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Encryption can protect your consumer information, emails and other sensitive data as well as secure network connections. Today, there are many options to choose from, and finding one that is both secure and fits your needs is a must. Here are four encryption methods and what you should know about each one.

Encryption can protect your consumer information, emails and other sensitive data as well as secure network connections. Today, there are many options to choose from, and finding one that is both secure and fits your needs is a must. Here are four encryption methods and what you should know about each one.

AES

The Advanced Encryption Standard, AES, is a symmetric encryption algorithm and one of the most secure. The United States Government use it to protect classified information, and many software and hardware products use it as well. This method uses a block cipher, which encrypts data one fixed-size block at a time, unlike other types of encryption, such as stream ciphers, which encrypt data bit by bit.

AES is comprised of AES-128, AES-192 and AES-256. The key bit you choose encrypts and decrypts blocks in 128 bits, 192 bits and so on. There are different rounds for each bit key. A round is the process of turning plaintext into cipher text. For 128-bit, there are 10 rounds; 192-bit has 12 rounds; and 256-bit has 14 rounds.

Since AES is a symmetric key encryption, you must share the key with other individuals for them to access the encrypted data. Furthermore, if you don’t have a secure way to share that key and unauthorized individuals gain access to it, they can decrypt everything encrypted with that specific key.

3DES

Triple Data Encryption Standard, or 3DES, is a current standard, and it is a block cipher. It’s similar to the older method of encryption, Data Encryption Standard, which uses 56-bit keys. However, 3DES is a symmetric-key encryption that uses three individual 56-bit keys. It encrypts data three times, meaning your 56-bit key becomes a 168-bit key.

Unfortunately, since it encrypts data three times, this method is much slower than others. Also, because 3DES uses shorter block lengths, it is easier to decrypt and leak data. However, many financial institutions and businesses in numerous other industries use this encryption method to keep information secure. As more robust encryption methods emerge, this one is being slowly phased out.

Twofish

Twofish is a symmetric block cipher based on an earlier block cipher – Blowfish. Twofish has a block size of 128-bits to 256 bits, and it works well on smaller CPUs and hardware. Similar to AES, it implements rounds of encryption to turn plaintext into cipher text. However, the number of rounds doesn’t vary as with AES; no matter the key size, there are always 16 rounds.

In addition, this method provides plenty of flexibility. You can choose for the key setup to be slow but the encryption process to be quick or vice versa. Furthermore, this form of encryption is unpatented and license free, so you can use it without restrictions.

RSA

This asymmetric algorithm is named after Ron Rivest, Adi Shamir and Len Adelman. It uses public-key cryptography to share data over an insecure network. There are two keys: one public and one private. The public key is just as the name suggests: public. Anyone can access it. However, the private key must be confidential. When using RSA cryptography, you need both keys to encrypt and decrypt a message. You use one key to encrypt your data and the other to decrypt it.

According to Search Security, RSA is secure because it factors large integers that are the product of two large prime numbers. Additionally, the key size is large, which increases the security. Most RSA keys are 1024-bits and 2048-bits long. However, the longer key size does mean it’s slower than other encryption methods.

While there are many additional encryption methods available, knowing about and using the most secure ones ensures your confidential data stays secure and away from unwanted eyes.

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