What is an Encryption Algorithm?
An encryption algorithm is a mathematical formula or program that turns plaintext (normal text) into a string of gibberish called ciphertext, making it unreadable to anyone who does not have the key to decrypt it. Encryption algorithms play a crucial role in cybersecurity, as they make sure that sensitive information such as passwords, credit card numbers, and personal data are secure from unauthorized access.
Encryption algorithms are used primarily to prevent data breaches, hacking attempts and unauthorized access to confidential data. Simply put, encryption algorithms encode data before transmitting it, ensuring that only authorized parties can access the data once it has been transmitted.
Three primary types of encryption algorithms exist: symmetric key algorithms, public key algorithms, and hash functions.
Symmetric key algorithms use just one key to encrypt and decrypt information. The sender and receiver must have the same key to communicate with each other securely. Symmetric key algorithms are fast and straightforward to use. However, their biggest drawback is the risk of data being hacked as the key is transmitted from sender to receiver.
Public key algorithms use a pair of keys: one for encryption and the other for decryption. The public key is used to encrypt the data, and the private key is used to decrypt it. This algorithm enables secure communication between parties who have not met before. The recipient sends his or her public key to the sender, who uses the key to encrypt the data. The encrypted data can only be decrypted by the recipient’s private key, which only they have. Public key encryption algorithms are slower than symmetric key algorithms but are more secure.
Hash functions are one-way encryption algorithms that convert plaintext messages into a fixed-length string of characters known as a hash. Unlike public and symmetric key algorithms, hash functions are irreversible. Simply put, a hash function cannot be used to decrypt hashed data.
To sum up, encryption algorithms are critical tools that ensure that data and communication remain secure in the digital age. These algorithms help to prevent unauthorized access, hacking attempts, and data breaches that can lead to enormous losses for businesses and individuals alike. To secure your information and communication, it is essential to use a reputable encryption algorithm.