First adopted by the US government to protect classified information, AES has long gained global acceptance and is used for securing sensitive data in various industries - most likely including yours. In this post, you'll learn about AES encryption and understand its vital role in securing sensitive files you send over the Internet.
AES or Advanced Encryption Standard is acipher, i.e., a method for encrypting and decrypting information. Whenever you transmit files over secure file transfer protocols like HTTPS, FTPS, SFTP, WebDAVS, OFTP, or AS2, there's a good chance your data will be encrypted by some flavor of AES - either AES 256, 192, or 128. We'll discuss more about these three shortly.
Differentsecure file transfer softwaremay be equipped with varying selections of encryption algorithms. Some ciphers may be included in certain selections but absent in others. Not AES. AES will almost certainly be present in all but a few. Why is this so? It all started when the US government began looking for a new encryption algorithm that would be used to protect sensitive data.
For about two decades since 1977, the US government used a cipher called DES (Data Encryption Standard) to protect sensitive, unclassified information. Unfortunately, that cipher was later on proven to be insecure, prompting the government to look for a replacement.
This led to a standardization process that attracted 15 competing encryption designs, which included - among others - MARS from IBM, RC6 from RSA Security, Serpent, Twofish, and Rijndeal. It was Rijndael, designed by two Belgian cryptographers (Joan Daemen and Vincent Rijmen), that eventually became the standard and henceforth acquired the title Advanced Encryption Standard or AES.
The selection process was very stringent, taking 5 years to complete. During that span, many experts from the cryptographic community carried out detailed tests and painstaking discussions to find vulnerabilities and weaknesses. The participation of different sectors, which showed the openness of the selection process, speaks volumes of how credible the process was.
Although the cipher's strength against various attacks was a major consideration in choosing the standard, other factors like speed, versatility, and computational requirements were likewise given importance. The government wanted an encryption standard that wasn't just strong, but also fast, reliable and easily implemented in both software and hardware - even those with limited CPU and memory.
Although the other encryption algorithms were also very good (Some of those ciphers are also widely used today but understandably don't enjoy the same level of acceptance as AES) the Rijndael cipher was ultimately selected and declared a Federal Information Processing Standards or FIPS standard by the NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) in 2001. It was approved by the Secretary of Commerce and then recognized as a federal government standard the following year.
Note: The official AES standard is specified in FIPS PUB 197.
The rise of AES didn't end there. In 2003, the government deemed it suitable for protecting classified information. In fact, up to this day, the NSA (National Security Agency) is using AES to encrypt even Top Secret Information.
That should explain why AES has gained the confidence of various industries. If it's good enough for the NSA, then it must be good enough for businesses.
AES belongs to a family of ciphers known as block ciphers. A block cipher is an algorithm that encrypts data on a per-block basis. The size of each block is usually measured in bits. AES, for example, is 128 bits long. Meaning, AES will operate on 128 bits of plaintext to produce 128 bits of ciphertext.
Like almost all modern encryption algorithms, AES requires the use of keys during the encryption and decryption processes. AES supports three keys with different lengths: 128-bit, 192-bit, and 256-bit keys. The longer the key, the stronger the encryption. So, AES 128 encryption is the least strong, while AES 256 encryption is the strongest.
In terms of performance though, shorter keys result in faster encryption times compared to longer keys. So 128 bit AES encryption is faster than AES 256 bit encryption.
The keys used in AES encryption are the same keys used in AES decryption. When the same keys are used during both encryption and decryption, the algorithm is said to be symmetric. Read the article Symmetric vs Asymmetric Encryption if you want to know the difference between the two.
As mentioned earlier, AES is implemented in secure file transfer protocols likeFTPS, HTTPS, SFTP, AS2, WebDAVS, and OFTP. But what exactly is its role?
Because symmetric and asymmetric encryption algorithms each have their own strengths, modernsecure file transfer protocols normally use a combination of the two. Asymmetric key ciphers a.k.a. public key encryption algorithms are great for key distribution and hence are used to encrypt the session key used for symmetric encryption.
Symmetric key ciphers like AES, on the other hand, are more suitable for encrypting the actual data (and commands) because they require less resources and are also much faster than asymmetric ciphers.The articleSymmetric vs Asymmetric Encryptionhas a more thorough discussion regarding these two groups of ciphers.
Here's a simplified diagram illustrating the encryption process during a typical secure file transfer secured by SSL/TLS (e.g. HTTPS, FTPS, WebDAVS) or SSH (e.g. SFTP). AES encryption operates in step 3.
That's it. I hope you learned something useful today.
If you like reading posts like this, subscribe to this blog or connect with us.
Looking for a secure file transfer server that supports AES? Try JSCAPE MFT Server. It uses AES encryption on its FTPS, SFTP, HTTPS, WebDAVS, AS2, and OFTP services. Download a free, fully-functional evaluation edition now.
