Hashing and Encryption – Do you think both are the same?
Encryption is used to secure the data from the reach of third parties. Hashing helps protect the integrity of the information. They both look like indistinguishable but are dissimilar from each other. Encryption focuses on the confidentiality of the data while hashing emphases on the integrity of the information. Let us review both encryption and hashing to get a clear idea about their functionality and differences.
What is Encryption?
Encryption is the process of securing sensitive data like username, passwords, credit cards, and banking details from the reach of hackers. A piece of unencrypted information is referred to as plain text while encrypted data is known as ciphertext. Plain text can easily be read by hackers that can be used by them for malicious purposes. Ciphertext is a scrambled text that cannot be understood by the invaders if they somehow succeed in intercepting this data. The scrambled information can solely be read by the user who has access to the security key or password to decrypt this data.
Types of Encryption
There are numerous types of encryption but the main three symmetric, asymmetric and hybrid – explained below:
1) Symmetric Encryption
In this type of encryption technique, only one key is used by both the webserver and the user to encrypt/decrypt the data. This key can be a number, character string, or a word. Both the user and the webserver should have an identical key to complete the encryption/decryption process.
2) Asymmetric Encryption
In asymmetric encryption, a pair of keys is used. One is called a public key that is shared among the customer and the website. The second key is the private key that is kept hidden by the administrator of the website. The public key is used to scramble the information coming from the user/browser and the private key is helpful in decoding this data. In this way, the info shared among the browser and the site remains safe and secure.
3) Hybrid Encryption
As the name indicates, this is an encryption technique that takes advantage of the effectiveness of both asymmetric and symmetric encryption to minimize their shortcomings.
How Does Encryption Work?
Encryption uses a specific algorithm to encode or decode the data. Encryption algorithms are also known as ciphers and are divided into two categories, symmetric and asymmetric:
Symmetric Cipher uses only one key for both encryption and decryption of data. The user uses the key to encode the information and forwards it to the webserver who decodes the data utilizing the exact same key. So, without access to the key, no one can decipher this information even if they know the inner workings of encryption algorithms. Advanced Encryption Standard and Twofish are the most popular symmetric ciphers.
In asymmetric cipher, a pair of keys is utilized to scramble and unscramble the information. A public key is shared between the user and the webserver to create a session key while the private key is kept secret by the webserver. The encoded information coming from the user is decoded by the webserver using the private key. This makes the asymmetric cipher safer than the symmetric cipher. The most common asymmetric ciphers include Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) and RSA (Rivest-Shamir-Adleman).
Few Encryption Algorithms:
1. Advanced Encryption Standard
AES is a type of symmetric ciphers that encodes 128-bits of data at a time. The key that is used to decrypt the data can be of different sizes like 128-bit, 192-bit, or 256-bit. The 128-bit key ciphers the information in 10 rounds, the 192-bit key in 12 steps, and the 256-bit key in 14 stages. AES has proven itself to be highly efficient and reliable over the last few years. This method of encryption is widely used by many organizations for both the stored data and the information being transferred between two communicating sides.
RSA being an asymmetric cipher algorithm works on two keys for encryption and decryption of the information travels between a user and a web server. RSA algorithm works by factorizing the multiple of two large prime numbers. RSA is a weak algorithm because of the different vulnerabilities that have been exploited by hackers many a times. This algorithm works slower when a large amount of information requires to be encrypted/decrypted.
3. Triple Data Encryption Standard
Triple DES is the substitute of the DES symmetric encryption algorithm. It has improved the DES cipher algorithm and uses a 56-bit key data to encrypt the blocks. It applies the DES encryption process three times on every information set.
What is Hashing?
Hashing is the process of changing a plain text or a key to a hashed value by applying a hash function. Usually, the input length is greater in size than the output hash value. Hashing is a one-way encryption process such that a hash value cannot be reverse engineered to get to the original plain text. Hashing is used in encryption to secure the information shared between two parties. The passwords are transformed into hash values so that even if a security breach occurs, PINs stay protected. We have already shared information about Hashing Parameters which you can read.
How Does Hashing Work?
Two different keys can produce identical hash value which results in a collision. For hashing to work efficiently, you should modify the hashing algorithm so that there are minimum chances of collision. The hashing algorithms then produce different hash values for alternate keys. Some key characteristics of hashing include:
- One input string should have one specific hash value
- Hashing should be irreversible
- A hash function must be quick
- A slight change in input should produce a different hash
Some Common Hashing Algorithms
The following are the most used hashing functions:
1) Message Digest (MD5)
After finding severe security issues in MD4 – MD5 came as an advanced form of MD4. MD5 generates 128-bit outputs for a variable length of inputs. As a successor to MD4, it covered a lot of security threats but failed to provide full data security services. Though widely used, the main issues being raised with the use of MD5 are its vulnerability and collisions.
SHA means Secure Hashing Algorithm; it was developed for the first time by the National Security Agency. This algorithm got updates repeatedly to improve security flaws in the old genre. Now, SHA-2 is being used by many firms for cryptographic purposes.
3) Tiger Algorithm
Tiger cipher algorithm is a faster and more efficient algorithm in comparison to the MD5 and SHA families. It has a 192-bit hashing system and is mostly used in computers of the new era. Tiger2 is an advanced form of this algorithm that is even more powerful than the Tiger algorithm.
Difference Between Hashing and Encryption
Here is a summary of hashing vs encryption:
- Encryption is a two-way process where information is encoded and decoded with the help of matching key(s). Hashing is a one-way encryption technique which means that it is impossible to reverse engineer the hash value to get the plain text back.
- In encryption, the ensuing encrypted string is of variable length while in hashing, the hash value is of fixed length.
- The objective of encryption is to secure the confidentiality of the data and the purpose of hashing is to protect the integrity of the information.
- The original information shared between two communicating parties can be accessed by using the right decoding key while hashing algorithms are made efficient in such a way that the hash value remains irreversible.
Both encryption and hashing algorithms are used to protect the data from cyber-criminals. But both these schemes work differently in any given scenario. Hashing secures the data from almost all type of attacks, but it is difficult to achieve. So, for this reason, encryption has a more practical use over hashing in most cases. However, their functionality varies with the change in the given situation. Hence, you must select between the two strategies depending upon the situation.