Asymmetric Encryption Example use cases can help enterprises with the numerous challenges they must deal with, especially on matters about cybersecurity. For example, mobile and cloud technologies enable the transmission and processing of confidential data, including financial deals, personal information, and health data. But, on the other hand, this has caused an expanded attack surface, and the threat landscape continues to evolve at an alarming rate. As a result, companies that handle sensitive data are under immense pressure to maintain daily business processes without compromising data security.
Encrypting data is a widely used method for protecting information privacy, integrity, and confidentiality. Encrypted data involves using algorithms to jumble data such that only individuals with the correct decryption key can access and read it. Additionally, data encryption means that it is now in ciphertext format such that malicious actors and prying eyes cannot read it in its original form. There are two primary types of encryption techniques – symmetric cryptography and asymmetric cryptography.
- Symmetric encryption: Symmetric encryption is widely popular because it is a simple technique that uses a single key for encryption and decryption. Also, symmetric algorithms execute faster than asymmetric algorithms and, therefore, the preferred encryption method for transmitting large volumes of data. The encryption key used to encrypt data is the same key used to decrypt the ciphertext to the original message. Common symmetric encryption types used today include AES-128, AES-256, and AES-192.
- Asymmetric encryption algorithms: Asymmetric encryption, also referred to as public-key cryptography, is relatively new. Most people consider it more secure since it uses two different keys to encrypt and decrypt sensitive information. The public-key encryption method uses two unique ley pairs when encrypting and decrypting data.
State of Encryption
According to the 2021 Global Encryption Trends Study, 50% of participants involved in the study indicated that their organizations had implemented a consistent encryption plan applied throughout the enterprise. In addition, the same survey found that companies use various encryption schemes for different reasons. For example, 54% of the respondents stated they use end-to-end encryption to protect customer personal data, 50% indicated they use encryption to protect against identified threats, and 49% use cryptographic algorithms to secure intellectual properties.
Asymmetric Encryption Example Scenario
To understand how asymmetric encryption works, consider the following scenario. John and Mary want to send a file containing sensitive information to each other in a public network that makes it hard to achieve secure communications. When sending data encrypted using asymmetric key cryptography, John and Mary will share their public asymmetric keys. John, the sender, will use Mary’s public cryptographic key to encrypt the file and send it to Mary.
Upon receiving the file, Mary will use her unique private key only accessible to her and decrypt the file to read the contents. Only Mary can decrypt the file since she is the only one that knows the private key. Similarly, the same encryption process applies once Mary wants to send the file back to John.
The above scenario demonstrates how asymmetric provides more robust security compared to symmetric cryptography. Interestingly, the key size technically determines whether symmetric or asymmetric encryption offers higher levels of security. Additionally, the security controls used to protect the media used to store or transmit the cryptographic keys also influence the protection of the chosen encryption mechanism.
However, unlike symmetric cryptography, the bottom line is that asymmetric encryption does not require users to share their private key pairs. While public key exchange enables users to send encrypted messages, only the recipients can use the corresponding private key to decrypt the data. Therefore, in a public-key cryptosystem, hackers cannot access or damage encrypted data if they happen to access the shared public keys.
Besides, asymmetric cryptography authenticates users using digital signatures, a capability absents in symmetric encryption. Essentially, digital signature authentication requires users to sign files and messages using their private keys digitally. The intended recipient can then use the corresponding public key to determine whether the message originated from the actual sender.
Common Asymmetric Encryption Use Cases and Advantages
As previously mentioned, asymmetric cryptography enables recipients to use digital signatures to authenticate data. Digital signatures comprise mathematical operations that permit users to authenticate and validate the integrity and authenticity of sent documents, software, or private messages. You can equate it to a stamped seal or written signature.
In addition, the use of a digital signature algorithm in asymmetric encryption assures recipients the originality and identity of encrypted information by providing evidence that the legitimate sender sent It and it has not been compromised. Therefore, asymmetric cryptography has several use cases, which include:
- Public key infrastructure (PKI): Asymmetric encryption is used to govern the management, issuance, and storage of digital certificates, such as SSL certificates, to ensure only authentic users can access them. Secure key distribution is vital to preserving the integrity and confidentiality of encryption keys.
- Sending encrypted email: In the case of the above example of how asymmetric encryption works, John can use Mary’s public key to encrypt an email and send it to Mary, who will then use her unique private key to decrypt and read the contents. Sending encrypted emails, especially in networks lacking a secure connection, is crucial since it prevents unauthorized access to transmitted messages.
