The following topics will be covered in this blog:
What is Hashing?
Hashing is a process where confidential and crucial information is converted into keys using hash functions. In this way, the information is kept hidden from its unintended users. Also, the hash keys are separately stored in a database where they are matched with the original information. The working of hashing is based on how algorithms are used. In fact, the process of hashing is more like a one-way algorithm process where the hashing algorithm takes data and converts it into a unique size length key and this conversion cannot be reversed. So hashing is always a single-way process. This ensures that the authenticity of the data and information is kept safe. Later the information can be retrieved with the help of the hash key. Hashing is usually used in data structures and password verifications etc.
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Now let us understand the meaning of hashing through an example
Example of Hashing
Now say you have a painting to make and you have 4 colors with you and can use only 2 in the painting. The available colors are – Red, Yellow, Green, and Blue. The possible combinations can be Red Yellow, Red Green, Red Blue, Yellow Green, Yellow Blue, and Green Blue. So, the inputs here are the colors, the process of painting is hashing and the final output (combinations and painting) is the hashed value.
Features of an Ideal Hash Function
When a hash function is used, there are certain points and suggested features that should be kept in mind for a good hash function. We have jotted down the three main features below:
- A good hash function should be able to be determined easily. The match between the input and the output should always be matched. For example – In our example above, if your inputs are Red and Yellow, the output should also be Red and Yellow too.
- The hash function outputs should be different for similar inputs, i.e. the output should be distinct.
- It is very important that the hash function should not be retrieved back to the original input unless the hash key is used.
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The various types of hash functions are :
Identity Hash Function
Identity hash function is the basic level hash function wherein the hash value is the key itself. This type of hashing is usually used in cases where the data length is short, preferably integer values. The process of hashing using Identity hash functions is very cost-effective as there is limited or no computation and the string value itself is the hash value. Therefore every hash key is distinct and different from each other.
The formula used to compute Division hashing is given by:
‘ h(k) = k mod m’,
‘h(k)’ is the hash function;
‘m’ is a number (numeric value) that generates distinctive hash string values
‘k’ is the hash key
In Division Hashing, the key is mapped into a slot and the table size is usually in the power of 2. This results in a distribution that ranges from 0 to m-1. As a result, a slot is allotted to a distinct key. However, there are possibilities of collision wherein one slot can be allotted to two different hash keys.
In the Digital Folding algorithm, the numeric values are divided into various parts and the sum of all parts together forms a new number. This resulted number is used in obtaining distinct hash keys, thus leading to fewer collisions because the sums of all numbers are different.
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Applications of Hashing
The various applications of hashing are as follows:
- Hashing finds its usage in storing personal data such as banking details and passwords.
- It is common to find hashing in documents and files to maintain their integrity.
- Digital Signatures also use hashing.
The most common hashing algorithms are as follows:
This hash algorithm has existed since 1990 and is considered the parent of all the modern age hashing algorithms. One of the demerits of this algorithm is the security problems associated with it.
The MD5 algorithm aims at securing the data that is encrypted. This algorithm was built by Ray Rivest to remove the security problems associated with it. But it is also known to consist of vulnerabilities.
SHA stands for Security Hashing Algorithm. It is a better and most used hashing algorithm as compared to the above-discussed algorithms MD4 and MD5.
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What is Encryption?
Encryption is not new. It has remained in various civilizations for ages. Since the olden times, confidential information in kingdoms and civilizations were kept hidden from enemies and unintended audience by converting them into an unreadable format. This is used to prevent doubts and suspicions, etc. thus keeping the information safe until it reached the receiver.
Days and years passed. Advancements and technologies improved this process and it came to be known as ‘ Encryption’. Hence, the process of encryption means the data is converted into sets of unreadable characters which do not convey any meaning and are not of a fixed length. Keys are assigned to decode the message and it can only be read by the intended receiver. Unlike hashing, the encryption can be reversed.
The keys used for encryption are special keys, known as ‘cryptography keys’. Based on the usage and type of cryptography keys, encryptions are divided into two broad categories. They are explained below:
Symmetric encryption refers to the process of encryption using the same cryptographic key, i.e. the decryption and encryption both can be done using the same cryptography keys.
In Asymmetric encryption, the key used for encryption is different from that used for decryption. Both the keys are different, distinct, and are meant for various parties. The cryptography key used for encryption is known as the ‘public key’ and the one used for decryption is known as the ‘private key’. The public key is known to the audience and users who visit the website page. The private key is only meant for the intended receiver.
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Applications of Encryption
Encryption find its application in various areas. Some of the main ones have been listed below:
- It is a common practice by many organizations and users to encrypt the content of emails or the entire email. This is especially done in cases where the content is related to financial transactions or the company’s confidential information.
- Social applications such as Whatsapp and other messengers, where end-to-end encryption is enabled to ensure the privacy of the users.
- Encryption is also applied during message authentications.
- The data that is being transmitted or exchanged between servers and browsers are also encoded to maintain its confidentiality and integrity.
- It is also a common practice by parties to encrypt digital certificates.
- One of the most important practices adopted by cyber security and database administrators of the organizations is to encrypt the database of the organization, which contains loads of valuable data and information.
The most common encryption algorithms are given below:
RSA is a public key asymmetric encryption algorithm that applies prime number factorization to encrypt text.
ESS is the abbreviation for Elliptic Curve Cryptography. This algorithm bases the encryption process on the algebraic structure of elliptic curves over finite fields.
AES stands for Advanced Encryption Standard. It uses transformation rounds to encrypt the text.
Difference between Hashing and Encryption
Now that we have understood the meanings of both Hashing and Encryption, let us dig deeper into what makes them different from each other:
|Meaning||It is a process where data is converted into keys using hash algorithms.||It is a process where the data is converted into unreadable characters.|
|String Length||The converted string is of fixed length.||In encryption, the data after being converted into unreadable characters are not of the same length. All of them are of different lengths.|
|Function||The hash function or the process cannot be reversed. It is a one-way function.||Encryption can be reversed using a decryption key. It is a two-way process.|
|Usage||Hashing is used in Digital signatures, passwords, file transfers, etc.||Encryption is used in Digital certificates, emails, etc.|
|Keys||In hashing, there is no usage of keys to decode the message as it is a one-way function in itself.||Encryption works on keys. A public key is allotted to the intended receiver for decoding the message in case of symmetric encryption. A private key is assigned to the receiver in case of asymmetric encryption.|
|Algorithms||Common hashing algorithms are MD4, MD5, SHA, etc.||Common encryption algorithms are AES, RSA, ECC, etc.|
|Purpose||Hashing aims at ensuring Data Integrity||Encryption aims at ensuring Data Confidentiality.|
|Types||Types of Hashing are- Identity Hashing, Division Hashing, and Digit Folding||Encryption are of two types- Symmetric and Asymmetric encryption|
|Collision||Collision is present in Hashing||Encryption does not have any collision.|
Hashing and Encryption are ways to protect the data. However, both are different in their own ways. We hope that this blog has helped in clearing all your doubts and queries related to hashing and encryption. We discussed the meaning of both, their applications, and their differences. In a world where data is always exposed to various threats, it is important to protect it through various ways such as encryption and hashing.