What is Encryption and How It Works?

The process of transforming plain text into unintelligible code, or ciphertext, is called encryption. Its goal is to hide private information so that people who shouldn’t be there can’t steal it.

Sites and web apps typically use encryption to safeguard data transmission over the internet. It’s also used by digital data storage providers like Google Cloud to extend security.

We’ll go over data encryption’s functions and significance to help you gain a better understanding of it and its potential benefits. Additionally, you will study various algorithms and encryption techniques.

The process of transforming plain text data into ciphertext—an unintelligible code—is known as encryption. It functions by means of a key, which is a text string produced mathematically that converts the data into code.

Information can be hidden with encryption, making it harder for unauthorized parties to steal it. Additionally, the transmission and storage of data can be safeguarded by this security measure.

How Does Encryption Work

A cryptographic key, or text string, is used in encryption to jumble readable data into ciphertext. Data is encrypted by the sender and decrypted by the recipient using the same key.

The size or length of the key, expressed in bits, determines the encryption strength. Size in cryptology is the number of times that two multiplies to produce all possible key combinations.

For example, there are two to the power of one possible combinations for a one-bit key. There are two possible permutations of the value because it is only one bit: either one or zero.

Shorter encryption keys are less secure and easier to guess because they have fewer combinations. The algorithms also have a significant impact on the security level of the longer ones, even though they are safer.

The encrypted message can be decrypted by anyone who has the right secret key. Use strong encryption key management procedures, such as the following, to stop unauthorized parties from using it:

  • Key lifecycle management. The usefulness of a data encryption key is time-limited. Update your key on a regular basis and remove any unused ones permanently to prevent misuse.
  • Protected storage. To stop hackers from taking it, keep your key in a safe place. To increase storage security, use a hardware security module (HMS).
  • Access and usage restriction. Your encryption key should only be managed and used by authorized users. Additionally, limit the use of its permission to a single objective.
  • Audit log tracking. Keep an audit log of all key creations, modifications, and uses. In the event of unauthorized use, you can monitor the key’s activity history by doing this.

A Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certificate is an excellent illustration of a technology that uses an encryption key. It makes it possible for a browser to communicate securely with a website’s server through an HTTPS connection.

One secret key or several secret keys may be used by various data encryption techniques. Although the encryption method may vary based on them, the general idea remains the same.

Why Is Encryption Important

One of the best methods for enhancing data security is encryption. Encryption not only shields private information but also authenticates it and stops unauthorized alteration.

Encryption enhances privacy in addition to data security. People can view your unencrypted data while it is being transmitted, so it is very important.

Even if they don’t mean any harm, disclosing private company information or other sensitive information can have dire repercussions.

In order to comply with digital data protection regulations, such as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS), encryption is also crucial for website owners.

The simplest way to abide by these guidelines is to install SSL on your website. Strong security features are offered by a large number of free SSL certificates.

There are several advantages of SSL for your website beyond data encryption. For instance, since browsers alert users to non-HTTPS pages, it enhances user experience.

Types Of Encryption

There are two types of data encryption methods: symmetric and asymmetric, which differ in the quantity of encryption keys used.

Symmetric Encryption

When using symmetric encryption, data is encrypted and decrypted using the same symmetric key by both the sender and the recipient. This is how it operates:

  1. The secret key is shared by the sender and the recipient.
  2. The data is encrypted and converted to ciphertext by the sender using the secret symmetric key.
  3. Through the internet, they transmit encrypted data.
  4. With the same key, the recipient retrieves the encrypted data and decrypts it to reveal the contents.

The symmetric encryption method operates more quickly because there is only one key. It isn’t as secure as asymmetric data encryption, despite still being effective.

If you value speed more than an extra layer of security, symmetric key encryption is perfect for you. Usually, businesses use it to secure data that is not in use, like employment agreement files stored in a single location like cloud storage.

Asymmetric Encryption

The asymmetric approach, also referred to as public key encryption, makes use of two distinct but mathematically related keys, known as public and private.

The public key, which is accessible to all, deals with data encryption. It only unlocks data encrypted with the matching private key.

In the interim, the private key can only be generated and used by authorized parties. Sensitive information can therefore be encrypted by anybody, but only the intended recipient can decrypt it.

The two keys in asymmetric encryption schemes function as follows:

  1. Their asymmetric key pairs are generated by both the sender and the recipient.
  2. They exchange the public key via email.
  3. The sender encrypts the data before sending it to the recipient using the recipient’s public key.
  4. Using their private key, the recipient decrypts the encrypted data.
  5. The recipient encrypts the data using the sender’s public key before sending it back. The procedure then continues.

Certain technologies encrypt data using a hybrid technique that combines symmetric and asymmetric techniques. Among these technologies is Transport Layer Security (TLS), or SSL.

This hybrid method secures the symmetric key through asymmetric data encryption. Sensitive data will be encrypted using it by both parties rather than the public or private key.

