular users benefit from encryption. It’s used to secure files, databases, and applications whether they’re on-site or in the cloud. For example, the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) says that companies must encrypt payment card data both when it’s stored and when it’s sent over public networks.

FAQs

What Is the Difference Between a Public Key and a Private Key in Encryption?

Asymmetric encryption cryptography uses two keys: a public key and a private key. The public key can be shared with anyone, while the private key is kept secret by its owner. With this method, someone can encrypt a message using the receiver’s public key, but only the receiver can decrypt it using their private key.

What Is Hashing In Cryptography?

Hashing functions play a vital role in cybersecurity and certain cryptocurrency systems like Bitcoin. They convert any type of data into a unique text string. Hashing is a math process that’s easy to do but hard to reverse. Most people encounter hashing regularly when dealing with passwords. For instance, when creating an email account, the email service doesn’t store the password directly. Instead, it runs the password through a hashing algorithm and saves the resulting hash. Whenever someone tries to sign in, the service hashes the entered password and checks if it matches the stored hash. If they match, access is granted.

What is Cryptographic Failure?

A cryptographic failure is a security weakness that exposes sensitive data due to a weak or absent cryptographic algorithm. This includes passwords, patient health records, business secrets, credit card details, email addresses, and other personal information.
In 2013, Target Corporation experienced a cyberattack where hackers compromised the data of around 40 million credit cards. Despite the credit card information being encrypted, the hackers’ advanced methods allowed them to bypass the encryption. This incident stands as one of the largest breaches of its kind in U.S. history and prompted investigations by the U.S. Secret Service and the Justice Department.

Conclusion

Encryption is crucial for safeguarding private information, messages, and financial transactions in the digital realm. It ensures the confidentiality of digital data whether stored on computer systems or sent over the internet. Among the encryption techniques, the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) stands out as the gold standard for data encryption. It is globally recognized and serves as the standard encryption method for the U.S. government and many others worldwide.

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