Data Encryption

Written by Nicholas Kamuda
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The history of data encryption can be traced back to classic codes and ciphers, most of which were hand-written transposition ciphers or substitution ciphers. Since the late 20th century, however, data encryption has come to rely more on computers and mathematics than language and codes. In the 1970s, complex mathematics and fractal algorithms were developed into RSA, a method of encryption that uses asymmetric, or public, key algorithm.

Asymmetric keys are called public keys because they use two distantly related algorithms to encode and decode data. One, the encoding algorithm, can be transmitted over non-secure, "public" channels, because the sender is confident that the information cannot be decoded and read without a "private," unique decryption algorithms. Many asymmetric algorithms often rely on processor-hungry complex mathematics, which may require comparatively lengthy periods of time to process information.

A quicker alternative is symmetric key cryptography. In symmetric key algorithms the keys for encryption and decryption are closely related (or the same), meaning that anyone with the password can access the encrypted data. The obvious drawback of such systems is that the password must be changed often to reduce the chances that it is discovered, and that changes must be made through secure communication channels as well.

Hybrid Data Encryption Methods

Many data encryption programs use a combination of the two types of keys. In most cases, the message is encrypted with a symmetric key system, which allows all of the data to be quickly processed, encrypted, and verified. The password (for the symmetric key) is then encrypted using the more complex asymmetric key, and is only available to someone with the private "unlock" code of the asymmetric algorithm.


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