Encryption Tools

Written by Nicholas Kamuda
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In the last century, encryption tools to code and decode data have developed from language-based ciphers to complex mathematical problems used to alter not just the content of the data, but the accessibility of it as well. In the 1960s and 1970s, researchers developed two methods of encrypting data using mathematical keys: a method using symmetric key algorithms and one using asymmetric key algorithms. Symmetric key encryption refers to a process where a single key is used to both code and decode data, whereas asymmetric encryption requires the presence of a different code for each step.

Symmetric key encryption tools have the advantage of being markedly faster than asymmetric tools. Because there is only one key (like a password), data can be accessed quickly and easily in most cases. The major drawback to this kind of coding is the danger of the simplicity: if a cryptographic adversary discovers the key, the data may be subject to tampering.

Asymmetric solves the problem of a shared key by requiring a different key for locking and unlocking data. Furthermore, in many cases, the decryption, or unlocking, key is private, and unique for the recipient of the data. In many current versions of encryption software, the recipient can physically carry the private key on a small USB drive or other similar device.

Hybrid Encryption Tools

Many current software encryption tools use a hybrid algorithm system, which has the strengths of both symmetric and asymmetric key encryption. The main data is encoded via symmetric (shared) key, but the shared key itself is then encoded using an asymmetric key. Only the predetermined recipient can open the shared key to unlock the data.

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