Encryption of data has become an integral part of data security. Encryption can protect sensitive information and also provide secure network connections. Encryption generates a ciphertext from your original data, which can be decrypted by the intended recipient. This makes brute force attacks and Man-in-the-middle attacks almost impossible.
Encryption, as well as hashing, are both powerful ways to secure your data. A lot of people get confused with encryption and hashing algorithms. However, there is a subtle difference between the two. Encryption allows the recipient to decrypt the data, so you can get a ciphertext and again a plain text using encryption algorithms. On the other hand, hashing is one-way, so you can only generate a hash value of the content but cannot get the plain text content out of it.
There are multiple encryption algorithms, but it is important to find one that is the most secure and fits your needs. Below we have listed some of the most popular and secure algorithms.
- AES – AES also known as Advanced Encryption Standard is a very popularly used algorithm. It was first approved by the United States National Institute of Standards and Technology – NIST in 2001. AES officially replaced DES and become a standard encryption technique adopted by the US government in 2002. It was originally named 'Rijndael' and consists of different key and block sizes. It was developed by two Belgium-based cryptographers Vincent Rijmen and Joan Daemen.
By design, AES is a block cipher consisting of 128 bits or 192 bits, or 256 bits. A block cipher is one that encrypts one data block at a time. Though 128 bits are strong and efficient, 256 bits are used for high-grade encryption. It is used by a number of organizations across the globe. It is a symmetric algorithm that uses a single private key for the encryption and decryption process.
Here each bit key has different rounds. With 128 bits there are 10 rounds, with 192 bits there are 12 rounds and with 256 bits there are 14 rounds. To have successful encryption you must share the key with other individuals for them to allow the decryption of data.
- Twofish – This is based on Blowfish and is a block cipher. Twofish was designed by a team of cybersecurity experts led by Bruce Schneier of Counterpane labs in 1998. It has a block size of 128 bits and 256 bits and can perform equally well on smaller CPUs or hardware. This also has rounds of encryption to convert plain text to cipher text. However, unlike AES irrespective of the key size, this always has 16 rounds.
This is unpatented and license-free and allows anyone to use it without any restrictions. This again is a symmetric key encryption algorithm and you need to use the same key for encryption and decryption. It is an equally powerful and extremely flexible encryption algorithm and was one of the five finalists at NIST to replace the DES algorithm.
- 3DES – This is also popularly known as Triple Data Encryption Standard. This again is a block cipher. This is based on the older Data Encryption Standard- DES and uses the 56-bit key and has a 64-bit block size. However, 3DES is symmetric key encryption and provides three times encryption. So this would be a total of a 168-bit key.
This is used by several financial institutions and a number of industries to keep their data secure. It is a more robust algorithm, but since this does a three times encryption; this is considered as slow in performance.
- RSA – RSA is a very popular algorithm for encrypting data over an insecure network like the internet. It was introduced by three individuals Rivest, Shamir, and Adleman; and hence the name RSA which is the initials of the three. This was developed at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1977. It uses asymmetric public key encryption. It uses two different but mathematically linked keys for encryption and decryption.
In this, a public key is used for encryption and a private key is used for decryption. As a thumb rule, the public key can be shared with others, but the private key should be kept secret. This is commonly used for encryption and digital signatures in the cybersecurity world. RSA by design has a very large key size and hence is extremely secure. RSA keys are 1024-bit or 2014-bit long. The only disadvantage of having a long key size is it slower than other encryption algorithms.
- Blowfish – This is yet another algorithm that was designed initially to replace DES. A further well-known version of this is Twofish. This is a symmetric cipher that uses 64-bit blocks and encrypts them individually. It gained immense popularity owing to its speed and effectiveness. This again is license free and non-patented. This is used in several software categories such as e-commerce to secure payment, password management, and many more. It is considered to be one of the top flexible encryption algorithms.
These are some of the most popular and secure encryption algorithms having a good track record for robustness, making it practically impossible for hackers to break through your network.
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