Modern technology makes it necessary to use telecommunications companies to transfer various data between friends, family, and colleagues.
Encrypted chats are the gold communication standard, dating back to the days of Julius Caesar. Here, data is only readable to the sender and receiver. It’s a process of encoding information to prevent third-party intrusion.
However, not all encryption is equal in function. We must consider the risks when data is ‘at rest’ and ‘in transit.’ The former defines when information is not being used, whether stored on a cloud or a person’s device. Data in transit, of course, describes the path of moving data from A to B.
The problem starts when neither state is protected on a server that transports your messages; this is where end-to-end encryption comes in. Without this feature, someone can intercept your content, whether it remains inactive or moves.
Concealing the data at both stages before it reaches the desired target is essential. Your app provider cannot see what you’ve sent with encrypted messaging. Instead, the data appears unreadable in standard language.
How is a message encrypted?
Regardless of the method, the idea is to use an encoding algorithm. Encryption happens directly from the sender’s computer or phone. As the message leaves the device, it is not decrypted until it reaches the targeted destination.
This converts the data from the sender into random unreadable characters and symbols called ciphertext.
The algorithm uses specific block patterns and rounds for a certain number of bits in the plain text. We can think of it like a puzzle. An encrypted text message will appear like jumbled-up pieces to the algorithm that it must put back together.
So, the technology is smart enough to produce a special key to ‘solve’ the puzzle or, in our context, convert it back into plain text. The app automatically gives the receiver this key to read your message.
Here’s a simple example:
- “Y” wants to send something to “X.”
- “Y” gets the public key from “X” and uses it to encrypt the message.
- The communication goes through a server where it appears in a scribbled format.
- When “X” receives the message, they use their private key to decrypt and read it.
What are the most well-known data encryption algorithms?
Let’s look at the most popular standards. These can be symmetric (one key) or asymmetric (two keys).
Advanced Encryption Standard (AES)
The AES is the go-to symmetric cipher algorithm for governments and businesses. It was introduced by the National Institute of Standards and Technology in 2001 to improve on the old-school DES (Data Encryption Standard).
You can find AES in numerous applications like e-commerce, data storage, and wireless transmission.
This algorithm encodes data into one block instead of individual bits. It converts these into keys of 128 (AES-128), 192 (AES-192), and 256 (AES-256) bits. This high length is one reason why it’s quite secure against hacking. For context, it would take 2128 tries to break a 128-bit key.
Triple Data Encryption Standard (3DES)
This symmetric key algorithm is the successor to the DES designed by IBM in 1975. The original DES encodes 56 bits of data each time. 3DES, like its name suggests, uses three 56-bit keys for threefold defense. However, many experts consider this a waste of time, making 3DES slower.
3DES was quite prominent in the 90s, but the consensus is that it will be phased out sometime in 2023. It is primarily employed by businesses in the finance sector, like banks and payment processors. While efficient, 3DES takes longer to conceal the data.
The other problem is that the 56-bit keys are shorter (unlike AES) and, hence, easier to solve for a computer.
You can find the RSA standard in most online secure data transfers and communication. Its name consists of the surnames belonging to the three computer scientists who published the standard in 1977.
RSA is asymmetric encryption (unlike 3DES and AES). Experts find RSA the most secure algorithm above AES for this reason. It’s also because of the principle of mathematically factoring large numbers, which are difficult to crack.
However, the same quality makes it resource-heavy and too long to compute. Still, RSA is implemented in email, virtual private networks, digital signatures, etc.
Elliptic Curve Cryptography (ECC)
Like RSA, ECC is also an asymmetric standard. It was first introduced by Victor Miller and Neal Koblitz in 1985. It is based on elliptic curves over finite fields. Cryptography specialists laud ECC for its efficiency and security while only using a shorter key length.
It is widely used in digital signatures, especially those in cryptocurrencies. However, it can encode many other things as well.
Blowfish is another symmetric key cipher that Bruce Schneier created in 1993. It is a general-purpose standard that is fast to implement and useful for many applications.
These include password management software, email encryption, backup tools, and so on. Blowfish uses a 64-bit block size with a key length that ranges from 32 to 448 bits.
How to use encrypted messaging?
This type of messaging is used in online private conversations via a phone or other computer device between individuals, employees in an organization, or B2B. In doing so, you achieve the following benefits:
- Authentication and identification for the two genuine parties in the discussion
- Privacy protection where no data leaks to outsiders
- Proof of delivery of the message for the sender and recipient where neither individual can deny its existence
How to read an encrypted message?
While the process sounds complex when we speak of public and private keys, it actually isn’t. These messaging apps already have encryption and decryption built-in for their users.
You don’t need to look at complicated text or long strings of characters. When you communicate in this manner, you need to ensure no one nearby is viewing your chats.
Of course, the person you’re communicating with needs to use the same application. Once they receive your message, the app will automatically show it in a discernible format. Similarly, they also need to confirm there are no eavesdroppers so that conversations between you and them are 100% private. ]
Why use an encrypted messaging app?
It boils down to primarily two things: privacy and keeping your communication tamper-free. Without encrypted messaging services, you would likely be monitored by the carrier of your messages and other prying eyes.
Nowadays, we exchange tons of valuable data like personal info, financial details, and even trade secrets. In the wrong hands, cybercriminals can harmfully exploit this content.
Encryption offers privacy between two endpoints (you and the receiver) and ensures that your content remains unaltered. Without it, anyone could intercept your data during its transit. Another benefit of communicating in this way is it prevents tampering.
Duckist.com is a free and secure tool that achieves all these qualities. It’s a reliable and safe way to share passwords and other secret content via the world wide web.
Public key vs. private key encryption
Public key encryption
In exploring the end-to-end encrypted meaning, we refer to the public key or asymmetric encryption. In communicating this way, you encode a message using a public key that anyone can use.
