Tech

6 Types of Encryption That You Must Know About

Let’s start this article on types of encryption with a little scenario:

Imagine you and your friend are working in different cities and you have to transfer him $2000 online. You enter your bank account details and transfer him the required money. After few hours, you get a confirmation message from your friend that he has received the money. The next day you receive another message that $3000 has been transferred to an unknown account. Now, you don’t remember transferring that second $3000 to anyone!

Strange? You must be wondering “how did that even happen?” Well, the online page where you entered your bank details was not secured or your data got “stolen” while being transmitted as it was not encrypted. This is exactly where the benefit of data encryption comes in.

Now, you must be wondering what is encryption? How does it work? How many types of encryption are there? Is there any encryption standard that one can follow? What else do you require to protect your data? I will answer all of these questions for you in this article. If you are curious to know, keep reading till the end!


What is Encryption?

To begin with, let us understand the concept behind encryption.

When you share any information or data over the internet to another person, it goes through a series of network devices situated worldwide, all of which form part of the “public” Internet network. Since your data traverses over the public Internet, there is a fair chance of data being compromised. In order to avoid such compromise, one can install certain software/hardware that will ensure a secure transfer of your shared data or information. These processes are known as encryption in the modern digital world.

In technical terms, your shared data is encoded; it is converted into an unreadable format. When it reaches to the person at the receiving end, the unreadable data is decoded and becomes readable to the specified recipient only. This entire process of encoding/decoding is only possible with the help of a digital “key”, which I will explain in detail in the next section.

Source : Khan Academy

Encryption is considered as a secure way of transferring or sharing data to avoid third-party intervention. It can be done at any given point of the entire data flow; it is not an isolated process.  You can encrypt your data while you are working at it or you are about to send it.


How Does Encryption Work?

Now that we are clear on the concept of encryption, let’s have a look at how exactly it works.

In simpler words, encryption uses algorithms to jumble up whatever data you want to encrypt. You need to have a randomly generated key before sending the message or data to the person at the receiving end, through which they can decrypt it. Imagine you have put a lock on the box containing important documents with the help of a key. You send that box to your friend. She has the same key as yours through which she is able to unlock it and get access to those important documents. But in the digital world, all this is done electronically!

So, there are three encryption levels that are at work:

  1. Plain text
  2. Encrypted text (ciphertext)
  3. Decrypted text (same as the initial plain text).

For instance, you have sent us a message, which goes like this:

Hello GoodCore, I run an online business. Most of the payments are received through my website. I want to have the best encryption method to protect my clients’ data. Can you suggest which one will be the best for my website? Kind regards, Emma George.”

Now, this message will be encrypted using a key. The cipher text will look like this to a third-party:

nIssP3KwTm6t7nO27b6MisafLAKQnMC+UDzq/THM6Fv+QWmWpHkZkSEn2d1cBT9WT289y6HyZFpjuJFKTBeJEkJiy3/Fcj8AHGrzOyvJtTdpWHUe3GlzxFVed4UX/yXZdei1xagl+wg+HY5kD9kljDCe+XMVNjXNybcvJXnIiN+EtltIO5ftgbyGVI+A8x+Vms3FzUYFGRZWiDN4SsynTBNaXh+MJOJCaPxgej1nt+QJ1pjzFCxmuWnlRQRonAuiMxgbGKzuEhuOTwRg06dVfj0ZHV19HVyPE94u5UAC4IUAHnSYgJu8r2zLPeER0xlQtC0EeviBlFb9jW1LUglyO1wxH6vWuQu5URCgSY1u7rI=

When it reaches us, we’ll decrypt the message using the same key and it will appear to us as:

Hello GoodCore, I run an online business. Most of the payments are received through my website. I want to have the best encryption method to protect my clients’ data. Can you suggest which one will be the best for my website? Kind regards, Emma George.”

There are two encryption keys based on which different types of encryption work:

1) Symmetric: It works on a single private key, therefore it is faster than asymmetric encryption (explained in detail in the next bullet). In this encryption method, the sender must share the private key with the receiver to access the data or information.

symmetric key encryption
A model of symmetric key encryption

It is an old encryption technique which is very well known. Since the secret key is supposed to be shared with both the sender and the receiver, it becomes fairly risky for the hackers to get to the data or information.

2) Asymmetric: This encryption method works with two keys: one public key and one private key. The public key is shared with anyone. However, the private key must remain as a secret key because you will encrypt your data or message using a public key and decrypt using a private key. Again imagine a situation where you have put two locks on a box that has confidential information. One of those two locks has a master key that anyone can have access to. However, the second key is only with you and a friend with whom you have to share the box. You send the box to your friend through the help of another person. He tries to open it and only get through one lock because he have the master key. With no luck, he delivers the box to your friend, who with the help of second key can have access to the information you shared.

asymmetric encryption
A model of asymmetric key encryption

Since this encryption technique works on two keys, therefore any algorithm based on it will be considered the strongest encryption type because it ensures high levels of security. Until now, no one has been able to hack asymmetric key encryption.


