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Best Algorithms For Encryption Of Your Data

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By: Shimon Brathwaite

January 25, 2022

Encryption is one of the most important aspects of securing online communications. It is easier than you might think for someone to eavesdrop on a conversation or access data while it is in transit from one place to another. Encryption is simply the process of encoding information so that the original message cannot be understood until it has been decrypted. Encryption has been around for many, many years, and it is a very effective method of protecting information from unauthorized use. In many cases, compliance regulations will require that companies use encryption within their organizations, so it is not just nice to have but rather good encryption is a necessity. This article will discuss some of the basics of encryptions and the most important encryption algorithms for encrypting your data.

How does encryption work?

The encryption process begins with information in a readable format, commonly referred to as plaintext. Then that information is put through an encryption algorithm that changes that information into an encoded format called ciphertext that is unreadable by humans or machines (minus the decryption algorithm). When the information is encrypted, it is protected. Next, when it is time for that information to be used again, it is put through the corresponding decryption algorithm and is returned to its plaintext form to be used by users.

The way encryption changes the message is down through two main methods, substitution, and transposition. The substitution method replaces certain letters or numbers with others, and that's how the message is scrambled. For example, a simple substitution for encrypting a message would be to say, "replace all A's in the text with an X." A very common substitution cipher is called ROT13, which stands for rotation 13. This means that every letter in the text is replaced with the letter that is 13 places down in the English alphabet.

In a transposition cipher, the messages' characters aren't substituted; rather, their positions are changed, and that's how the message is scrambled. You can simply think of it as rearranging the characters of a message in a particular pattern to ensure that the message can't be read, but it is still easy to put the original message back together.

Where is encryption used in data security?

Encryption is used in many places across the internet. Most of our modern-day applications, such as SMS, email, and social media applications, all use encryption in some shape or form. There are three main places where encryption is used to protect information: data at rest, data in transit, and data in use. For data at rest, this is any data that is not being used and not being sent somewhere else. You can think of the files saved on your computer's hard drive. All of those saved files and not currently being used would be considered data at rest. Data in transit is any information that is being sent to another destination. A good example of this is if you send an email, as that information travels from one mail server to another, it would be considered data in transit. Lastly is data in use, which is any data actively being used by a person. For this, you can think of someone that has a word document open and is actively working on it. Primarily the first two are areas where encryption will be used actively. Data in use can't be encrypted when it is being used.

Most important encryption protocols/algorithms to understand

HTTPS: This stands for hypertext transfer protocol secured, and it's an extension of the normal HTTP protocol. It leverages the communication protocol Transport Layer Security (TLS) to encrypt information; this is the main way that information is encrypted on the web. For a machine to connect to the Internet, it must handle all traffic on either port 80 (HTTP) or 443 (HTTPS). HTTPS is the secure version of the internet protocol. If you're someone who hosts web applications or anything that needs to be connected over the internet, you should aim to use port 443 (HTTPS) as the standard for connection to ensure that the connection is as secure as possible.

AES: This stands for advanced encryption standard, and it is used as a standard by the US government, and it is one of the best encryption standards for the private sector as well by companies such as Whatsapp. The decryption is very quick, and it is commonly used in firewalls, routers, and other applications that use encryption.

Triple DES: This is the successor to the once highly used Data Encryption Standard (DES). DES was made obsolete when hackers began finding vulnerabilities in that encryption standard since the triple-DES has been created as the improved version and has become widely used by many companies. Due to its complexity, it is slightly slower than other encryption standards, but it is efficient enough to be approved as one of the approved data encryption algorithms until 2030.

RSA: This stands for Rivest-Sharmir-Adleman, and it is established as the standard for public-key encryption. Its scrambling is very advanced and provides excellent protection from hackers. While triple-des work with keys equivalent to 112 bits, RSA keys are 1024 to 2048 bits long. It also is recommended by the government and many within the IT industry.

Recap

Encrypting is a means for securing electronic information. Encrypting works by encoding a piece of information so that it is not readable by humans or machines until it gets decrypted. Information stored or transmitted to another location should be encrypted right up until it is used to prevent hackers from accessing that information. The process by which information is encrypted relies on either substitution or transposition to scramble the message into ciphertext. Substitution is where individual characters are replaced with other characters in the alphabet, while transposition is the rearrangement of characters in a piece of text. Several different encryption methods can be used, but a few are more reliable than others. When it comes to web connections, particularly from connecting to the Internet, HTTPS should be used whenever possible. When it comes to the encryption of data, AES, RSA, and Triple DES are all good encryption standards that have been proven to be secure for data encryption.

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