Encryption is a data security measure that transforms readable electronic plaintext into unreadable cipher-text. Cipher-text is random upper or lower case alphanumeric characters. Decryption is the conversion cipher-text back to plaintext by way of password or table key.
Before public key encryption in 1976, the only option was private key encryption (symmetric or single key encryption). This requires all communicating parties share a common key. A strong encryption algorithm is needed. DES or data encryption standard, RSA named after inventors Ron Rivest, Adi Shamir, and Leonard Adleman, and AES or advanced encryption standard are a few commonly used algorithms.
A public key crypto system solves the issue of numerous keys. Public key or asymmetric encryption involves two keys: a private and public key, associated with an entity needing to authenticate identity electronically, sign, or encrypt data. The public key is published. Each corresponding private key is secret. Data encrypted with the public key can only be decrypted with the private key. Public key encryption requires more computation than symmetric key encryption. It is not always appropriate for large amounts of data. It is possible to use public key encryption to send a symmetric key which can be used to encrypt more data. The SSL (secure sockets layer) protocol uses this approach. SSL is a security standard providing Internet privacy. It allows client/server applications to communicate privately and securely. Servers are always authenticated. Clients are optionally authenticated. SSL is widely used in money-moving transactions. Public key is popular for transmitting information over the Internet.
Authentication determines whether or not somebody or something is indeed who or what it claims to be. It is commonly done through use of logon passwords. Passwords can be stolen, revealed, or forgotten. This is a weakness for significant transactions such as ecommerce.
Trying to read an encrypted message without the key is called cryptanalysis. With computer advancements, it is continually becoming easier to do this. Modern computers are fast enough to allow “brute force” cryptanalysis. This is using every possible key in turn until the plaintext message version is found. Faster processors, new algorithms, and specialized hardware also threaten encryption techniques. With the incredible rate of computer technology progress, current encryption methods must evolve to ensure security.
There’s a new encryption process based on quantum physics. Photons (discrete patches of energy) are used to transmit encryption keys. If photons are disturbed during transmission, their behavior changes so that the sender and receiver are notified as the key becomes invalid. In December 2003, the World economic Forum named MagiQ Technologies, Inc. one of the 30 technology pioneers of 2004. MagiQ was the first company to offer a working quantum cryptography solution. BBN Technologies, Harvard University, and Boston University together are building the first quantum key distribution (QKD) network. Three leading E-security groups in Geneva: WISeKey, ID Quantique, and OISTE, are joining to deploy the first integrated quantum key infrastructure.
Bradbury, Danny, “Encryption: The Key To Secure Data?,” Computer Weekly (2005):44-46. Business Source Complete. EBSCO.Web22 Sept.2010.