Encryption technology has long been used to protect sensitive information in all forms of communication. Encryption technology has always been evolving and it’s continuing to evolve to cater for the needs of an ever-changing ICT industry.
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Major Advancements in Encryption Technology
During the First World War, the telegraph was used to relay information between the battlefront and command post. Since telegraph lines could easily be tapped by the enemy, both sides used codes to protect sensitive information. Rotor cipher machines revolutionized encryption technology during the war. Arthur Scherbius, a German inventor, patented the Enigma rotor machine in 1918. This is one year after British cryptographers deciphered the Zimmerman telegram.
Universal Turing Machine (1937)
In 1937, Alan Turing proved that the Universal Turing machine could solve any computing problem described as a sequence of mathematical steps. This principle formed the basis of modern computer science. Since these universal machines were similar to one another, cyber attackers could easily hack into the system and run a program of their choice.
Public Key Encryption (1976)
In 1976, the Public Key Encryption technology was invented by two Stanford mathematicians, Diffie and Hellman. They established the basis of the Asymmetric Enciphering Scheme. In this technology, the sender uses a private key to encrypt the message while the receiver uses the key to decipher it. This encryption technology was much more secure than earlier technologies because each user only had one key to encrypt and decrypt messages they received or sent.
U.S. Data Encryption Standard (DES)
In 1976, Horst Feistel, together with colleagues at IBM, created a new encryption technology. The National Security Agency (NSA) made a few changes to this encryption, including; reduction of key size and S-Box improvements. This is what came to be known as the U.S. Data Encryption Standard (DES). The technology takes 64-bit blocks of data and a 54-bit key applies 16 rounds of permutations and substitutions.
The Search for a New Encryption Standard (1997-2001)
Due to increased attacks on the DES, the National Institute of Standards and Technology selected the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) to meet the security needs of the 21st century. The algorithm uses three different key sizes; 256, 192 and 128-bit encryption. Each key size causes the algorithm to behave differently. It is important to note that a larger number of bits in an encryption key increases the complexity of the cipher algorithm.
Problems Facing Encryption Technology
Brute Force Attacks
These attacks use a rial and error method to get passwords and PIN numbers. They can be used by hackers to decrypt data. Instead of using a decryption algorithm, hackers use computer power to try different password or PIN number combinations until the right one is found.
The number of brute force attacks reported by WordPress has been increasing at an alarming rate over the years. From January to June, 2015, attacks ranged from 2.2 million to 17 million attacks per day. After June, 2015, however, the number of attacks ranged from 12 to 48 million per day. 28.1% of these attacks were from the United States, while 16.9% and 8.4% were from France and Russia respectively.
Cold Boot Attacks
These attacks are designed to extract information from data stored on a disk in encrypted form. Most encryption systems store the encryption key in the random access memory (RAM) for quick use. Industry experts have demonstrated that cold boot attacks can defeat disk encryption on many smartphones and computers with encrypted data.
Distributed Denial of Service Attacks (DDOS)
The biggest denial of service attack lasted 13 hours at 240 GBPS. In the second quarter of 2015, DDOS attacks hit record highs. DDOS mega attacks are also on the rise. Compared to last year, mega attacks have increased over 132%. In the second quarter of 2015, 12 DDOS attacks were considered mega attacks. China is the leading generator of DDOS attacks.
Back Doors and Privacy Issues
Encryption has emerged as a major issue in the debate over privacy rights. The U.S. and U.K. governments want access to encrypted data. However, leaders in cryptography say a government’s exceptional access to encrypted communications is unfeasible and would leave confidential data and critical infrastructure, such as banking systems and power grids, at risk.
Recent Advancements in Encryption Technology
Unencrypted HTTP protocol does not offer any type of data protection from alteration or interception. HTTPS pages, however, use one of two protocols to encrypt communications. These are; Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and Transport Layer Security (TLS). By the end of 2016, all U.S. government websites will use HTTPS protocol. With this encryption technology, some of the protected information include URL paths, cookies, form submissions, user agent details and query string parameters.
Quantum Key Distribution
In this encryption technology, two parties use single photons that are randomly polarized representing ones and zeroes to transmit a series of random number sequences. Any attempt to intercept a quantum key distribution can be detected by both the recipient and originator. This technology is considered one of the most powerful data encryption schemes today and the codes are virtually unbreakable.
Implementation of Fully Homomorphic Encryption (FHE)
This technology can be used to secure cloud computing systems because computations are securely run over encrypted data without having to decrypt them. Financial professionals can use FHE to assess the probability of an individual getting audited without having to share any personal data.
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