Different Types of Encryption

As technology is advancing, modern encryption techniques have taken over the outdated ones. Hence, there are several different types of encryption software that have made our job easy. So for your ease, I have provided you with a list of best encryption types below.

Triple DES

Triple Data Encryption Algorithm or Triple-DES uses symmetric encryption. It is an advanced version of DES block cipher, which used to have a 56-bit key. However, and as the name suggests, TDES encrypts data using 56-bit key thrice, making it a 168-bit key. It works in three phases when encrypting the data:

  1. encrypt
  2. decrypt
  3. re-encrypt

Likewise, the decryption phases would be:

  1. decrypt
  2. encrypt
  3. decrypt again
triple des encryption model
Triple DES encryption model

Since it encrypts thrice, therefore it is much slower as compared to other types of encryption. Not only that, but it also encrypts data in shorter block lengths, therefore it becomes fairly easy to decrypt the data during the entire encryption process. Hence, there is a higher risk of data theft. However, before other modified types of encryptions emerged, it was the most recommended and widely adopted algorithm.

Even though it is phasing out, many financial and business organisations still use this encryption type to protect their data.

AES

The Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) is also symmetric encryption based on the Rijndael algorithm.  It uses block-cipher and encrypts one fixed-size block at a time. It works in 128-bit or 192-bit but can be extended up to the 256-bit key length. To encrypt every bit, there are different rounds. For instance, 128-bit will have 10 rounds, 192-bit will have 12 rounds and so on.

It is considered as one of the best encryption algorithms because it was developed by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology. It is also one of the secured types of encryptions as it works on a single private key.

RSA

Rivest–Shamir–Adleman (RSA) encryption is an asymmetric cipher that functions on two keys: a public key for encryption and a private key for decryption. Considered as the best encryption algorithm, it functions on 1024-bit and can extend up to 2048-bit key length. This means that the larger the key size, the slower the encryption process becomes.

rsa encryption model
RSA encryption model

Due to a larger key size, it is known to be as one of the strongest encryption types. It is also considered as an encryption standard for data shared over the internet because it is the most secure encryption algorithm up till now. As compared to other types of encryption, RSA gives quite a tough time to hackers because of the length of the keys it works with.

Blowfish

Another encryption algorithm designed to replace DES, Blowfish is a symmetric block cipher, which works on a variable key length from 32 bits to 448 bits. Since it is a block cipher, therefore it divides data or a message into fixed 64-bit blocks when encrypting and decrypting.

blowfish encryption model
Blowfish encryption model

It was designed to function fast and is available as free public encryption software for any user. It is neither patented nor licensed. Being a public encryption platform, it has been tested multiple times for its speed, efficiency and security. Many organisations claim that no one has successfully hacked it. Hence, Blowfish has become a choice for vendors and e-commerce mainly helping them secure payments, passwords and other confidential information.

Twofish

Also a symmetric block cipher, Twofish is an advanced version of Blowfish encryption. It has a block size of 128-bits and can extend to the 256-bit key length. Like other symmetric ciphers, it also breaks data into fixed-length blocks. However, it functions in 16 rounds regardless of how large the data is. Amongst the various types of encryption, this one is flexible. It allows you to choose the encryption process to be quick while the key setup to be slow and vice versa.

twofish encryption model
Twofish encryption model

Since this is license-free and considerable fast, you have full control over it as compared to other types of encryption. If AES would not have become the best encryption algorithm, Twofish would have been considered as one.

FPE

Format Preserving Encryption (FPE) is a fairly new encryption method. It encrypts your data in a similar format. For instance, if you have encrypted your password having 6 letters, 5 numbers and 4 special letters, then your output will be a different combination of a similar format.

In other words, if you use this encryption technique, it will preserve the format of your plain text that is after encryption the structure of your data will remain the same.

It is widely used in financial databases, banking systems, retail, etc.


Encryption Applications

By this point, I am assuming you are well-aware of how to secure your data. But there is another factor that needs to be addressed, which is how to make sure that the message you send does not get altered or changed. For that, you need to know about the following encryption applications that will make sure of that.

Hashes

Once you have chosen your desired encryption type, you need to further make sure that your data is not altered and is authentic and verified. For that, you need to use hashes. They are a one-way function that takes a large set of data and convert them into a small standard size data.  You create a unique fingerprint that is proof that your data has not been altered during different encryption levels. The outcome of hashing is called hash value or hash digest.

hashing algorithm
Hashing algorithm

If by any chance there is a doubt of data being changed or altered, you can always compare the original hash with that of the new one because two differently altered data cannot produce the same hashes.

