Encryption is a process that involves the transformation of information to the receiver in an unreadable way. It is applied in the computers as well as in mobile devices (Boneh et al. 253). The primary role of encryption lies in safeguarding the digital data in computers and the one transmitted on digital platforms. The practice of encryption dates back to the early days of human history. Thus, in Egypt, kings would use encrypted messages in their communication. Encryption ensures that the information in the messages reaches only the person it is intended to reach. If it is necessary to send sensitive information, encryption ensures that only the recipient can access it. Computer encryption allows making sure that confidential information from the user cannot be accessed by unauthorized persons. People secure emails and keep their cloud storages safe as well as safeguard sensitive information through encryption. Encryption has seen many transformations (Boneh, et al. 254). This paper will explain how encryption is done on messages, and it will tell about various methods of encryption as well as the methods of breaking encryption.
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In the early days, encryption was used by the governments and the army. However, encryption has taken different forms nowadays. Romans used monoalphabetic cipher. Nowadays, it is referred to as the Caesar shift cipher (Boneh, et al. 259). In the mid-1970s, various ways of encrypting and decrypting messages were developed and securely distributed to the users. There existed one system of encrypting messages, and it was referred to as a symmetric key. The Diffie-Hellman key exchange and RSA algorithms ushered a new era of encryption. The system implemented a public-key cryptography that used asymmetric algorithms. The system has led to the encryption of data in transit as well as the stored data on hard drives and other devices such as smartphones (Boneh, et al. 257).
In the early days, encryption was merely done by shifting the letters in an agreed number of times. For instance, the shift could be done three or six times. The sender would encrypt the message by shifting the letters forward, and the receiver would decrypt the message by moving the letters backward. The process ensured that only the intended recipient could read the message. The monoalphabetic cipher was later developed into a more complex polyalphabetic cipher that involved altering multiple letters. Today, encryption uses sophisticated algorithms that have decrypting keys. The data that requires encryption is referred to as the plain text. Then, it is encrypted using an encryption algorithm and an encryption key.
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There are two categories of encryption. One is symmetric–key cipher that uses the same key for encrypting and decrypting files. The symmetric–key encryption requires the sender to share the key with the recipient for decryption. One of the popularly used symmetric-key types of encryption is the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) that was developed to protect classified government information (Daemen and Rijmen 2). The US government and other organizations use this algorithm to protect valuable information. This algorithm uses the key forms of 128, 192, and 256 bits. However, encryption is efficient in the 128-bit form. The other types are employed in cases of heavy-duty encryption. It is believed to be the standard method of encryption that is hard to decipher (Katz and Lindell 8). The other encryption-keys methods include Twofish and Blowfish that use different features for advanced security. The Twofish method uses keys of up to 256 bits in length. It uses a single key, and it can be used in both hardware and software. Twofish is efficient in encrypting information. On the other hand, Blowfish is also a symmetric algorithm that operates by splitting messages into blocks of 64-bit keys and encrypting the blocks separately (Katz and Lindell 8). It uses one key to encrypt data. The algorithm is found in various software categories that safeguard information about passwords and transfer of funds. It should be noted that the encryption using the symmetric-key is faster and more efficient than asymmetric-key encryption.
The other type of encryption is referred to as asymmetric cryptography. The system uses public and private keys that are mathematically linked. Public key is shared with many users while private key remains secret. One key is used to encrypt the data, while the other is used to decrypt it. In many cases, the encryption process uses symmetric algorithm to encrypt data and asymmetric algorithm to decrypt. Symmetric algorithm is faster and efficient, while asymmetric one is secure in handling keys (Katz and Lindell 8). The popularly used asymmetric algorithm is RSA. Two different keys are used in RSA as one encrypts, while the other decrypts the data. The attribute of two different keys in RSA increases the confidentiality of information. The use of digital signatures provides integrity, authenticity, and non-reputability of communication through electronic media (Daemen and Rijmen 1). RSA is a strong algorithm that may take hackers much time to break.
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At the same time, cryptographic hash function, or simply hashing, works differently from other algorithms. This method has an advanced approach to encryption that ensures security and authenticity of information. Thus, cryptographic hash function is used in data security integrity and digital signatures. This form of cryptography creates a hash value or a message digest by taking information, data, or blocks of information and generating a short digital fingerprint of the given information. It is important to note that cryptographic hash function has various properties that ensure the security of data. The length of the output is relatively small as compared to the output (Boneh et al. 261). The input is always large, and the output is small. Moreover, data computation is faster and efficient. The other factor that enhances security under hashing is the fact that the changes in the input adversely affect the bits in the output. Under this safety measure, the original information cannot be altered in transit without detection. Thus, only the intended persons can get the information under this encryption because no one can determine the input using the output. Under cryptographic function, the output depends on the input; thus, two different inputs do not produce the same output (Boneh et al. 260). The features enable the approach to be very secure when compared to other algorithms.
Algorithms are broken with various methods. The developers of algorithms aim at complete security by increasing the key size. The strength of any algorithm is directly related to the size. However, the increased size requires more resources to develop, thus limiting the developers to small sizes (Lindner and Peikert). The popular mode of attack is the brute force one. Attackers try various keys available until the right one matches and enables them to access the encrypted information. The cipher can be broken by using a side channel attack. This attack focuses on the implementation process instead of the cipher itself. Attack focuses mainly on the system designs and execution process. The attackers capitalize on the flaws and use them to break the cipher. Furthermore, cryptanalysis is another way to break the cipher. This method analyzes the weaknesses in a system and develops methods of attacking that are not as complex as brute force. Ciphers that have flaws are easier targets for attacks.
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In conclusion, encryption is an old practice that has ensured the security of the information relayed from the sender to the recipient. Encryption has assured that only the intended recipients understand the information received. Various developments over time have led to the evolution of various methods of encrypting data for security purposes. The different algorithms for encrypting data have different modes of operating. Nonetheless, ciphers face the challenge of attacks. Therefore, it is important for developers to increase the size of keys as well as ensuring reliable implementation process. Flaws in the design and implementation should be avoided, as they are easier targets for attackers.