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What does data encryption mean? With examples

Practices for enhancing cybersecurity in institutions have varied with the increasing need for institutions for strong cybersecurity that protects the institution’s systems and data from any incidents that the institution may face, whether by mistake or intentional cyberattacks against the institution. We have previously spoken in several articles about the most important practices and tools for enhancing cybersecurity. In your organization, today our article will be dedicated to one of the important data protection practices that organizations must pay great attention to, which is data encryption.

What does data encryption mean? With examples
What does data encryption mean? With examples

What is data encryption?

Data encryption to secure it is widely used by individual users and large companies to protect user information sent between the browser and the server. This information may include anything from payment data to personal information. Data encryption software, also known as an "encryption algorithm" or just "encryption," is used to develop an encryption scheme that can only theoretically be cracked with enormous computing power.

Encryption in cybersecurity means converting data from a readable format to an encrypted format. Encrypted data cannot be read or processed until it is decrypted.

In computing, unencrypted data is also known as ciphertext, and encrypted data is called ciphertext. The formulas used to encrypt and decrypt messages are called encryption algorithms or ciphers.

Advanced Encryption Standard, AES, is a symmetric encryption algorithm and one of the most secure encryption algorithms. It is used by the US government to protect confidential information, and many software and hardware products also use it. This method uses block ciphers, which encrypt data one fixed-sized block at a time, unlike other types of ciphers, such as stream ciphers, which encrypt data bit by bit.

How does encryption work?

You are surely thinking about the way the data encryption process occurs, and we can summarize it with two main steps: encryption and decryption.

  1. First: The text we want to encrypt is taken, let it be a text message or an email, and complex encryption algorithms are applied to that text and converted into an unreadable format. The text after conversion is called “ciphertext.” This helps protect the confidentiality of digital data, whether stored on Computer systems or transmitted via communication networks such as the Internet.
  2. Second: When the encrypted text reaches the intended recipient, the information and data are translated back into their original form, that is, this text is returned to what it was before encryption algorithms were applied to it, and this is called decryption.
  3.   For the recipient to unlock the message, both sender and recipient must use a “secret” encryption key, which is a set of algorithms that encrypts and decrypts the data into a readable format.

What are encryption algorithms?

New algorithms are developed when old algorithms become insecure. New encryption algorithms must also adapt to the development of information technology. Some of the most common encryption algorithms include:

  • Data Encryption Standard Encryption: The term “Data Encryption Standard” is denoted by the letters DES. It is an outdated symmetric encryption algorithm and is not considered suitable for today's uses. Therefore, other new DES-type encryption algorithms emerged.
  • Triple Data Encryption Standard Encryption: The term “triple data encryption standard” is referred to as 3DES. This is a symmetric key algorithm, and the word "triple" is used because the data is passed through the original DES algorithm three times during the encryption process. The use of the triple standard for data encryption is currently being phased out, but can still create a reliable encryption solution for financial services and other industries.
  • Advanced Encryption Standard Encryption: The term “Advanced Encryption Standard” is denoted by the letters AES, and was developed to update the original data encryption standard algorithm. Some of the most popular applications of the AES algorithm include messaging apps like Signal or WhatsApp and file archiving and compression software WinZip.
  • Rivest, Shamir, and Adelman Algorithm: The Rivest, Shamir, and Adelman algorithm was the first asymmetric encryption algorithm to be widely available to the public. It is popular due to its long key, which makes it widely used for secure data transfer. This algorithm is referred to by the letters RSA, which are the first letters of the surnames of the mathematicians who first described it: Ronald Rivest, Adi Shamir, and Leonard Adelman. RSA is an asymmetric algorithm due to its use of a pair of keys.
  • Twofish Encryption: is not patented, making its encryption freely available to anyone who wants to use it. As a result, you'll find it built into encryption software like PhotoEncrypt, GPG, and the popular open-source program TrueCrypt.

RC4 algorithm

It is used in WEP and WPA, two encryption protocols commonly used in wireless routers.

Examples of asymmetric encryption include RSA and DSA. Examples of symmetric encryption include RC4 and DES. In addition to encryption algorithms, there are also what are known as Common Criteria (CC):

  1. This is not an encryption standard, but rather a set of international guidelines to verify product security claims and how they stand up to scrutiny.
  2. The CC Guidelines were created to provide vendor-neutral and third-party oversight of security products.
  3. Products are submitted for review voluntarily by vendors, and their full functionality or specific functionality is examined.
  4. When a product is evaluated, its features are tested against a specific set of criteria depending on the type of product.
  5. Initially, encryption was outside the scope of common standards. But it is increasingly included in their security standards.

Data encryption techniques

As for the encryption techniques used, they vary and include many algorithms and protocols, such as:

  • Symmetric Encryption: Such as AES, DES, and 3DES, where a single key is used for both to encrypt and decrypt data.
  • Public key encryption (Asymmetric Encryption): such as RSA and Diffie-Hellman, where two keys are used: a public key and a private key. The public key is used for encryption and the private key is used for decryption.
  • Digital Signature Encryption: Like ECDSA and RSA, this technology uses a private key to sign the data and a public key to verify the signature.
  • SSL/TLS protocols: They are used to secure communications over a network, and include encryption, authentication, and ensuring data integrity.

Examples of encryption methods

Symmetric Encryption.

In this technique, a single key is used for both encryption and decryption processes. One of the most popular text encryption technologies is AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) encryption. Example:

    plaintext: Hello, world!

    key: secret key

    ciphertext: U2FsdGVkX19eZlExzDiDq3Wjcd4MZVd0dIt3XjWL+pg=

Public key encryption (Asymmetric Encryption).

In this technique, two keys are used: a public key and a private key. The public key is used for encryption and the private key for decryption. An example of this is RSA encryption. Example:

    plaintext: Hello, world!

    public key: [some public key]

    ciphertext: [encrypted data]

Digital Signature.

A digital signature is used to confirm the identity of the sender and the integrity of the data. Data is signed using the private key, and the signature is verified using the public key that is available to everyone. Example:

    plaintext: Hello, world!

    private key: [some private key]

    digital signature: [signature]

Database Encryption.

They are used to encrypt data stored in databases, whether at rest or in transit. Text encryption techniques or custom techniques can be used to encrypt databases. Example:

Encrypt sensitive fields in a database table such as passwords or medical data.

Encryption via SSL

We have mentioned many examples of encryption above, as there are many encryption mechanisms, and we will now mention one of the most important mechanisms for encrypting data that websites use, which is called Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), so what is this mechanism?

  1. Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) is a data encryption mechanism used by websites to protect vital user data. This mechanism prevents attackers from accessing sensitive user data traveling to and from a website. Implementing SSL ensures website users that their online transactions are encrypted and that user data Sensitive ones are protected.
  2. You can tell if the website you are using uses this mechanism, as websites that have added SSL to secure their sites have a padlock icon on their URLs and use “https” instead of “http” for their link address.
  3. Look for the padlock icon in the URL bar and the “s” in “https://” to ensure you are making safe and encrypted transactions online.

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