What is Data Encryption and how does it work?
Data Encryption is the process of converting data (text, email, message, etc.) from a readable format to an unreadable format. This process was introduced while keeping in mind the importance of data security in recent times. You can only read this encrypted data after performing the decryption process. Data Encryption is encouraged, as it keeps a company’s data privacy safe from unauthorized hands or in the event of a data breach. For example, if you send an email, you can use encryption technology to convert your mail contents into scrambled data so that no one other than the receiver will understand the mail.
What is Cryptography?
Cryptography is protecting the confidentiality and integrity of the information without being vulnerable to attackers or threats. It is an encryption technique that ensures the data is only visible to the sender and recipient and no middle man can steal the data and snoop for information.
There are three most common types of cryptographic techniques in general. They are –
- Symmetric key cryptography – Here the sender and receiver share a similar key and it can be used for both encryption and decryption.
- Hash functions – There is no key used, rather a hash value is used to encrypt text, contents, and passwords.
- Public key cryptography – In this two different keys such as a public key for encryption and a private key for decryption is used. Only the private key is kept as secret.
Difference between Symmetric key and Asymmetric key
There are two types of encryption keys; Symmetric and Asymmetric keys. Symmetric keys are less secure as they use the same key to encrypt as well as decrypt. For example, sending an email in encrypted form using a Symmetric Key. Now this key is used to decrypt and read the message.
Whereas, Asymmetric Keys are far more secure than Symmetric ones, as they use different keys for encrypting and decrypting the data. For example, in the same scenario of sending an email, you encrypted your message using a key but the receiver has to decrypt the message using a different key.
Encryption Tools and Techniques:
There are many encryption methods varying in the key used (Symmetric or Asymmetric), key length, size of data blocks encrypted, etc. We have briefed about some of the most popular encryption techniques in this article. There are few tools available for encryption techniques. They include –
- Triple DES – Replaces Data encryption standard(DES) algorithm, uses 3 individual keys with 56 bit.TripleDES is an advanced DES form that applies the DES cipher algorithm thrice to all the data blocks. They are used to encrypt ATM PINs, etc.
- RSA – Public encryption algorithm to protect the data over the internet. It is an asymmetric key encryption algorithm that uses public and private keys. RSA is an algorithm based on the factorization of the product of two prime numbers. If the receiver knows these numbers only then, he/she can decrypt the message. RSA finds its applications in digital signatures but is often slow when a large volume of data is to be encrypted.
- Blowfish – It splits the message into 64 bits and encrypts them, which is used in certain payment gateways. It is fast, effective, and flexible. Blowfish finds its application in embedded systems and has been deemed as reasonably secure.
- Twofish – Keys in this algorithm are 256 bits in length and it is a symmetric key encryption technique. Twofish is still in use by many file and folder encryption software solutions. It is a license-free technique to encrypt 128 bits of a data block, it also always encrypts data in rounds of 16, which makes it slower.
- AES – Advanced encryption standard, trusted by many standard organizations. It can encrypt 128 bit, 192 bit as well as 256-bit. AES is a symmetric encryption algorithm that is mostly in use today. AES is used for both rest data as well as at transit.
There are five essential privacy features on the internet to be maintained. They are email, file, voice, chat, and traffic privacy. Few custom software and applications are available for encryption techniques, which includes –
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- LastPass – Password manager and used to generate strong and secure passwords.
- BitLocker – Integrated into Windows OS, it is a full-disk encryption tool that uses AES for encryption.
- Veracrypt – Similar to Bitlocker, but used in cross platforms like Windows, Linux, OS X, and so on.
- DiskCryptor – Free encryption tool, used to even hide system partitions and ISO images.
- HTTPS Everywhere – Makes sure the websites go through an authentication process while connecting to a secure website.
- VPN – Tor browser, Express VPN, Cyber ghost and several other tools are available for VPNs. It is used to ensure that the web traffic and data remain encrypted.
- Proxy servers – Using online proxy servers we can hide the IP address and surf anonymously.
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Secure Hashing Algorithm:
A hash is a mathematical function that is used by a computer since they are convenient to compute a hash. They identify, compare or run calculations against files and strings of data. Hashing algorithms are used in databases, also used to store passwords.
||SHA-1 is a 160-bit hash.
||SHA-2 is a 256 hash.
||Developed in 1993.
||Developed after 2009.
||Vulnerable to brute force attacks
||Brute force attacks are prevented in SHA-2.
Properties of Hash function:
A hash function with the following properties is considered desirable. They include –
- Pre-image resistance – This property is known for hard computation to reverse the hash.
- Second pre-image resistance – This property gives input and hash and it is hard to find the same input and hash.
- Collision resistance – This property makes it difficult to find two unique inputs of any length that result in the same hash.
The cryptographic attacks performed by a hacker can be either active or passive attacks. There are different methodologies of cryptographic attacks −
- Ciphertext Only Attacks (COA) − The attacker deciphers the plain text using ciphertext. The encryption key is determined from this attack.
- Known Plaintext Attack (KPA) − Few parts of the plain text are known, the remaining few parts are deciphered using ciphertext.
- Chosen Plaintext Attack (CPA) − The choice of the plain word is chosen by the attacker itself. RSA is vulnerable to this type of attack.
- Brute Force Attack (BFA) − The long process where the attacker tries to decrypt all the possible combinations of the key.
- Birthday Attack − Variant of brute force, used against hash function.
- Side Channel Attack (SCA) − Used to find the vulnerabilities and exploit the system.
- Timing Attacks − They try to find the duration of the encryption to find the strength of the encryption.
- Power Analysis Attacks − They try and find the power consumption used to encrypt the system.
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Tips for effective encryption strategy
Designing and implementing an encryption strategy must be the top-most priority for an organization to fight against data leaks and theft or control of sensitive data to unauthorized personnel. Here are some tips for implementing an effective encryption strategy.
Classifying data: You must assign which data to be encrypted, as you don’t have to encrypt every single piece of data that is in your possession.
Choose the right encryption tool: Many apps today come with encryption inbuilt. So, the encryption process starts by finding out which tool is the best for your use-cases.
Build a strong key management practice: This practice helps you to manage and store encryption keys so that they won’t fall into unauthorized hands.
Be aware of the encryption limitations: There are limitations for encryption. Implementing encryption doesn’t mean that your data is safe and secure. Even after implementing encryption, you could face a cyber attack. Encryption only allows ciphering your data, to prevent hackers from reading it.
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