What is Encryption and How Does it Work? Types of Encryption

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Encryption is a method of protecting sensitive data by converting plain text into a code that is very difficult to understand, called ciphertext, to prevent theft by unauthorized parties.

Usually, websites or web applications use encryption to maintain the security of data transfer over the internet. Digital data stores like Google Cloud also use it to add a layer of security.

To help you understand the meaning of encryption and its benefits further, we will explain how encryption works and its functions in this article, as well as the types of encryption and algorithms. Let's Begin!

What is Encryption?

What is Encryption?

Encryption is the process of converting data from plain text into unreadable code (ciphertext). Encryption works using a key, which is a sequence of text that is generated mathematically to translate data into code. In its function, encryption helps hide sensitive or confidential information so that unauthorized parties cannot read or steal it.

Furthermore, this security measure can protect data transmission and storage, especially if implemented end-to-end. One example of implementing encryption is usually in chat applications so that chats cannot be intercepted over the network.

Well, apart from encryption, you may have also heard the term tokenization or tokenization. Even though both are data security methods, the way they work is quite different.

Tokenization is a method of replacing sensitive data with another value, called a token. Unlike ciphertext, tokens have no mathematical relationship to the original data, so they cannot be reversed. The relationship between data and tokens is stored in a database called a vault. Upon receipt of the request, the vault will provide data based on the requested token.

How encryption works with example?

Encryption uses a key called a cryptographic key, a sequence of text that functions to convert previously readable data into very random cipher text. The sending party uses the key to encrypt data, while the receiving party uses it for decryption, the opposite of encryption.

The strength of the encryption depends on the size or length of the key in bits. In cryptography, size refers to how many times the number 2 is multiplied to produce a key combination.

For example, the possible one-bit key combination that can be created is two to the power of one. Since the size is one bit, the value is either one or zero, two possible permutations. Shorter keys have fewer combinations, making them easier to guess and less secure. However, even though the long one is safer, there is a role for algorithms that also determine this level of security.

This key is also used in digital signatures, which serve to ensure their authenticity. Private keys are used to create digital signatures, while public keys are used to verify them. Anyone with the right secret key can reveal the encrypted message. So, to prevent it from being used by unauthorized parties, apply effective management strategies, such as:

  • Key expiration management. Encryption keys are usually only needed for a certain time. To avoid misuse, update your keys regularly and delete unused ones.
  • Protected storage. Store keys in a safe place to prevent theft by cybercriminals. Use hardware security modules (HMS) to increase storage security.
  • Access and use restrictions. Only allow authorized users to manage and use the key. In addition, limit permission to use it for one purpose only.
  • Audit log monitoring. Record every key change, use, and creation in an audit log. This way, you can monitor the activity history if there is unauthorized use.

What is Encryption and How Does it Work? Types of Encryption

An example of a technology that uses encryption keys is an SSL (Secure Socket Layer) certificate. SSL enables HTTPS connections, which ensure secure data transmission between the browser and the website server.

Some encryption solutions may use one or more secret keys. While the process may vary depending on the application, the overall concept is actually similar.

What are the Functions and Benefits of Encryption?

One of the main benefits of encryption is increasing data security. In addition to protecting sensitive information and data, encryption verifies its provenance and prevents unauthorized modification.

Additionally, encryption also increases privacy protection. This is very important, because without encryption, other people can see your data when it is sent.

Although they may not have malicious intentions, disclosing sensitive information such as personal data or confidential company data can have serious consequences. Then for website owners, encryption is one of the main factors for complying with digital data protection laws, such as PCI-DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard).

Well, the easiest way to comply with these rules is to install SSL on your website. There are many free SSL certificates available that provide strong security features. Apart from encrypting data, SSL also has other important benefits for websites. For example, improving user experience because the browser will warn visitors if they access a non-HTTPS page.

What are Types of Encryption?

Based on the number of keys used, there are two types of encryption: symmetric and asymmetric.

1. Symmetric Encryption

Symmetric Encryption

With symmetric encryption, the sender and recipient use identical keys to encrypt and decrypt data. How it works is as follows:

  • The sender and recipient share the same secret key.
  • Using the key, the sender encrypts the data, turning it into ciphertext.
  • The encrypted data is then sent over the internet.
  • The recipient takes the encrypted data, then decrypts it with the same key to reveal the information.

Because there is only one key, the symmetric encryption process will be faster. While still effective, this type is not as secure as asymmetric encryption. It's ideal to use if you prioritize speed over tighter security. Companies typically use it to protect data that is only stored in one location, such as employment agreement files in cloud storage.

2. Asymmetric Encryption

What are Types of Encryption?
Asymmetric Encryption

Also called public key encryption, asymmetric methods use two different but mathematically related keys, called the public key and the private key. The public key handles the encryption process and is available to all parties. Data encrypted with it can only be opened using the appropriate private key.

Meanwhile, only authorized parties can generate and use private keys. So, although anyone can encrypt sensitive information, only the intended recipient can reveal it. Here is how the two keys work in an asymmetric system:

  • The sender and recipient generate an asymmetric key pair.
  • They send each other public keys.
  • With the recipient's public key, the sender encrypts the data and sends it to the recipient.
  • The recipient decrypts the secured data with his or her private key.
  • If the recipient wants to send data back, the data is encrypted using the sender's public key. Then, the data encryption process is repeated.

