What are Encryption Algorithms?
Encryption is a means of transmitting messages or files in such a way that they are unreadable to anyone but the authorized recipient. Encryption uses complex algorithms to scramble data and decrypt the same data using a key provided by the message sender. Encryption ensures that information stays private and confidential, whether it is in transit or at rest (being stored). Any unauthorized access to the data will only see a chaotic array of bytes that cannot be interpreted. Algorithms, also known as cyphers, are the rules or instructions for the encryption process. The key length, functionality, and features of the encryption system in use determine the effectiveness of the encryption. The following are common encryption algorithms1:
Rivest-Shamir-Adleman (RSA). Rivest-Shamir-Adleman is a public-key asymmetric encryption algorithm that works off the factorization of the product of two large prime numbers. Only a user with knowledge of these two numbers can decode the message successfully. Digital signatures commonly use RSA, but the algorithm slows down when it encrypts large volumes of data. RSA is the standard for encrypting information transmitted via the internet. RSA encryption is robust and reliable.
Triple DES/3DES. Triple DES is the successor to the original Data Encryption Standard (DES) algorithm. Triple DES was created in response to hackers who figured out how to breach DES. Triple DES’ symmetric encryption was once the most widely used symmetric algorithm in the industry, but it is currently being gradually phased out. Triple DES applies the DES algorithm three times to every data block and is commonly used to encrypt UNIX passwords and ATM PINs.
Blowfish. Blowfish is another algorithm that was designed to replace DES. This symmetric tool breaks messages into 64-bit blocks and encrypts them individually. Blowfish is known for its speed, flexibility, and is regarded as unbreakable. Blowfish is in the public domain and is commonly found on e-commerce platforms, in payment security, and in password management tools.
Twofish. Twofish is Blowfish’s successor. Twofish is a license-free, symmetric encryption that deciphers 128-bit data blocks. Twofish always encrypts data in 16 rounds, regardless of key size. Twofish is appropriate for both software and hardware environments and is considered one of the fastest of its type. Many of today’s file and folder encryption software solutions use this method.
AES. The Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) is the trusted standard algorithm used by the United States government, as well as other organizations. AES is extremely efficient in the 128-bit form, and also uses 192-bit and 256-bit keys for very demanding encryption purposes. AES is widely considered invulnerable to all attacks except for brute force attacks. AES is widely regarded as the go-to standard for encrypting data in the private sector.
1 Simplilearn, 2023, “What Is Data Encryption: Types, Algorithms, Techniques and Methods”