- Why the US government is questioning WhatsApp's encryption - CNBC - February 25th, 2020
- No Backdoor on Human Rights: Why Encryption Cannot Be Compromised - Bitcoin News - February 25th, 2020
- Backdoor to encryption back on agenda in absurdly named bill - 9to5Mac - February 25th, 2020
- Signal is the European Union's encrypted messaging app of choice - Cult of Mac - February 25th, 2020
- cloudAshur, hands on: Encrypt, share and manage your files locally and in the cloud - ZDNet - February 25th, 2020
- ASIO: Relentless advance of technology was outstripping our capabilities - ZDNet - February 25th, 2020
- Cygilant to Highlight the Need for Encrypted Traffic Visibility at RSA Conference 2020 - Business Wire - February 25th, 2020
- Encryption Software Market 2020 Emerging Trends, Growing Demand, Leading Companies, Applications, Overview and Regional Analysis 2026 - News Times - February 25th, 2020
- US bill seen threatening encryption on tech platforms - EJ Insight - February 25th, 2020
- AES Encryption Software Market to Witness Increased Incremental Dollar Opportunity During the Forecast Period 2020 2026 | Dell, Eset, Gemalto, IBM,... - February 25th, 2020
- Malware and HTTPS a growing love affair - Naked Security - February 25th, 2020
- Hardware-based Full Disk Encryption Market To Witness Growth Acceleration During 2020-2026 | Western Digital Corp, Samsung Electronics, Toshiba,... - February 25th, 2020
- Encryption Software Market are anticipated to lucrative growth opportunities in the future by Product Type, Structure, End-user and Geography to 2027... - February 25th, 2020
- Proposed Bill Could Threaten Apple, Facebook Messaging Platforms - MSSP Alert - February 25th, 2020
- Zettaset to Participate in Cybersecurity Forum at Annual HIMSS 2020 Conference - Business Wire - February 25th, 2020
- Cloud Encryption Technology Market Analysis with Key Players, Applications, Trends and Forecasts to 2025 | Gemalto, Sophos, Symantec - Nyse Nasdaq... - February 25th, 2020
- US legislation to fend off end-to-end encryption of Facebook, Google and others - Financial World - February 25th, 2020
- Encryption on Facebook, Google, others threatened by planned new bill - Reuters - February 22nd, 2020
- What Is an Encryption Backdoor? - How-To Geek - February 22nd, 2020
- Sophos Takes On Encrypted Network Traffic With New XG Firewall 18 - CRN: Technology news for channel partners and solution providers - February 22nd, 2020
- Last Week In Venture: Eyes As A Service, Environmental Notes And Homomorphic Encryption - Crunchbase News - February 22nd, 2020
- CIA Encryption Meddling and Chinese Espionage Allegations Make It Clear: We All Need Strong Data Protection - Reason - February 12th, 2020
- Congress, Not the Attorney General, Should Decide the Future of Encryption - Lawfare - February 12th, 2020
- The code breakers: This vault is the epicenter in law enforcement's battle to unlock encrypted smartphones - USA TODAY - February 12th, 2020
- Enea Announces New Smart Tools to Identify Encrypted and Evasive Network Traffic - Yahoo Finance - February 12th, 2020
- Encryption Vs. Decryption: What's the Difference? - Techopedia - February 12th, 2020
- Labor Bill to fix Australian encryption laws it voted for hits second debate - ZDNet - February 12th, 2020
- Encryption Software Market Growth by Top Companies, Trends by Types and Application, Forecast to 2026 - News Parents - February 12th, 2020
- Mobile Encryption Market to Grow Massively (2020-2025) By Size, Share, Price, Trend and Forecast | Blackberry, T-Systems International, ESET, Sophos,... - February 12th, 2020
- Child-Welfare Activists Attack Facebook Over Encryption Plans - The New York Times - February 9th, 2020
- How Attorney General Barr's War On Encryption Will Harm Our Military - Techdirt - February 9th, 2020
- Strong Opinions on Whether Police Calls Should be Encrypted - Government Technology - February 9th, 2020
- The EARN IT Act is the latest clueless attack on encryption, do not fall for it - Privacy News Online - February 9th, 2020
- Republican Senator Lindsey Graham introduces bill that threatens end-to-end encryption - World Socialist Web Site - February 9th, 2020
- Activists write to Facebook against encryption, says it will dent bid to curb child pornography - Hindustan Times - February 9th, 2020
- BBB Offers the Following Tips for National Clean Out Your Computer and Safer Internet Day WKTN- A division of Home Town Media - WKTN Radio - February 9th, 2020
- Optical Encryption Market Booming by Size, Revenue, Trends and Top Growing Companies 2026 - Instant Tech News - February 9th, 2020
- Federal government warning of voter coercion, foreign election interference through private messaging services - CBC.ca - February 9th, 2020