- Cryptocurrencies: Cryptocurrencies like bitcoin use asymmetric encryption to authorize and authenticate transactions. Users possess public keys visible to everyone, but private keys are shared secret keys.
- SSL/TSL connection: Asymmetric encryption enables clients to establish a secure connection with a web server to encrypt transmitted data. It is a significant advantage, especially where users access the internet via insecure channels.
Additionally, the advantages of asymmetric cryptography include:
- Users are not required to share their private keys with anyone, which enhances the security of encrypted data.
- Authentication using digital signatures enables recipients to validate and authenticate the originality of the sender.
- Since asymmetric encryption does not require users to exchange keys, it solves the issue of key distribution.
5 Popular Asymmetric Encryption Example descriptions
1. Rivest Shamir Adleman (RSA)
RSA is a widely used asymmetric encryption example used to encrypt data sent over insecure networks. Ron Rivest, Adi Shamir, and Leonard Adleman first described the RSA algorithm in 1977, thus the acronym RSA. RSA encryption is widely popular since it provides a secure method of preserving data integrity, confidentiality, and authenticity of transmitted data. Specifically, RSA cryptography makes it difficult to factor large numbers that are usually the product of large prime numbers. While multiplying the two numbers is easy, factoring large integers to determine the original prime numbers is usually infeasible as it requires a significant amount of time. Moreover, the key generation protocol of the private and public keys is complex, which makes RSA encryption among the most secure. RSA key length can be either 1024- or 2048-bit long, but with the emergence of quantum computers, most security experts agree that 1024-bit key length will be broken.
2. Digital Signature Standard (DSS)
DSS is an asymmetric encryption example that incorporates the digital signature algorithm and enables users to authenticate encrypted files, software, or data using digital signatures. The encryption works by allowing a sender to sign the encrypted message using a unique private key digitally. The recipient uses the corresponding public key to validate and confirm that the legitimate sender signed the encrypted data. Moreover, DSS sets the minimum digital signature requirements and standards. As a result, DSS, which consists of a suite of algorithms, is used within the US federal government agencies to generate and validate digital signatures. Thus, DSS encryption plays a crucial role in authenticating message senders and recipients and detecting tell-tale signs of information tampering or modification while in transit. For example, the intended recipient can provide evidence of a digitally signed message as proof that it is intact and no one has tampered with it.
3. Elliptical Curve Cryptography (ECC) – Asymetric Encryption Example
The use of elliptic curve cryptography has increased in recent years, and most security experts view it as a possible alternative to RSA encryption. It is a public-key cryptography method developed based on the elliptic curve theory. Compared to most of the current asymmetric encryption types, ECC creates smaller and more efficient cryptographic keys. Thus, it is faster and more lightweight. In particular, the elliptic curve equation generates sophisticated and robust mathematical keys that offer more secure data encryption standards. For example, ECC can encrypt data using a 256-bit key that provides the same security level as an RSA encryption method with a 3072-bit key length. In addition, ECC can be used with other encryption methods like Diffie-Hellman to ensure optimized performance and higher security levels but with lesser keys.
4. Diffie-Hellman Exchange Method
Diffie-Hellman is one of the most notable asymmetric encryption example breakthroughs in the cryptography sector. Essentially, Diffie-Hellman is a key exchange technique where two users can securely exchange private and public keys over an insecure network. Before the encryption method was developed, other public-key cryptography solutions required users to exchange encryption keys using other secure means. In contrast, the Diffie-Hellman encryption approach permits users who lack prior knowledge of each other to establish shared secret keys over insecure connections. Diffie-Hellman has several applications, including generating new key pairs for every new session since it generates keys rapidly. In addition, Diffie-Hellman’s password-authenticated key agreement protects against man-in-the-middle attacks.
5. TLS/SSL Protocol
TLS/SSL utilizes asymmetric cryptography to encrypt data transmitted between a server and client, thus providing secure and encrypted connections to protect information from the various security challenges present in the public internet. For example, transport layer security generates session keys to encrypt the established link between the client and the webserver when a client user initiates a session. The server then uses a unique private key to decrypt the data, process the request or query, and send back an encrypted answer to the client. Similarly, the client will use private keys stored on the device to decrypt the response. TLS/SSL encryption protocol is vital as it prevents malicious actors, such as man-in-the-middle attacks, from compromising the data.