Private Key, Public Key

Encryption Algorithms Explained Simply

Here we gather and answer the main questions about encryption algorithms and technology used to protect data that’s transmitted across the internet.

Why do we need to encrypt data on the internet? Since most information on the internet is sent over publicly accessible channels and thus can be intercepted by third parties, it needs to be protected against any possible attackers. It’s achieved with special cryptographic methods.

What are the typical cryptographic methods used today?Cryptographic algorithms typically used to protect data transmission over the internet include Blowfish, AES, and RSA. The first two are symmetric-key algorithms, the third one is an asymmetric-key algorithm. You can sometimes see PGP listed along with the algorithms, but it’s rather a program to work with them, and not a cipher itself.

What is the difference between symmetric and asymmetric cryptographic algorithms? Symmetric-key algorithms use a single key to both en- and decrypt data. To use such encryption, partes need to exchange the key. For that, a secure channel is needed — that’s a vulnerability. Asymmetric-key algorithms use a pair of keys. A public one, that can be freely exchanged, and a personal one derived on end devices from a respective public key. This eliminates the said vulnerability, but also slows encrypription dramatically.

So, are any of the algorithms unbreakable? Technically speaking, none. Any encryption cipher can be brute-forced with sufficient computational resource and time. But that’s not necessarily something to worry about, because cracking a modern cipher would take billions of lifetimes.

Where are these cryptographic algorithms used ? Since RSA and other asymmetric-key algorithms are not swift enough, they are never used to encrypt big amounts of data. For that purpose, symmetric ciphers like AES are used. And to aid the symmetric-key vulnerability we’ve mentioned, a smart technique called hybrid encryption is used.

What is hybrid encryption? With hybrid encryption, the main message is protected with any symmetric algorithm, but the key needed to decipher it is exchanged using an asymmetric algorithm, like RSA. This method synergizes the benefits of the two types of encryption, making the transition fast and key-exchange secure.

Earlier, you’ve mentioned PGP algorithm. What is it, exactly? It is a program for implementing hybrid encryption. It uses hashing and symmetric and asymmetric cryptography to secure data communication. Its support of both AES and RSA makes the strongest hybrid encryption possible. PGP supports message authentication and checking for integrity, that’s why it’s used to create digital signatures.

What about KeepSolid Sign? What encryption is used there?KeepSolid uses PGP to implement advanced RSA+AES encryption to all the data transmissions occurring within the application environment.

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