Data Encryption for Information Security

What is Data Encryption and How it's Used for Information Security

In layman terms, encryption or cryptography is a process of converting readable or understandable information to a form that cannot be understood or read. Read through the article to know more about this method, its applications, and advancements.
Since quondam times, governments and military forces have used data encryption to transfer confidential information across. The very first use of this technique can be seen in times of Roman leader Julius Caesar, where Caesar used a very basic method of encoding text. He encrypted text messages and passed the same to his generals at war. This method used by Julius came to be known as Caesar's Cipher or Shift Cipher, and is the simplest and most widely used encoding method even today.

Message Authentication (MAC) is a piece of information that is used to authenticate encoded data. Digital signature is considered to be better than MAC, and can be used to create different secret keys for sender and receiver. This way the information is more secure and authentic.

A single slip up in coding the information properly can result into security breach. Attack methods like traffic analysis, brute force or TEMPEST can still crack the cryptographic algorithm. Although a lot of algorithms we find today such as RSA and DES are prominently very complex to break, still there are methods to break them, even though very rarely.

Why to Encode?

Due to the introduction and growth of various avenues of information such as the Internet, the need for ciphering data over communication lines has risen. A lot of personal and private information, such as credit card information, social security numbers, personal details, bank information, etc., travels over the Internet. Hence, it has become very essential to secure the data that travels over the web. Cryptography takes care of these factors and provides you with the best network and Internet security through forms of Digital Certificates and Secure Socket Layers. These certificates consist of complex algorithms such as RSA and DES with key size ranging up to 1024 bit. Military communications can be tapped by terrorists and anti-social elements, hence it becomes very essential to use cipher techniques to communicate.

  • Symmetric-key
    Symmetric-key or single-key encryption, encodes or decodes data with the use of a single secret key. This key can be shared with two or more people, who are authorized to view the secret data. Popular algorithms are IDEA, RC4, Blowfish, etc.
  • Public-key
    Public-key is also known as asymmetric or Diffie-Hellman encryption. Whitfield Diffie and Martin Hellman were the ones who invented this system in 1976. Unlike the previous method where we have a single secret key, public-key cryptography consists of a pair of keys known as private key and public key. Everyone can know the public key whereas only the recipient of these message knows the private key. For example, if X wants to send a message to Y, X will cipher the message with Y's public key and dispatch the message to him. Y in turn, will apply his private key over X's message and decrypt it. This method is designed in such a way that recipient's public key is used to encode messages intended to be sent to that particular recipient, and only the corresponding private key can be used to decrypt the message. It is not possible to ascertain or know the private key with the help of a public key. In other words, we cannot deduce a private key from a public key, in any manner. Examples of such type of algorithms are RSA algorithm (PKCS), DSS (Digital Signature Standard), various elliptic curve techniques, Paillier cryptosystem, ElGamal, etc.
Encryption system algorithms comprise complex mathematics and are very difficult to break, although we still find some attacks on these algorithms time and again. Apparently, mathematical and technological advances would still take over and make it virtually impossible to crack these algorithms.