- Mobile Encryption Market 2020 Recent Industry Developments and Growth Strategies Adopted by Top Key Players Worldwide and Assessment to 2025 -... - February 9th, 2020
- Well-meaning charities urge Facebook to halt encryption plan to protect kids - 9to5Mac - February 6th, 2020
- How the B-Team watches over Australia's encryption laws and cybersecurity - ZDNet - February 6th, 2020
- Kids Need End-to-End Encryption for Protection Against Corporations - The Mac Observer - February 6th, 2020
- Encryption Backdoors: The Achilles Heel to Cybersecurity? - Techopedia - February 6th, 2020
- US Lawmakers Seeking to Ban Companies From Using End-to-End Encryption With a New Draft Bill - Bitcoin Exchange Guide - February 6th, 2020
- United States: a invoice towards end-to-end encryption? - Sahiwal Tv - February 6th, 2020
- TLS 1.0/1.1 end-of-life countdown heads into the danger zone - The Daily Swig - February 6th, 2020
- How Would a US Ban on End to End Encryption Affect Cryptocurrency? - Bitcoinist - February 5th, 2020
- Officials Ask Public to Weigh in on Encrypting Police Calls - Government Technology - February 5th, 2020
- Bluefin and FroogalPay Partner to Provide PCI-Validated Point-to-Point Encryption (P2PE) - Benzinga - February 5th, 2020
- Facebook to allow parents to monitor their kids' chat messages - Sussex Express - February 5th, 2020
- Hardware-based Full Disk Encryption Market To Boom In Near Future By 2027 With Industry Key Players - Science of Change - February 5th, 2020
- New ransomware with '.SaveTheQueen' extension discovered by Varonis - Information Age - February 5th, 2020
- The Best Encryption Software for 2020 | PCMag - February 2nd, 2020
- Encryption - What It Is, Types, Algorithms, & More ... - February 2nd, 2020
- A Beginner's Guide to Encryption: What It Is and How to ... - February 2nd, 2020
- Encryption | Internet Society - February 2nd, 2020
- Best encryption software tools of 2020: Keep your data ... - February 2nd, 2020
- What is 256-bit Encryption? How long would it take to crack? - February 2nd, 2020
- A new bill could punish web platforms for using end-to-end encryption - The Verge - February 2nd, 2020
- How to encrypt email (Gmail, Outlook iOS, OSX, Android ... - February 2nd, 2020
- Researchers showcase all-optical encryption tech to keep data hidden and safe - The Times of Israel - February 2nd, 2020
- The U.S. government's been trying to stop encryption for 25 years. Will it win this time? - Tom's Guide - February 2nd, 2020
- Apple's end-to-end encryption threatened by new proposed bill - AppleInsider - February 2nd, 2020
- With Streaming Becoming More Prevalent in 2020, it would be better to connect to the Internet with a VPN - gotech daily - February 2nd, 2020
- nCipher Security: More Americans trust encryption than know what it is - Security Boulevard - January 30th, 2020
- Encryption Software Market 2020 Analysis by Current Industry Status, Key Manufacturers, Industry Drivers and Forecast to 2024 Dagoretti News -... - January 30th, 2020
- Emerging Opportunities in Hardware-based Full Disk Encryption Market with Current Trends Analysis - Dagoretti News - January 30th, 2020
- Scientists from Israel have developed the worlds first optical encryption technology Stealth - The Times Hub - January 30th, 2020
- Government Report Reveals Its Favorite Way to Hack iPhones, Without Backdoors - VICE - January 30th, 2020
- How to Get the Most Out of Your Smartphone's Encryption - WIRED - January 30th, 2020
- Forensics detective says Android phones are now harder to crack than iPhones - Android Authority - January 30th, 2020
- Options to End the End to End Encryption Debate - Infosecurity Magazine - January 30th, 2020
- Remember the Clipper chip? NSA's botched backdoor-for-Feds from 1993 still influences today's encryption debates - The Register - January 30th, 2020
- Why Public Wi-Fi is a Lot Safer Than You Think - EFF - January 30th, 2020
- There is no legislation mandating encryption of private information - Kamloops This Week - January 30th, 2020
- Apple Watch rewards, iCloud encryption, and WhatsApp hacks on the AppleInsider Podcast - AppleInsider - January 30th, 2020
- Apple Wanted the iPhone to Have End-to-End Encryption. Then the FBI Stepped In - Popular Mechanics - January 27th, 2020
- Amazon Engineer Leaked Private Encryption Keys. Outside Analysts Discovered Them in Minutes - Gizmodo - January 27th, 2020
- Deployed 82nd Airborne unit told to use these encrypted messaging apps on government cell phones - Military Times - January 27th, 2020
- The FBI doesn't need Apple to give it a backdoor to encryption, because it already has all the access it needs - Boing Boing - January 27th, 2020