Introduction

Over the last two decades, the internet went from a conceptual tool to running our lives at the level of communication, transactions, work, data storage and much more. Every new technology has a component of the internet and data involved in it these days. With such a rise in application also comes security threats to how we communicate and exchange data. This is a bigger problem at the level of businesses and organizations that have to employ the best safety measures to secure their data. Data encryption algorithms are an effective security measure to protect information. 

  1. What Is Data Encryption
  2. Strongest Data Encryption Algorithms

1) What Is Data Encryption 

In the simplest terms, data encryption translates or ‘scrambles’ real data into a form or a code that can only be accessed by people who have the decryption key. Data that is encrypted is called ciphertext, while unencrypted data is called plaintext. There are two types of encryption in use, the first is called asymmetric encryption or public-key encryption, and the second type is called symmetric encryption. The goal of data encryption is to protect the confidentiality of digital data is that stored in computers/servers or data that is being transmitted through networks or the internet. 

The symmetric-key ciphers use only one key for both encrypting and decrypting information sticking to the classic sense of how basic encryption works. Although the symmetric-key encryptions are faster than the asymmetric encryption, the receiver cannot decrypt the data until the sender shares the encryption key. This means companies will have to find a way to manage and distribute a large number of keys securely. Therefore many have migrated to adapting the asymmetric algorithms to encrypt their data for ease of use. 

The asymmetric encryption, on the other hand, is much more convenient and are also referred to as public-key encryption. Fundamentally the encryption and decryption algorithm will use two different keys where one is public, and the other is private. The public key gets shared with everyone while the private key is protected. The RSA algorithm is one example of popular public-key encryption used to secure information sent over insecure networks like the internet. Both the public and the private key of the RSA algorithms can encrypt data to ensure its authenticity, confidentiality and integrity. 

2) Strongest Data Encryption Algorithms

Here are the top 5 popular encryption algorithms: 

1. Triple DES

Triple DES was designed as a successor to the once extensively used Data Encryption Standard (DES) algorithm. This symmetric-key method of data encryption was made obsolete by the hackers who constantly exploited its vulnerabilities. Triple DES succeeded that and soon became the most widely used symmetric algorithm in the industry. The algorithm uses a 56-bit individual key with the total key length adding up to 168 bits. However, since it is consecutive encryption, there is a middle-level vulnerability that decreases its protection to the level of a 112-bit key.

Because of the complexity in the way it works, the Triple DES encryption is slower, but still, its effectiveness is good enough to keep it as one of the approved data encryption algorithms till 2030. It is also slowly phased out and used for its dependability in financial services and other industries as a hardware encryption solution. 

2. RSA

Named after its creators, the Rivest-Sharmir-Adleman (RSA) is established as the standard public-key encryption algorithm. It is asymmetric because it has a public and a private key that encrypts data being sent and received. Its scrambling level takes far too much time for any attackers to break and keeps communication quite secure. The keys for the RSA algorithms are generated by multiplying the large number and creating a modulus. Since the numbers involved are large, it makes RSA much safer than DES. While the Triple-DES works with keys equivalent to 112 bits, the RSA keys are 1024 to 2048 bits long. However, the 2048-bit keys are recommended by the government and IT industry. 

3. Blowfish

Blowfish is symmetrical encryption similar to the DES and hence is known for its high speed. It is a top contender as an alternative to both DES and RSA. The algorithm breaks data being sent into chunks that are 64 bits and encrypts each individually. The length of the keys can be anywhere from 32 bits to 448 bits, and so far the encryption has never been defeated. What adds to its popularity is that the algorithm is not patented and free for everyone to use in the public domain. It is used by many in industries such as software and e-commerce platforms that need to secure payments and manage passwords. 

4. Twofish

Twofish is the successor of Blowfish and is also a symmetric encryption method that is favorite among many. Similar to its predecessor, Twofish uses block encrypting and splits the data into blocks that are 128 bits long, and the key is applied simultaneously to all blocks. The key for the encryption can be 256 bits long. It is popularly used with devices that have low processing recourses while brute-forcing the encrypted message of Twofish considered impractical. 

5. AES

The Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) is used as a standard by the U.S. government and various organizations. It is highly efficient in its basic 128-bit form and uses 192 and 256-bit keys for some robust encryption. AES is hailed as more effective than its predecessors such as Triple DES as it uses longer and more complex keys. The decryption is fast and finds application in firewalls, routers or any other application that uses encryption. It considered impervious to any attack except brute force that can try to decipher all the 128, 192 or 256-bit encryptions. It is thought to become the standard in the private sector soon as well. 

Conclusion

Cybersecurity threats are constantly evolving and coming up with better ways to exploit the vulnerabilities of systems. Whether it is stored data or email communications, even simple encryption can go a long way in increasing security. While attacks do occur, it can be seen that the resulting damage isn’t as big with the strongest encryption algorithms protecting data.

So, have you made up your mind to make a career in Cyber Security? Visit our Master Certificate in Cyber Security (Red Team) for further help. It is the first program in offensive technologies in India and allows learners to practice in a real-time simulated ecosystem, that will give them an edge in this competitive world.

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