Cryptographic methods of information security
The most valuable asset in modern realities is not gold or currency, but information. Information assets are a collection of personal and confidential information, intellectual property, secret developments, data on financial and other activities of enterprises that fall under the definition of a trade secret. The listed types of information require a high level of protection. At the moment, the most reliable way to ensure information security is cryptographic methods.
The concept, principles and methods of cryptographic data protection
Cryptography is a science that studies the problem of ensuring the security of an information message using secret writing and decryption. Cryptographers are also interested in the security of authentication and identification of users of a computer system who exchange information.
Various means and techniques are used for cryptographic data protection. There are two principles of cryptographic protection: the principle of maintaining the confidentiality of information and the principle of maintaining the integrity of data. The safety of the applied means of protection is based on them.
Cryptographic data encryption is the process of converting information using coding. The prototype of this method was the exchange of classified messages between government officials. The message was encrypted using a special algorithm (key) and sent to the recipient. The recipient used a similar decryption algorithm. Thus, the information was protected from disclosure, which could occur if this message was received by third parties. In the modern world, this encryption method is called a symmetric cryptographic key.
Other security methods include encryption, steganography, and compression. They are just as effective as traditional encryption.
Encoding is a simple method of protecting a message by using different character sets to replace words or phrases in the message being encoded. Encoding, like encryption, has been used for centuries. The difference between this method of protecting information is that it is easier to guess the code than the cipher.
Before the invention of computers, encoders used entire dictionaries to protect messages, in which the meaning of each word was displayed as a set of code characters. At the moment, encoding and reverse conversion is carried out using special programs or hardware. Encoding is a popular way of protecting information in military units and other units of the armed forces.
Steganography is a way to disguise classified information. It applies only to electronic media. The principle of steganography is as follows: text files, videos or images with the help of a certain program are changed at the level of the program code. Since any electronic file is an alternation of characters in a certain sequence, replacement of some of these characters leads to a change in the file content. Accordingly, a user who does not have a key to decrypt the files contained on the device will not be able to find and understand the hidden information.
The advantage of steganography is that protected data can be stored in the public domain. In addition, steganography can be easily combined with classical cryptographic encryption. This creates a high degree of data protection. To hack such a security system, an attacker would have to develop and use sophisticated software capable of picking a decryption key. And since there are too many options for alternating characters in electronic files, a cracker will take a significant amount of time.
Compression is considered to be one of the means of cryptographic data protection only indirectly. This is due to the fact that initially the compression of electronic files was carried out not to protect information, but to reduce its volume. However, since compressed information cannot be read, compression has become a means of cryptographic data protection.
Compression is the least effective of all cryptographic security features. You can convert compressed files to their original state both using a standard software package and using statistical data processing techniques. In this regard, for reliable information protection, electronic files must be encrypted before compression.
Encryption as the main means of cryptographic data protection
Of all the methods for protecting information assets, encryption is the most commonly used. This is due to the fact that it is suitable for any purpose. When using this method on modern gadgets, you do not need to use all the power of the device. Therefore, most instant messengers installed on smartphones and tablets encrypt all user messages.
There are many techniques for encrypting text messages and audio files. However, not all of them are used due to varying degrees of reliability.
Each encryption technique is assessed in terms of the following factors:
- Crypto resistance. In programming, there is such a term as crypto attack. This is a concept that defines the process of decrypting a message by guessing the keys. Accordingly, cryptographic strength is the level of reliability of the cipher, which is determined by the complexity of the selection of keys. The most reliable techniques are those in which all possible keys must be enumerated to decrypt a message.
- The volume of the encrypted message. Since for fast transmission of information it is important to preserve its original volume, preference is given to methods in which the volume of the ciphertext is equal to the volume of the original message or slightly exceeds it.
- No errors. Some techniques fail, due to which the content of encrypted messages is partially or completely lost. Therefore, in general practice, the selected encryption method is tested for errors before implementation.
- Encryption and decryption speed. The faster a message is encrypted, transmitted, and decrypted, the higher the popularity of the technique. Modern methods make it possible to transform information within a few seconds.
- The price availability of the algorithms used. To assess their effectiveness, the cost is compared with the value of information and the financial consequences of its leak.
Based on the listed factors, we can conclude that the most popular and effective encryption methods are reliable, fast, inexpensive algorithms that do not lead to data loss or an increase in their volume. However, the main role in this case is played by information security, that is, the cryptographic strength of the cipher.
Crypto resistance is ensured by using a classified encryption algorithm and complex keys. However, it is not always possible to keep it secret. Therefore, developers of means of cryptographic protection of information assets try to create reliable algorithms with the maximum possible key length.
Information encryption methods
There are two ways to encrypt data: symmetric and asymmetric. The symmetric method involves using the same key to encrypt and decrypt data.
Symmetric encryption is widely used to keep data confidential. Popular algorithms DES, 3DES, AES, IDEA refer to the block encryption method. This means that information is encrypted in blocks, the number of which is determined by the amount of data in the message.
The advantage of the technique is that it is easy to embed it into the program code of the information exchange system, providing automatic encryption. It can also be used to secure messages, design authentication systems, and identify users.
Symmetrical techniques have several disadvantages. They require periodic replacement of keys and the development of a security system for the keys themselves. If attackers can gain access to the keys, the protection system will lose its effectiveness.
Asymmetric encryption uses different keys for encryption and decryption. This technique is also called public key encryption, because the sender of the message transmits the public key to the recipient over an unsecured communication channel to decrypt it.
The principles of asymmetric algorithms are incorporated into the system for creating electronic digital signatures. Moreover, these are synonymous concepts. The spread of electronic digital signatures as an effective method of confirming the authenticity of information is due to the fact that the secret key used in such a system is unique and protected from hacking. Therefore, documents sent on behalf of the owner of the signature, but encrypted in a different way, with unauthorized decryption with a public key, will lose the semantic load embedded in them.
At the moment, asymmetric encryption technology is used mainly in network protocols to protect open channels of information transmission. So, for example, e-mail correspondence is protected from theft of information precisely by using asymmetric encryption.
The procedure for encrypting and decrypting messages is very clear. The recipient and the sender use two kinds of keys: private and public. The information is encrypted with the secret key, while the public key is decrypted. This protection system is much more effective than symmetric encryption.
To implement an asymmetric encryption system or acquire a unique electronic digital signature, the user must use a special program that generates keys. There are several cryptosystems that have this capability. The most famous is the universal cryptosystem RSA, which not only generates keys, but also allows information to be transformed.
The only drawback of an asymmetric encryption system is the need to protect the private key from being stolen by intruders. However, the generation algorithm and the electronic digital signature are designed in such a way that the use of this key requires the participation of its owner.
Another technology that uses cryptographic information protection tools is blockchain. More than 60% of modern cryptocurrencies are based on blockchain. This technology is also used in the work of banking organizations, state registers, personal identification systems. In South Korea, blockchain technology is at the heart of the entire information exchange process between government organizations.
The advantage of blockchain is the decentralization of databases. Information exchanged by system users is not stored on one server, but is split between all user devices. This makes it impossible to kidnap, falsify or remove.
The blockchain is based on both symmetric and asymmetric means of cryptographic information protection. Symmetric encryption is used on a chain of data blocks with a fixed size. Information hashing is most often used as an asymmetric technique in the blockchain.
Of all the existing methods of protecting information, the most effective are those that combine several encryption techniques. Therefore, blockchain is actively used all over the world. The only disadvantage of this technology can be considered only the need to attract a large amount of computing equipment to generate keys and store a decentralized database. However, companies using this technology use many ways to solve these problems.