Encryption is a way to hide information by turning it into what seems like random data. It plays a crucial role in ensuring the security of data sent, received, and stored on the internet. In this article, with the help of ExpressVPN’s recent research, we’ll explore the topic of encryption.
Today, billions of people use the Internet for important communication and data sharing, including social interaction, financial transactions, e-commerce, and the exchange of vast amounts of personal and corporate data. As the internet’s popularity grows, security has become a top concern for individuals and businesses.
When sharing sensitive information on a public network, the principles of openness and broad access no longer apply. Protecting sensitive data from unauthorized access and cybercriminals is of utmost importance. There are various security dimensions and applications, such as secure card transactions, private data exchange, and healthcare information protection.
The most effective solution to address these security concerns is to modify the data in a way that only authorized individuals can access it.
Table of Contents
What is Encryption?
Computer encryption is based on cryptography, a science used for as long as humans have sought to keep messages private. Most forms of cryptography are now computer-based, as classic human-based encryption codes are too easy for modern computers to decipher.
It is a method for encrypting readable text so that the person with the secret access code or decryption key may read it for diplomatic information to aid with data security.
On a continuing basis, a considerable volume of personal information is handled electronically and stored in the cloud or on servers connected to the Internet. It is nearly impossible to conduct any transaction without our unique data bending up in a company’s networked systematic system, so it is critical to understand how to assist in keeping the information private.
Evolution of Encryption
A Brief History of Encryption
The term Encryption is derived from the Greek word Kryptos, which means “hidden.” It is a method of privately storing and sharing information such that only the intended receiver understands its meaning.
The Bible’s Old Testament used the most renowned early form of encryption between 500 and 600 B.C. The Hebrew scribes employ a substitution cipher known as Atbash. Atbash merely flips the alphabet’s order (A becomes Z, and so on). Proper nouns are only used in Atbash passages in the Book of Jeremiah.
Later, in 487 B.C., the Spartans communicated during military battles using a transposition cipher known as ‘scytale’. They wrapped a sheet of parchment containing the encoded message around a rod of a particular diameter. It revealed the whole meaning of the message once bonded.
Regarding military operations, Julius Caesar preferred a substitution cipher to issue commands and receive information from his field commanders. This method shifted each letter three spaces to the right (B becomes E, T becomes W, and so on).
These ciphers worked successfully until mathematicians in the 9th century A.D. noticed trends in the prevalence of particular characters. They cracked the code, leading to the development of more sophisticated kinds of encryption.
Around 1467 A.D., Leon Battista invented the first polyalphabetic cipher in Italy. Polyalphabetic ciphers combine numerous alphabets, significantly increasing the effectiveness of encryption. Batista also invented the cipher disc, a mechanical device that encodes and decodes communications by using multiple concentric wheels with letters inscribed on them. It’s no surprise that he’s regarded as the ‘Father of Western Cryptology.’
Fast forward to the mid-nineteenth century. Readers sent ciphered messages to famous writer Edgar Allan Poe, who attempted to decrypt them in a weekly newspaper. It’s fascinating to imagine Poe sitting in his study, taking a break from writing legendary stories to geek out on some secret communications.
During World War II, cryptography became an important subject. The Nazi Enigma machine was a highly complicated encryption instrument that scrambled letter input from a connected keyboard using an electromechanical rotor system. Polish mathematicians were able to replicate Enigma machines in 1932, but British and French forces were unable to decode German signals until 1939. The Allies called in Polish codebreakers, and by the end of the war, they had deciphered the Nazis’ secret signals. However, changes to the machines and codes over the war made it extremely difficult. This resulted in Britain’s Alan Turing’s groundbreaking decoding techniques, which may have tilted the war in favour of the Allies.
A Glimpse of Modern Encryption
With the development of computer technology, cryptography developed as an area of study. Instead of depending on complex mechanical devices, computers could generate superior encryption using mathematical equations and algorithms. The Symmetric Key Algorithm and the Public Key Algorithm are the two most commonly utilized algorithms nowadays.
Symmetric Key Algorithm
Keys are the mathematical parameters used to encrypt and decrypt data in cryptography. The Symmetric Key Algorithm encodes and decodes with the same key. The approach can encrypt data in chunks (a block cipher) or by individual characters. A few important examples of the symmetric Key Algorithm are as follows:
Data Encryption Standard (DES)
DES, developed in 1975, was the Gold Standard in encryption for a time. It’s a block cipher with a 56-bit key. While this was appropriate in the 1970s and 1980s, it is no longer employed due to advances in computer processing capability. Today’s computers can brute-force crack a 56-bit key in a couple of hours.
AES (Advanced Encryption Standard)
AES is more advanced than the DES algorithm, making it far more secure. It comes in 128-bit, 256-bit, and 512-bit vital versions. The NSA and other U.S. government agencies use AES 256-bit encryption as the official standard. It is also the algorithm used by AXEL Go to encrypt file passwords. Experts predict that brute forcing would take billions of years.