If we look at the backend process, then hash functions when a user logins through their ID and password. The server searches for the associated hash value. The password which you entered is hashed with the same algorithm through which it was encrypted. If it matches with the already stored hash value then it is valid and authenticated.

Digital Certificates

Once you have identified that your encrypted information is not altered, it is also necessary to identify from which source your encrypted information is coming and who will decrypt it. This is where digital certificates come in, which are also known as identity certificates or public-key certificates.

a screenshot of goodcore’s digital certificate
A screenshot of GoodCore’s digital certificate

They authenticate the details of the sender and receiver of the encrypted data over the internet using various types of encryption methods. Any certification authority will issue you your digital certificate. It will contain the following:

  • Your name
  • Certificate authority’s name
  • Unique certificate serial number
  • Its expiry date
  • Unique private key
  • Certificate authority’s digital signature

Once your digital certificate is issued, you can use it as a source of verification for your various online needs.

Encryption Protocols

In order to conduct private communication over a network, we need to make sure that our devices and our channels of communication are safe and secure. The ways in which we can achieve this are called encryption protocols.

Below, I have discussed a few encryption protocols that you must be well aware of.

IPsec

Internet Protocol Security (IPsec) is a framework for different types of encryption. It helps verify different packets, which are encrypted and decrypted using a public and a private key, within the protocol. For authentication, hash values are also added in those packets. If the sent packet is different from the received packet, then you can easily identify that there has been a change made during the process.

ipsec encryption protocol model
IPsec encryption protocol model

Also, you can run IPsec through two types of operations:

1- Tunnel mode: The entire packet, including the header, is encrypted and placed in another packet. It is then forwarded to a central VPN, where the endpoints decrypt them. After decryption, the packets are sent to the correct IP.

2- Transport mode: Only payloads of the packets are encrypted. The headers are sent as is. This process requires less infrastructure and is easy to deploy.

PPTP

Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP) was developed by Microsoft and other tech companies as a framework for types of encryption. It makes sure that the communication between the VPN (Virtual Private Network) client and the VPN server is without any disturbance.

pptp encryption protocol model
PPTP encryption protocol model

It encloses the data network and places inside the IP envelope which upon every encounter will be treated as an IP packet. This encryption protocol is quite out-dated now.

L2TP

Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol, endorsed by Microsoft and Cisco, is another framework for types of encryption which is used in hardware-based encryption devices. Unlike PPTP, it encloses the network data twice making the whole process slower.

Also, it works with IPsec to provide secure connection and encryption. It is built-in in all the operating systems and VPN-cable devices these days.

SSTP

Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol secures the connection between the VPN client and the VPN server.

sstp encryption protocol model
SSTP encryption protocol model

Hence, all the data and Point-to-Point Protocol (PPP) traffic through the SSL channel, which passes in between is encrypted. Therefore, it is highly secured as compared to PPTP.

SSL

Specifically designed to connect with a Web server, Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), now known as Transport Layer Security (TLS), provides data encryption, message integrity using certificates and authentication during encryption and decryption.

a screenshot of goodcore’s ssl certificate
A screenshot of GoodCore’s SSL certificate

It guarantees that information is protected throughout the sharing process. It usually runs in the background.

HTTPS

Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) is HTTP combined with SSL. It is a secure version of HTTP, which you see in every website’s URL. HTTPS makes sure that your sensitive data from a web browser to a website is highly secured and encrypted to avoid online theft of information.

a screenshot of goodcore’s web address
A screenshot of GoodCore’s web address

It works on asymmetric key encryption that is through private key, which is with the owner of the website, and a public key, which is available to everyone. So, the next time you use a website, check for an ‘s’ after HTTP, to make your online browsing and data sharing secured.

Final Words

This brings us to the end of our article.

Data security has become the focus of the whole internet world. It is really up to you to decide which encryption technique is better suited for you, along with the right combination of encryption application and protocols.

To recap this article, encryption is a secure way of sharing confidential data over the internet. There are various types of encryption but I have discussed six best encryption types with you, which are AES, Triple DES, FPE, RSA, Blowfish and Twofish. To authenticate and validate your information, you will need to have encryption protocols and applications in place.

I hope through this article, you are able to understand the science behind information security and are well aware of how it can be achieved by using the right types of encryption and protocols.

We would love to know your stance on this article. So, leave us with your comments or reach out to us via our email.

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Michelle Allan

The author Michelle Allan

Michelle Allan – 24-year-old digital marketer | Instagram enthusiast | Passionate photographer | Guilty pleasure: Sappy rom-coms

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