Encryption is the process of altering plaintext information using an algorithm (AES) to make it unreadable except to those who have a key that unlocks the encryption. This process will encrypt the information and provides security to the contents of that information.
Data protection software and applications that incorporate encryption stand to provide the best possible benefit to users with various data protection requirements.
Militaries and governments have been using encryption for secret communication since a long time. However, the use of encryption has also picked up in civilian systems to protect communication and data.
Individuals and organizations can use encryption for different types of data. Data can either be “at rest”, “in motion”, or “in use”. Encrypting files, folders, and drives or any other digital content can help protect them in the event physical or non-encryption security measures fail.Various transactions that are transmitted over the Internet also use encryption for secure lines (SSL). Intercepting “in transit” data is very much possible these days, and the use of encryption to secure transmitted data can help in securing the contents of the data.
In recent times, encryption has been recommended as the very best method to secure data and protect valuable information. There have been many different types of algorithms or ciphers over the past decades that have been put to maximum use in the military, government institutions, as well as businesses. However, with time, the ability to break the cipher and gain access to protected data led to major research and development, led by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, into the development of better algorithms that would be extremely difficult to crack. One of these initiatives led to a worldwide call for submissions of encryption algorithms issued by the US Government’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in 1997 and completed in 2000.
As stated by the NIST back then, “The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) had been working with industry and the cryptographic community to develop an Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). The aim was to develop a Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) that specifies an encryption algorithm(s) capable of protecting sensitive government information well into the next century. The algorithm(s) is expected to be used by the U.S. Government and, on a voluntary basis, by the private sector.”
After heavy competition and testing, the AES finalist candidate algorithms were MARS, RC6, Rijndael, Serpent, and Twofish. The Rijndael cipher took the lead in the end, and having further tested the viability of the algorithm, on October 2, 2000, an announcement was made by NIST that Rijndael was selected to be propose for the AES.
AES has become the most widely used encryption standard for protecting network traffic, personal data, and corporate IT infrastructures worldwide. With recent advancements in Internet technologies and cloud computing, personal and business-critical data and information are within reach of anyone who gains access to that information. It is therefore even more critical that a more secure encryption standard such as AES be used.
Personal data and corporate IT infrastructures can use the AES encryption as a robust, affordable, and flexible option and stay protected with the best data protection algorithm available.
Advance Encryption Standard replaced the outdated and often compromised DES as the standard and the winning algorithm, Rijndael, was developed by two Belgian cryptologists Vincent Rijmen and Joan Daemen.
Because AES is the strongest encryption available, it was selected by NIST as a Federal Information Processing Standard in November 2001 (FIPS-197). Further on, in June 2003 the U.S. Government (NSA) gave way to the AES as a standard to be used for all Top Secret and classified information protection.
A good data protection software should at least support 128- and 256-bit encryption keys. It is slightly faster to encrypt and decrypt data protected with 128-bit AES, but with today’s fast PCs the time difference is barely notable.
It is important to not base your overall data protection mechanisms on encryption alone. Always use a password, or even better, a “pass phrase”, which is easy to remember but difficult to break.