So much of what we do online during personal and work endeavors requires inputting personal information that must remain confidential and private. Whether it is online shopping or the use of health data on an online application, our personal data is everywhere. One of the ways we keep data secure is through a process called data encryption. Most people have heard of encryption, but not as many know how it actually works. This article will act as a brief primer on encryption, but if you or your business requires guidance on encryption and have questions on whether it applies to your needs, contact us at CDG today.
How Does Data Encryption Work?
Encryption is the encoding or translating of data (information) such that it is readable or decipherable by certain authorized people/entities. There are two types of encryption: symmetric and public key, which will be examined later. An algorithm encrypts the data using an encryption key, thereby leaving the data unreadable. Other methods of key creation include using random generators or the use of new keys for every user session (forward secrecy). In order to turn the data back into a usable form, the receiving person has to use a key to decipher the code. Data that has not been encoded is referred to as plaintext and data that has been encrypted is called ciphertext.
One type of encryption is called symmetric key. The main differentiating aspect of symmetric key is that the encryption and decryption secret keys are the same. Therefore, the receiving party can only unscramble the ciphertext using the same key the disclosing party used to encrypt the plaintext in the first place.
The public key, however, is different. As the name suggests, there is one public key and one private key. The public key encrypts the plaintext, but it is the private key that deciphers it. While the public key can be communicated to everyone, only authorized entities can have access to the private key. Common encryption ciphers are Rivest-Shamir-Adleman (RSA) and Triple DES algorithms.
Limitations and Cracking Encryption
Just because something is encrypted does not mean that it is 100 percent safe from attacks. In fact, the strength and viability of data encryption methods depend on several factors. First, the key size of the encryption key must be sufficiently large enough to ensure the strength of the data encryption. As technology and computing has advanced, so has the length of data encryption keys. A 2048-bit key has so many combinations that a brute force attack would not be successful. Brute force attacks require using almost all possible combinations of keys, such that the correct one can unscramble the ciphertext. Among some of the ways to crack encryption is cryptoanalysis. By analyzing the cipher, the attacker could identify any shortcomings or mistakes in the cipher. These shortcomings could open entryways for the attacker to read the encrypted data.
Given the complexity of encryption and the different levels and measurements of strength, we encourage you to reach out to us prior to embarking on encrypting.