Using SSL encryption
Most legally binding websites employ the well-known “secure sockets layer” (SSL) encryption, which encrypts data sent to and from a website. It stops attackers from gaining access to the data while it is in transit.
Public Key Algorithms
Public Key Algorithms, on the other hand, encrypt and decrypt using two separate keys. This is utilized in the RSA token system, digital signatures, and blockchain technology to provide even more secure encryption.
The Future of Encryption – Cryptography
While contemporary encryption is excellent at protecting data from commonly used breaking methods, it is not entirely future-proof. Analysts believe that if quantum computing gets powerful enough, today’s algorithms will be easily cracked. This is troubling, yet the industry appears to be aware of the possible issue. Today’s prototype quantum computers are incapable of such feats, and the technology, in general, is difficult. It is still being determined whether quantum computers will ever be practical. Even if this occurs, quantum-safe encryption methods are currently available. Before quantum computers become widespread and widely available, software companies must modify their products accordingly.
5 Biggest Threats to Cyber Security
As the risk of cyber-attacks grows, cybersecurity has become a critical problem for both businesses and individuals. The increasing amount of sensitive information being kept and communicated online has made cybercrime prevention more crucial than ever. Even though cybersecurity safeguards have substantially advanced in recent years, so have cybercriminal practices. The future of cybersecurity appears to be a never-ending conflict between those who want to protect information and those who want to steal it.
5 types of security threats
- Password Attacks
Malware is the most fundamental and well-known threat to many people; it encompasses a wide range of unwanted applications that can cause a variety of problems for a business, from deleting data to draining resources by converting workstations into botnets or cryptocurrency miners.
SonicWall recorded over five billion malware attacks in 2021, with the total number of attacks increasing by 232% since 2019. 64% of I.T. leaders identified malware as the most significant security challenge companies face this year.
Protection against malware
There are hundreds of tools claiming to provide protection. Still, enterprises must ensure that the remedies they select can detect previously undisclosed malware by identifying crucial criteria.
Phishing is one of the most popular types of cyber security threats. Typically, it involves sending emails that appear to be from a known and trusted source, usually with a bogus link inviting users to enter personal information into an online form. According to 51% of I.T. workers, phishing and other social engineering attacks are the most difficult difficulties they will encounter this year.
These are frequently used to gain access to financial data or login and password combinations, but they may do much more – especially with the more targeted ‘ spear phishing’ kind, which is specifically customized to an individual receiver.
Protection against Phishing
Effective email security tools can help lessen the risk of such emails being delivered, but they are not perfect. As a result, user education is the most effective strategy to combat this threat.
Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts key files on a machine or network and then demands money – usually in the form of Bitcoin or another cryptocurrency – to decrypt them.
Depending on the type of ransomware used, an attack may encrypt specific file types, making it hard to access essential business information or block vital system files, preventing a machine from booting up.
Protection against Ransomware
I.T. experts can use machine learning to defend against ransomware threats. This technology can infer and forecast attacks and continuously monitor suspicious activities, allowing them to detect and prevent malware from spreading across the file system.
4. Password Attacks
Password attacks are several ways hackers use to fraudulently authenticate, enter, and steal data from password-protected accounts. We know the necessity of selecting a safe password, but more is needed to prevent fraudsters from breaking them. These attacks often occur by exploiting computer vulnerabilities and employing tools to accelerate password cracking.
Protection against Password Attacks
In addition to using strong passwords, multi-factor authentication (MFA) requires users to supply more than one piece of information to get access. Regular penetration studies (pen tests) to assess the security of your system can also be included.
DDoS assaults include an attacker flooding a system – generally a web server – with traffic demands until it simply cannot cope with the volume of requests it is being requested to send, causing it to slow to a crawl and go offline. This is a particularly difficult type of assault to cope with because it requires little talent to execute and does not require attackers to enter a company’s perimeter, which is why it is the most difficult cybersecurity challenge for 10% of businesses. Indeed, you can purchase botnets with the power required to launch a DDoS attack on the dark web for a few bucks.
Protection against DDoS
A virtual private network (VPN) is an excellent solution to improve internet privacy while protecting your company and personal information. The VPN secures your activity so that any hacker on the same network cannot view the data transmitted to and from your device. It also masks your IP address, protecting you from remote attacks and distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. Because the hackers do not know your IP address, they cannot target you to attack your device or flood you with traffic that may cause your connection to crash.
Encryption is a crucial element in safeguarding data on the internet, and protecting sensitive information from unauthorized access. From ancient ciphers to modern algorithms, encryption has evolved to meet the needs of our digital world. Symmetric and Public Key Algorithms play vital roles in data protection.
However, quantum computing presents a potential challenge to current encryption methods, but quantum-safe encryption is already being developed. Meanwhile, cybersecurity threats like malware, phishing, ransomware, password attacks, and DDoS attacks persist, demanding constant vigilance and evolving security measures. Encryption and cybersecurity remain integral to the ongoing battle for data security in our interconnected world.