However, the receiver can only reveal it with their private key, which mathematically corresponds to the public one. When communicating with someone, you have the recipient’s public key from an established directory.
The simplest way to think about it is to imagine sending mail to someone’s postbox. With this encryption, you can ‘unlock’ their mail slot and place messages in it. However, you wouldn’t be able to view any previous mail unless you had the private key.
This mechanism is popular for instant messaging, email, and voice-over IP. Experts consider it the most secure across the board as it uses two separate keys. No one is required to share their private key, preventing unauthorized access.
Here are the other fields where you can find this type of ciphering information:
Websites and online communication
Most websites use TLS/SSL (transport layer security/secure sockets layer) public key cryptography to protect against cyber attacks. For instance, when you purchase something online, this encodes the session between you and the site.
You can find TLS/SSL in various other transmissions like voice-over IP, email, and instant messaging.
Anyone familiar with digital currencies will be well-versed with public and private addresses. A private key is generated when you own a Bitcoin wallet in a non-custodial platform.
The public address is what you share when you want people to send BTC to your wallet. However, the private key allows you to access it and should only remain with you. Should it be exposed, someone will transfer all your holdings to their wallet.
Many free-to-use email clients don’t offer end-to-end encryption. However, those that do allow users to choose the messages they want encrypted. You may prefer this feature for mail or files containing personal, financial, or other sensitive data.
Once you’ve composed the message, the email client offers the recipient a password to open it. Another example is Duckist.com, where you can share private info and passwords via email. The service provides end-to-end encryption.
After you’ve viewed the content, it disappears thanks to a self-destructing link. Even when someone accesses it, the service notifies you.
At its core, a virtual private network hides your original IP address and masks it as a new one. A VPN goes back and forth between decryption and encryption as it transmits your data from the remote server to the user.
Private key encryption
Private key or symmetric encryption still uses two keys like its counterpart. However, these are the same. So, between two people, each person can encrypt and decrypt the data with one key.
This contrasts with the other method, where only one encrypts while the other party decrypts. Such a mechanism is not the most secure since one key is used instead of two. If the channel to share this is compromised, it poses a greater threat to the entire communication system.
However, symmetric encryption is faster than its counterpart because the keys are shorter. This makes them easier to store and speeds up the overall operation.
Symmetric cryptography is usually implemented for concealing large amounts of information. Here are a few fields examples where you can find it:
Personal data storage (‘data at rest’)
It makes sense to have private key encryption if you store your personal data on a laptop or hard drive. Since you wouldn’t need to transfer this information or require people to access it remotely, having one key to encrypt and decrypt is simpler.
Private key encryption is also prominent in processing cards and other sensitive payment data. As mentioned before, it is faster and more efficient, which is an advantage considering how busy banks get.
Symmetric encryption comes after public key cryptography in HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) web connections. Websites use HTTPS to transfer data securely and offer encryption in the data transit.
This protocol is the trusted variant of HTTP, the less secure way for a browser and server to exchange information. Symmetric encryption forms the channel in HTTPS, while asymmetric encryption helps with the rest of the process.
Advantages of encrypted messaging
SMS and email were how people used to communicate before this messaging technology became mainstream. As we know, SMS is outdated, expensive, slow, and not private. No one knows who is observing the contents of your messages when they leave your phone.
Although email is slightly more advanced, it is prone to similar problems: it’s not instant, can be unreliable, and is not completely private. So, let’s look at the benefits of encrypted messaging:
This mode of delivery confirms that only the sender and designated recipient can access chats and other sensitive data without third-party interference. The content will not be readable even when viewed without the encryption key.
This is regardless of whether the same file has been stored, moved around, or its server has been compromised.
Cybercriminals can wreak havoc with personal details, banking content, employment information, photos you share with friends, and other secret data. Think of extortion, ransomware, money transfers, identity theft, fraud, selling your data to other criminals, etc.
Although end-to-end encryption is not foolproof, it becomes too much work and a disincentive for hackers to crack.
Confidentiality is crucial, but ensuring the content remains intact is equally so. This is what we mean by data integrity. When you receive a message or other file, you need to be confident it hasn’t been manipulated.
Let’s consider that hackers can corrupt data as it moves in transit or when it’s stored, commonly with viruses. This can not only change the file content but infect devices with malicious software.
Encryption can maintain data integrity and prevent such things from happening.
Data protection regulations have become more prominent over the years in many countries. These make encryption mandatory for companies to protect their customers’ data and prevent fines.
This technology is relatively inexpensive to implement. Still, the biggest advantage here is that it can prevent data breaches, costing companies and individuals a lot more money.
How are encrypted messages beneficial to businesses?
It’s a given that company executives need to communicate with their employees every day. This ranges from instructions about working in the business to plans for high-value projects. Such a form of messaging protects their data from online hackers and competitors.
This information includes identifying particulars, bank accounts, trade secrets, contracts, or anything else of a legal, commercial and financial nature. In the wrong hands, a breach of this data can cost a business quite a lot of money. Fortunately, you don’t have to worry when using Duckist.
Encrypted private messaging: who should use it?
Anyone that shares passwords, engages in, or shares certain confidential messages needs to consider encryption.
Businesses can experience similar benefits. What’s more, enterprises should value their data privacy and that of their clients. This behavior increases consumer trust, enhances brand reputation, and minimizes the risks of breaches.
Encrypted messaging can be tricky, but we are changing that with Duckist.com
The internet has made instant communication a breeze. However, this incredible opportunity comes with espionage and data phishing risks. As the tech keeps improving, lawbreakers work day and night to find ways of defeating it.
So, it is up to individuals and businesses to understand the importance of encrypted messaging in protecting their data.