Which Data Encryption Methods Are Best for Your Business?

Businesses can pick from several encryption algorithms when securing their data, systems and communications. To determine which is best, they should compare each based on its type, use cases, strength and speed. 

1. Elliptic Curve Cryptography (ECC)

ECC is an asymmetric encryption algorithm defined by the equation “y2 = x3 + ax + b.” Instead of relying on factoring, it leverages the complex algebraic structure of elliptical curves to convert plaintext to ciphertext.

This algorithm is much stronger than many common alternatives. For instance, a 256-bit ECC key is roughly as secure as a 3,072-bit RSA key — while also requiring less computational power and memory. 

Businesses should consider using it to secure payment systems, digital certificates — namely secure sockets layer (SSL) and transport layer security (TLS) — and virtual private networks (VPNs). Its ease of use and low resource drain make it relatively versatile.

2. Advanced Encryption Standard (AES)

AES is a block cipher encryption algorithm. It uses a symmetric key system, meaning one secret key is used to encrypt and decrypt. It’s often considered the gold standard and has replaced popular alternatives like the Data Encryption Standard (DES).

Use cases for AES include encrypting data storage systems and electronic communications. Considering eight in 10 consumers feel increasingly concerned about data privacy, leveraging the “gold standard” could positively affect reputation, engagement and customer satisfaction. 

3. Homomorphic Encryption

The homomorphic encryption algorithm uses an asymmetric key system. While the ciphertext is unreadable, it remains usable. Individuals can still perform mathematical operations on it, producing encrypted results. In other words, companies don’t have to give third-party vendors decryption keys, lowering their chances of breaches and cyberattacks. 

The downside to this algorithm is its size and complexity. Businesses with large data sets will find some encryption and decryption processes can be time-consuming because they’re computationally intensive. Often, speed significantly decreases as size increases.

This algorithm’s main benefit is that vendors can analyze ciphertext without decrypting it, so decision-makers should utilize it for electronic communications or frequently shared files. Since it rapidly slows as data set size increases, using it exclusively for specific conversations or sensitive information would be wise.

4. International Encoding Algorithm (IDEA)

IDEA is a symmetric key block cipher encryption algorithm. It works in 64-bit blocks using a 128-bit key, so it’s not as strong as other variable-length alternatives. However, it’s still as reliable and secure as many other modern options.

Companies can embed this encryption algorithm into software to secure data storage and transmission. Alternatively, they can use it to secure the connection between web servers and browsers to protect e-commerce customers or site visitors.

5. Rivest-Shamir-Adleman (RSA)

One of the most common block cipher encryption algorithms is RSA. It uses an asymmetric key system, meaning two separate keys — one public and one private — encrypt or decrypt data. It utilizes complex mathematical operations to make ciphertext undecipherable. 

RSA relies on a concept called the trapdoor function, where computation is easy in one direction but challenging in the other. Consequently, the longer it is, the more secure it is. However, its computational memory and power directly correspond with its size.

Organizations can use RSA to secure payment systems, digital certificates and electronic communications. Although it isn’t as strong as other options, they can still use it to safeguard sensitive data.

6. Blowfish

Blowfish is a symmetric key block cipher algorithm that works in 64-bit blocks. It goes through 16 encryption and decryption rounds, each containing several substitutions and permutations. In other words, it replaces and rearranges plaintext letters multiple times.

This encryption algorithm is free and publicly available, so it’s ideal for startups and small and medium-sized businesses. It’s most useful for securing password and file storage systems. Notably, the information must be smaller than a few gigabytes because of its 64-bit size.

7. Format-Preserving Encryption (FPE)

FPE is a symmetric encryption algorithm that preserves the format and length of plaintext. For example, it would turn the IP address 19.348.76.3 into 30.511.82.7. While the data’s appearance remains the same, it is unintelligible. 

The main benefit of FPE is its preservation technique, so it would be wise for organizations to use it to encrypt files, password systems and electronic communications. Since it’s somewhat vulnerable to brute-force attacks, it shouldn’t be used for sensitive data. 

Which Encryption Algorithm Is Best for Business?

There’s no one-size-fits-all in encryption — something that works exceptionally well for one business might be useless for another. Decision-makers should consider each algorithm’s strengths and weaknesses before deciding on one.

As the Features Editor at ReHack, Zac Amos writes about cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and other tech topics. He is a frequent contributor to Brilliance Security Magazine.

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