What is Encryption?
Encryption comes from Cryptography or Cryptology. To understand encryption one must understand what is cryptography. Cryptography in simple words is the study or practice of techniques for secret communication. Encryption is simply the process of encoding communication so that only the intended parties can read it.
The most common expample of encryption is our Keychain. The passwords stored in our bowsers’ keychain are encrypted.
In simple words, Encryption is the process of conversion of electronic data to another form, called a ciphertext, that cannot be easily understood by unauthorized people. For unauthorized people to be able to read the data, Decryption is required.
Decryption is the reverse of encryption. Decryption is the process of conversion of an encrypted data back to its’ original form. Decryption enables us to read the earlier encrypted data.
Why do we need encryption you ask?
Allow us to enlist a few common reasons as to what encryption can protect;
- Your Credit-card information
- Your Social Account Login information
- Your Private correspondence
- Your Personal details
- Sensitive company information
- Your Bank-account information
Age of Encryption
Encryption is not new. Infact, encryption has been going on for many thousands of years ago. One of the Legends date back to Greek Empire. Messages were encrypted by writing the message on the scalp of a soldiers’ head. Later, when the hair grew back the soldier was sent to deliver the encrypted message to allies. The allies on the other hand would already have the key to decrypt the message arriving. They would shave the soldiers’ head and read the message. Ooh before we forget ‘Trojan’ used i the was one of the most known example for something Encrypted.
Methods of Encryption
We very much have realized the importance of encryption by now. But encryption not only makes the data unreadable but also makes sure that the data sent has not been tampered with. There are 3 different Encryption Methods, each having it’s own advantages and disadvantage.
- Symmetric Method
- Asymemetric Method
Hashing, though used as an encrypion method but cannot be technically called one. Hashing creates fixed-length unique signature for a message or data set. Since the hash generated is unique to a specific message or data set even a minor data tampering can lead to a drastic change in the hash. Once the data has been encrypted using hashing, the process cannot be reversed. The hash cannot be deciphered or decrypted. With hashing we can be sure that the data has not been tampered with.
Some common hashing algorithms are Message Digest 5 (MD5) and Secure Hashing Algorithm (SHA).
Symmetric method is one of the oldest methods of encryption. Also known as Symmetric cryptography or private-key cryptography, this method of encrypion uses a private key to encrypt and decrypt data. The term ‘Private key’ is used because the key has to remain private or a secret. Because who ever has the private-key, can read the message. The sender uses a private-key to encrypt data, and the receiver has to use the same private-key to decrpyt to data.
Symmetric method can further be classified into 2 broad cipher techniques. ‘Stream Cipher’ and ‘Block Cipher’. In Stream Cipher the data is encrypted one character at a time before it is sent or received, whereas, a Block Cipher processes fixed chunks of data at a time. Common symmetric encryption algorithms include Data Encryption Standard (DES), Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), and International Data Encryption Algorithm (IDEA).
Last but definitely not the least, Asymmetric method of encryption can be said to be prtentially more safer than symmetric methods of encryption. Asymmetric cryptography or public-key encryption uses two keys, a ‘private-key’ and a ‘public key’ to encrypt and decrypt data. Having two keys negates the one drawback of Symmetric method of encryption, single private-key managment among multiple users. Public-key is available to everyone and is used to encrypt the data at the time of sending. The private-key remins with the receiver so that the data can be decrypted.
Algorithms that use asymmetric encryption methods include RSA (Rivest-Shamir-Adleman) and Diffie-Hellman.
The major difference between hashing and symmetric/asymmetric methods of encryption is that while using hashing, the data or the message once encrypted cannot be decrypted or deciphered. But when Symmetric or Asymmetric methods of encryptions are used the data or the message can be decrypted or deciphered.
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