January 23, 2024

Encryption Demystified

Information Security

Introduction

Encryption is one of the most important cybersecurity technologies to protect your network, data, and people. As data leaks and company breaches become more and more prevalent in the news, business leaders and federal agencies are taking the necessary steps to ensure that their business data, messages, and applications are properly encrypted. 

The President’s Executive Order (EO) 14028 on Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity (issued on May 12, 2021) has promoted a shift towards Zero Trust security all along the software supply chain, including digital document creation and storage. That’s why Inkit leverages all industry-leading encryption protocols for the secure generation, sending, and storage of sensitive documents for federal and business organizations.

But what is encryption? Simply put, encryption is the use of a computer algorithm to render data and text unreadable to anyone other than the intended receiver(s). The primary goal of encryption is to secure data, ensuring that only authorized parties can access and decipher the information. In this blog, we’ll introduce how encryption protects data, the types of encryption, and important details.

How Encryption Works

Like a password protects your phone, an encryption tool safeguards your data, messages, and WiFi network, only allowing information to be accessed by authorized people and systems. Technically speaking, encryption is a computer algorithm that converts readable and understandable data (plaintext) into an unreadable form (ciphertext) using cryptographic keys. The strength of encryption often depends on the complexity of the algorithms and the length of the key. The longer and more complex the key, the harder it is for someone to unlock the message without permission.

The process of encryption with cryptographic keys involves two main components: an encryption algorithm and encryption keys. Here's a basic overview of how encryption works:

Encryption Algorithm – A set of rules and mathematical operations that render data unintelligible. There are various encryption algorithms, the most preferred of which include Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), RSA (Rivest-Shamir-Adleman), and DES (Data Encryption Standard).

Encryption Keys – Unique strings of code that respectively control the encoding and decoding process, ensuring only key-holders (i.e., trusted computers or people with the correct password) can access data. There are two main types of encryption keys: symmetric key encryption and asymmetric key encryption.

  • Symmetric Key Encryption – The same key is used by both sender and recipient. Pros: more efficient. Cons: securely sharing keys is a challenge. Here’s a step-by-step process for symmetric key encryption:

  • The sender encrypts the plaintext using the shared symmetric key, transforming it into ciphertext.
  • The encrypted data is transmitted over the communication channel.
  • The recipient, who possesses the same symmetric key, decrypts the ciphertext to retrieve the original plaintext.

  • Asymmetric Key Encryption – Two types of keys are used: a public key and a private key. The sender and receiver share the public key, but each possesses their own unique private key. Encrypted data can only be accessed by both public and private keys together. Pros: more secure. Cons: can be slower due to complexity. Here’s a step-by-step process for asymmetric encryption:

  • The recipient generates a pair of public and private keys.
  • The public key is shared openly, while the private key is kept confidential.
  • The sender uses the recipient's public key to encrypt the plaintext.
  • The recipient, possessing the corresponding private key, decrypts the ciphertext to reveal the original message.

Effectively managing cryptographic keys is crucial to the security of encrypted data. Key distribution, storage, and rotation are essential aspects of key management to prevent unauthorized access and maintain the confidentiality of the encrypted information.

Encryption Summary & Keywords

Encryption works by applying mathematical algorithms and cryptographic keys to transform plaintext into ciphertext. This process ensures data confidentiality and security, making it challenging for unauthorized parties to access or manipulate sensitive information. The choice between symmetric and asymmetric encryption depends on the specific use case and security requirements.

  • Unencrypted data: Readable by all, also known as plaintext
  • Encrypted data: Readable with encryption key, also known as ciphertext
  • Encryption algorithms: Used to encode and decode messages, also known as ciphers
  • Block cipher: Renders data unreadable with a mathematical code, using fixed-size blocks of data, such as 128 or 64 bit blocks; remember, the more blocks, the higher the level of encryption.
  • Hashing: A technique that improves encryption by creating a fixed-length signature
  • Symmetric encryption methods: Also known as private-key cryptography, this is because the key used to encrypt and decrypt the message must remain secure

Final Thoughts

In summary, encryption protects your business from breach and loss of consumer trust. By maintaining data confidentiality, ensuring secure communication, and complying with cybersecurity requirements, encryption is the top priority technology for your business.

By applying mathematical algorithms and cryptographic keys to transform plaintext into ciphertext. This process ensures data confidentiality and security, making it challenging for unauthorized parties to access or manipulate sensitive information. The choice between symmetric and asymmetric encryption depends on the specific use case and security requirements.

Learn how Inkit encrypts your documents from creation to deletion with federally-approved, Zero Trust solutions – reach out to Inkit’s docgen experts or email us at sales@inkit.com. Trusted by the Airforce, DoD, and top institutions where privacy and security matter most.

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