When it comes to cyber security, encryption is one of the most critical components of a strong data protection strategy; yet many businesses and individuals tend to overlook the significance that a robust encryption method renders. With data breaches on the rise, safeguarding your sensitive data should not only be a priority, but a systematic practice that ensures that data is protected on every step of the way.
According to the IBM’s ‘Cost of a data breach 2022’ report, an average data breach costs organizations a whopping $4.35M with 83% of studied organizations experiencing more than one data breach in their lifetime. Prioritising encryption for your data can not only benefit you in the long run, but it can also instil a sense of security and confidence.
Encryption is a process of converting the plain text into an illegible text known as ciphertext. A computing device does this by running the text through one of the encryption algorithms, such as AES, to randomly rearrange and scramble the given text – making it impossible to read during the transmission.
The rearrangement of text is backed by very intricate mathematical calculations known as a ‘key’, and the same mathematical calculations used for encryption are reversed to decrypt the text, allowing only the authorized individuals to access the original plain text.
Types of Encryption Methods:
Encryption methods essentially can be divided into two categories: symmetric and asymmetric. Symmetric encryption uses the same secret key for both encryption and decryption of the data. The same key is shared between the sender and receiver of the encrypted data.
Asymmetric encryption, on the other hand, involves two keys: a public key and a private key. The public key is used to encrypt the data, while the private key is used to decrypt it. This approach ensures that only the intended recipient, who has the private key, can decrypt the data.
Although asymmetric encryption is often deemed more secure than symmetric encryption, it can be slower and more resource-intensive.
Different encryption algorithms have been devised based on the symmetric and asymmetric methods, and in this blog, we will discuss the three most popular ones: AES, 3DES, and RSA.
AES or Advanced Encryption Standard
The AES encryption algorithm, also known as Rijndael, is a popular symmetric encryption algorithm used to protect data. AES algorithm has key lengths of 128, 192, or 256 bits, which means it can convert a 128, 192, or 256 bits of text blocks at once.
AES operates on the Substitution–Permutation Network (SPN), using a combination of substitution and permutation rounds to cipher the text. Which means, the plaintext data is first broken into blocks or chunks, then substituted (replaced) and permutated (scrambled) over the course of several rounds using complex calculation, making the resulted ciphertext practically impossible to decipher.
The encryption process involves several sub-processes, including sub bytes, shift rows, mix columns, and add round keys. During the process, the text is scrabbled in multiple rounds. The number of rounds performed depends on the size of the key, which for AES is 10, 12, or 14 rounds.
3DES or Triple DES or Triple Data Encryption
The 3DES encryption algorithm is an upgrade to the DES or Data Encryption Standard algorithm, that applies the DES algorithm thrice to each data block. This process made 3DES much harder to crack than its predecessor, and it became widely used in payment systems, standards, and technology in the finance industry.
However, the Sweet32 vulnerability exposed the security holes within 3DES. In response, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) announced the deprecation of 3DES in a draft guidance published in 2019. The use of 3DES is set to be scrapped and discontinued in all new applications after 2023.
RSA is an asymmetric encryption algorithm developed by Ron Rivest, Adi Shamir, and Leonard Adleman in 1977. It is widely used in many applications, including SSL/TLS certificates, crypto-currencies, and email encryption.
RSA's potency lies in the “prime factorization” method that it relies upon, where two huge random prime numbers are multiplied to create another giant number. The puzzle is to determine the original prime numbers from this giant-sized multiplied number. The difficulty of brute-forcing the key increases with each expanding key length, and RSA offers various encryption key lengths such as 768-bit, 1024-bit, 2048-bit, 4096-bit, etc
Overall, AES is considered safe, fast, and flexible, making it the most widely used encryption algorithm today. AES is used in many applications, including wireless security, processor security and file encryption, SSL/TLS protocol (website security), Wi-Fi security, mobile app encryption, and most VPNs.
Many government agencies, including the National Security Agency (NSA), rely on the AES encryption algorithm to protect their sensitive information. On the other hand, 3DES has been deprecated due to security vulnerabilities, while RSA's scalability and security make it the most widely used asymmetric encryption algorithm.
AxCrypt utilizes the strong AES-256-bit algorithm to encrypt and decrypt data. Our intuitive and powerful standalone encryption software can encrypt data on desktops, smartphones and tablets. It can also automatically integrate and encrypt data on several cloud services such as Google Drive, Dropbox, and iCloud.
You can easily share files with others using our unique key sharing feature, which can be used to precisely share and control who sees and uses the file. AxCrypt also comes with a built-in secure password manager and password generator, which can be used to encrypt your sensitive credentials.