Asymmetric encryption adds another degree of protection, but the extra steps make it slower. It frequently safeguards private information exchanged online, such as email correspondence.

Encryption Algorithms

A mathematical formula that methodically transforms data into ciphertext is called an encryption algorithm. It also makes it possible to convert the encrypted data back to legible plain text.

For both symmetric and asymmetric data encryption, there are various algorithms. Six of the most typical ones will be explained in this section.

DES Encryption

IBM developed the Data Encryption Standard (DES) algorithm early on. Up until 1999, the federal encryption standard used a symmetric-key algorithm.

The antiquated Data Encryption Standard has been replaced by more recent encryption algorithms due to security concerns. With a modern computer, its 56-bit key is too short and easily cracked.

DES was widely used to secure electronic financial transactions prior to its depreciation. Currently, research and training in cryptography are among its use cases.

3DES Encryption

The original DES algorithm was replaced by 3DES (Triple Data Encryption Standard). Its goal was to fix the primary flaw in DES, which was the short 56-bit encryption key.

Similar to its forerunner, 3DES uses a 64-bit block size for symmetric data encryption. Additionally, it is built using the same Feistel cipher structure.

Using the triple encryption technique, 3DES applies the DES algorithm three times to each data block. As a result, the 3DES key is lengthier and much harder to crack.

AES Encryption

A more modern symmetric algorithm is called the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). With the approval of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), it took the place of DES as the encryption standard.

The primary benefit of AES over DES is that it is more difficult to crack due to its longer key lengths—up to 256 bits. Furthermore, because the AES algorithm is more mathematically efficient, it operates faster.

AES is the most widely used symmetric encryption algorithm at the moment. Wi-Fi security, mobile apps, and data storage are some of its frequent use cases.

RSA Encryption

One of the earliest public key encryption algorithms is Rivest-Shamir-Adleman (RSA). Its high level of security makes it popular even though it is old.

The mathematical technique known as Prime Factorization is employed by RSA to create a lengthy string of numbers from smaller combinations. To decode the key, cyber attackers must separate the smaller prime number strings from the larger ones.

When compared to other asymmetric encryption algorithms, RSA uses much larger key sizes. It can handle up to 4096-bit keys, which are almost hard to crack even with a contemporary computer.

Blockchains for cryptocurrencies, email messages, and web applications are frequently secured with this algorithm. The RSA algorithm is also used by SSL/TLS certificates for asymmetric encryption.

Twofish Encryption

Symmetric encryption algorithms like Twofish support keys up to 256 bits in length. Though it failed to outperform the secure AES algorithm on 128-bit key performance, it was meant to replace DES.

This algorithm provides a comparable level of security to AES, despite being slower. Twofish’s primary benefit is its adaptability, which allows it to be used in a variety of contexts.

It enables performance trade-offs based on the relative importance of different parameters, such as hardware capabilities and encryption speed. Because of this, Twofish is perfect for apps that have little RAM or storage.

Although it is not as widely used as AES, some applications make use of the Twofish algorithm:

  • PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) – an encryption tool for email verification, encryption, and decryption.
  • KeePass – an encryption and storage tool for password managers.
  • TrueCrypt – software for freeware disk encryption to protect data.
  • Peazip – an open-source tool for creating and extracting archive files.

RC4 Encryption

A stream cipher system is used in the symmetric encryption algorithm known as Rivest Cipher (RC4). One byte at a time, the data is processed using this encryption technique.

The efficiency and ease of use of this symmetric encryption are well known. Web browsers such as Microsoft Edge, Wi-Fi encryption protocols, and SSL/TLS are among its frequent applications.

However, because of its poor security, RC4 is no longer widely used. Despite supporting 2048-bit keys, RC4 has serious security flaws, according to numerous studies.

To address this weakness, a number of RC4 variants have been developed, including Spritz, RC4A, RC4A+, and Variably Modified Permutation Composition (VMPC).


Data is jumbled during the encryption process into unintelligible code known as ciphertext. Its goal is to keep the information hidden until the intended recipient gets it.

A text string known as a key is needed for data encryption in order to transform plain text into ciphertext. By methodically changing the data, this key makes it possible to decrypt it and restore readable plain text.

Asymmetric and symmetric encryption are the two varieties. Whereas symmetric encryption uses the same key for both encryption and decryption, asymmetric encryption uses two different keys for these purposes.

The length of the key and the encryption’s algorithm determine how secure it is. It is more difficult to decode the longer the key and the more complex the algorithm.

Enabling encryption such as SSL/TLS helps safeguard your WordPress website and enhances the data security and privacy of web applications. It must also abide by a number of data protection regulations, including the PCI-DSS.

Tokenization is the process of changing sensitive data to another value, called a token. A token is irreversible because, in contrast to ciphertext, it has no mathematical relationship to the original data.

A database known as a vault contains the relationship between the data and the token. The data will be provided by the vault based on the token that was queried when requests are received.

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