Some technologies use hybrid methods, combining symmetric and asymmetric methods to encrypt data. SSL or TLS (Transport Layer Security) is an example of this technology.

This hybrid approach uses asymmetric methods to secure symmetric keys. Both parties will use it to encrypt sensitive information, not just using public or private keys.

The asymmetric method is much safer, but slower because it requires additional steps. Typically, asymmetric encryption is implemented to protect the exchange of sensitive information over the internet, such as email messages.

What is the best algorithm for encryption?

Encryption algorithms are mathematical formulas that systematically convert data into ciphertext. With it, the encrypted data can then be returned to readable plain text.

There are several types of algorithms for symmetric and asymmetric encryption methods. In this section, we will describe the most common algorithms.

1. DES encryption

DES (Data Encryption Standard) is one of the very first algorithms from IBM. This symmetric key algorithm was an encryption standard that was required until 1999.

Due to security concerns, the outdated DES is being replaced by modern algorithms. The 56-bit key is considered too short and easy to decipher with modern computers. Before it was discontinued, DES was commonly used to secure electronic financial transactions. Its current uses include cryptography training and research.

2. 3DES Encryption

3DES (Triple Data Encryption Standard) is the successor to the original DES algorithm. The goal is to overcome the main weakness of DES, namely the short 56-bit encryption key.

Like its predecessor, 3DES is a symmetric encryption algorithm with a 64-bit block size. This algorithm is also designed based on the same Feistel cipher structure. 3DES uses a triple encryption method, applying the DES algorithm to each data block three times. This method makes 3DES keys longer and much more difficult to decipher.

3. AES encryption

AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) is a newer symmetric algorithm, replacing DES as the data encryption standard as approved by NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology).

The main advantage of AES over DES is that keys are longer up to 256-bit in size, making them much more difficult to crack. Additionally, the AES algorithm is faster because it is more mathematically efficient.

Among other symmetric algorithms, AES is currently the most popular. Typical uses include data storage, mobile applications, and Wi-Fi security.

4. RSA Encryption

RSA (Rivest-Shamir-Adleman) is one of the earliest public key encryption algorithms. Even though it has been around for a long time, this algorithm remains popular due to its high level of security.

RSA uses the mathematical method of Prime Factorization to generate large sets of numbers from smaller combinations. Cybercriminals must determine the sequence of small prime numbers from the larger ones to decrypt the key.

Additionally, RSA uses a much larger key size compared to other asymmetric algorithms. This algorithm supports sizes up to 4096-bit, which is almost impossible to crack even with modern computers.

Typical uses include web application security, email messages, and cryptocurrency blockchains. SSL/TLS certificates also use the RSA algorithm for asymmetric encryption.

5. Twofish Encryption

Twofish is a symmetric algorithm that supports key lengths up to 256-bit. This algorithm was intended to replace DES, but is less secure than AES at 128-bit key performance. Although slower, this algorithm offers a similar level of security to AES. Twofish's main advantage is its flexibility, making it suitable for a wide variety of applications.

This algorithm allows performance adjustments based on the importance of various parameters, such as encryption speed and hardware capabilities. This makes Twofish ideal for applications with limited RAM or storage.

Although Twofish is not as popular as AES, several applications use this algorithm:

  • PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) – encryption program for email authentication, encryption and decryption.
  • KeePass – password manager tool for storage and encryption.
  • TrueCrypt – freeware disk encryption software to secure data.
  • Peazip – open-source application for creating and extracting archive files.

6. RC4 Encryption

RC4 (Rivest Cipher) is a symmetric encryption algorithm that uses a stream cipher system. This method processes data one byte at a time. This symmetric encryption is known because it is simpler and has better performance. Common uses include SSL/TLS, Wi-Fi encryption protocols, and web browsers such as Microsoft Edge.

However, RC4 is not widely used anymore due to its low level of security. Despite supporting 2048-bit keys, some research has found that RC4 has significant security vulnerabilities. There are several variants of RC4 that were developed to overcome its weaknesses, namely Spritz, RC4A, RC4A+, and VMPC (Variably Modified Permutation Composition).


Encryption is the process of scrambling data into an unreadable code, called ciphertext. The goal is to hide data so that it can only be read by the intended recipient.

Data encryption requires a sequence of text to convert plain text into cipher text called a key. With it, data will be systematically transformed, allowing it to be decrypted back into readable plain text.

There are two types of encryption, namely asymmetric and symmetric. The asymmetric type uses two separate keys to encrypt and decrypt data, while symmetric encryption uses one key that is identical for both processes.

The security strength of encryption depends on the algorithm and key length. The longer the key and the more complicated the algorithm, the more difficult it is to decrypt. Enabling encryption such as SSL/TLS improves the security and data privacy of web applications, and helps secure websites and comply with various data protection laws, such as PCI-DSS.

After reading this article, you have learned the meaning of encryption, how it works and its types. If you still have questions, submit them in the comments column below this article.!!

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