Encryption – Definition, Keys, Algorithms & More


What exactly is the encryption?

In Cryptography, Encryption is the process of transforming/encoding data using some algorithm in such a way that only authorized users can decode and access it. Encryption protects sensitive information such as passwords, credit card numbers from unauthorized parties by encoding information into a human unreadable format called ciphertext.

What is Cryptography?

Cryptography is a combination of “Crypt” and “graphy” which refers to hidden writing. Cryptography refers to the technique or method to protect the information from several vulnerabilities and communicate with the help of the codes which only the sender and receiver can understand by converting them into meaningful information. In short, Cryptography is the study or use of techniques like encryption and decryption for secure communication.

Algorithms refer to the transformation of messages into some rule-based calculations or mathematical concepts that anyone cannot decode it easily without having proper permission. The techniques to communicate and secure valuable information using the algorithms known as cryptography. The cryptographic keys generated with the help of the algorithms. and these algorithms also help in verification processes or digital signing. It helps in protecting valuable information that passed in confidential communications such as encrypted email, online transactions, etc.

How Does Encryption work?

The information is mixed-up or formed in a way that makes it more secure and transforms the message which has no meaning. Then the receiver receives the encrypted message and decodes the message into meaningful information by using a key. The different types of keys and algorithms form different encryption techniques. A digital certificate is one of the best Encryption examples.

The computer algorithms and random number generators help in the generation of encryption keys. There is also a complicated way used by computers to generate keys. It observes the mouse movements of the user and forms the keys by creating the unique seeds. Nowadays, systems designed to generate new key for each session for additional security as one of the modern-day techniques.

Types of Encryption Keys

The four types of Encryption keys are public, private, asymmetric, and symmetric.

Symmetric Keys

In this type, the same secret key is used to encode or decode the message. It is the most simple kind of key. It is the old and best-known technique of encryption. The data transformed into certain codes, which people or systems who don’t have the proper key cannot know what it is about. The examples are RC4, RC5, Blowfish, and DES.

Symmetric Encryption

Asymmetric Keys

It is a new method of encryption. There are two keys used to encrypt the data. Internet and large networks are used to exchange these secret keys. The reason that it uses two keys to encrypt and decrypt the message is that anyone with the secret key can decrypt the message easily. Using two keys ensure better security.

Asymmetric Encryption

Public Keys

There are two separate keys used for the encryption and decryption process respectively. The benefit of public keys is that they can be openly distributed without compromising the security of the data because the data can only be decrypted by the private key of the receiver and the public key of the receiver can only be used for encrypting the message.

Public Keys

Private Keys

It is comparatively faster than public keys as the same key is used to encipher and decipher the message or data. There are conditions where everyone in the organization is using the private keys and it causes the key management issue because of protecting the keys. It also can be leaked or stolen by anyone and he/she can access the data easily as it can be used to decrypt the texts. So, it is necessary to distribute the keys through secure channels and change the keys after regular intervals to ensure the security of the data.

Private Keys

Differences Between Symmetric and Asymmetric Encryption

Symmetric EncryptionAsymmetric Encryption
It refers to using one single key to do both encrypt and decrypt the texts. This is the reason that it is considered simple as compared to asymmetric encryption.Two separate keys are used to encode and decode the message or data. One is the private key and one is the public key. This makes this type of encryption more complicated than others.
The execution speed is faster than other encryption types.It is slower in terms of execution speed.
The key size of symmetric encryption is 128-bits.The key size is at least 1000 bits as its main motive is to provide lasting and sufficient security to the users.
For the purpose of symmetric encryption, inexpensive hardware is required as simple algorithms are performed.Powerful hardware is required for asymmetric encryption as it performs time-consuming and more complex algorithms.
Some of the commonly used algorithms are DES, AES, 3DES, and RC4.Some commonly used algorithms are RSA and Diffie-Hellman.

Top 5 Encryption Algorithms

DES, Blowfish, AES, RSA, and SHA are 5 of the important encryption algorithms.

Triple DES

It groups the data into blocks. Then the key applied to the whole block which encodes it simultaneously. To encipher or decipher the message, the same key used both times. The steps applied while encoding file has to be used in reverse order and direction in order to decode it.


It is the symmetric type of key which means that the same key is used to encode and decode the data block. It used as an alternative to DES or RSA. No one has been able to break the full encryption until now. The key length can vary from 32-bits to 448-bits and the size of the block is 64-bits.


The system using RSA encryption algorithms do not use the same key to encode and decode as it is asymmetric. A private and public key generated to make the algorithm work. Both the keys linked to each other in some way but are not identical.


The AES stands for Advanced Encryption Standard. It is also the symmetric encryption algorithm. A longer key and more complex algorithm are used for higher safety standards. It divides the message into the blocks of 128-bits. It works with the enciphering rounds.


The hash function is used to transform the data in Secure Hash Algorithms. The encryption is very strong as after transforming the meaning of the data into respective hash values, it is impossible to convert them back into their original form. SHA-1, SHA-2, and SHA-3 are some of the algorithms.

Encryption vs Decryption

The normal message is converted into a message having no meaning at all through the encryption process. Unauthorized access to private data is prevented by the encryption.The process of converting the meaningless message into the original or normal or understandable form is known as decryption.
A secret key or a public key can be used to encrypt the message.The message encrypted earlier can be decrypted either through a private key or a secret key.
The responsibility to encrypt the message is with the sender’s side. The data is encrypted automatically with a secret key when some data or information is being communicated between two systems or machines.The receiver decrypts the message. It can be done by using the correct private key. The data cannot be transformed into its original form without using the correct key. 
The sender sends the message to the receiver after encrypting it.The receiver has to receive the message and decrypt it in order to convert it into a meaningful plain text.


Cryptography helps in communicating with the help of codes securely. The process of transforming the information in a way that no other person without the correct key can access it refers to encryption. Symmetric encryption refers to using a single key to encode and decode the texts, whereas, asymmetric encryption type uses two different keys to encode and decode the texts.

The encrypted file cannot be decrypted without the correct public or private key and this makes it safer to exchange the information through online channels. Encryption means transforming the message to a form where the systems without the correct key cannot access it or understand it, whereas, decryption refers to transforming the encrypted text into its original form with the help of a private key where the receiver can understand it easily.

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