Public key cryptography explained along with pros and cons

Encryption or encryption is the art and study of transmitting information without interfering with the prying eyes. History indicates that this method was prevalent from ages, from the right of the Greeks to the era of world war; however, its contemporary form is still used in authenticating digital communications and computer security in the modern era. The inexplicable failure of traditional encryption (symmetric encryption) regarding computer security and data reliability has forced scientists around the world to invent something that would eliminate these flaws. Consequently, public key cryptography (a brainchild of Whitfield Davy and Martin Hellman) was introduced in 1976; in the crypto world, computer security has escalated to a whole new level.

What is that?

In conventional (symmetric) encryption, when the sender sends an unencrypted message to the recipient, the two parties use the same secret key to lock / unlock the message. Now here is the problem. The secret key, which will be used by both parties, must be delivered via some or other media. Therefore, there is no guarantee that the key may move without unwanted tampering, which threatens data integrity.

Public key ciphering was the imminent solution to this problem. In this technique, both parties are delivered a unique and public key pair. These keys work alongside to protect and decrypt the required information. The public key is freely available, while the private key, as the name implies, is secret and is protected by its owner. One of the most notable examples is the RSA algorithm. RSA is an acronym for Rest, Shaman and Alderman, who wrote this algorithm.

How it works?

As mentioned earlier, public key ciphering revolves around the concept of two keys. Let's imagine the following scenario.

A wants to send an encrypted message to B. Both contain the above-mentioned key pair. A searches for the public key's in the directory. Once found, he creates his digital signature by calculating his private key and the actual message. If this is done, it encrypts the message and sends it to B which in turn is verified by B using some accounts with the message, signature and public key. Thus, if the accounts at the end of B & B prove that the signature is authentic, the message is decrypted; otherwise, it will be tampered with or the signature will be forged. This technology effectively eliminates the problem of data encryption for information security.

Pros and Cons

The most important feature of this type of encryption is the optimum security and ease of use. Moreover, each user is responsible for protecting their private key, which provides complete independence of ownership. At the same time, this system reduces the risk of widespread fraud by decentralizing the keys. In fact, this process is called non-repudiation. On the other hand, this coding technology also has two drawbacks. It is relatively slower than a few advanced encryption technologies. This is because of its long calculation time taking large numbers into account while encrypting, decrypting, and authenticating messages. Also, public key ciphering such as RSA is almost impossible to crack due to the complex algorithm. This proves to be a major setback for security personnel who want to track security breaches of sensitive data for a government company or institution.

The sudden increase in information security has forced encryption devices to come up with better and updated solutions every day.

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