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.
- The Best Encryption Software for 2019 | PCMag.com - October 21st, 2019
- What is data encryption? - October 19th, 2019
- USB Enforced Encryption - Endpoint Protector - October 19th, 2019
- Authenticated encryption - Crypto++ Wiki - October 19th, 2019
- Tinder's Lack of Encryption Lets Strangers Spy on Your ... - October 19th, 2019
- 'Without Encryption, We Will Lose All Privacy': Snowden ... - October 18th, 2019
- Security pros reiterate warning against encryption backdoors - October 18th, 2019
- Encryption - servicepro.wiki - October 18th, 2019
- Mozy Encryption - October 18th, 2019
- Optical Encryption Market Size, Share, Trends and Forecast ... - October 18th, 2019
- MySQL Enterprise Transparent Data Encryption (TDE) - October 18th, 2019
- What is Encryption? - Definition from WhatIs.com - October 17th, 2019
- How to Set Up BitLocker Encryption on Windows - October 2nd, 2019
- Encryption: What It Is, and How It Works for You | Tom's Guide - October 2nd, 2019
- Security Encryption Systems | HowStuffWorks - October 2nd, 2019
- What is The Difference Between Hashing and Encrypting - October 2nd, 2019
- How Encryption Works | HowStuffWorks - September 5th, 2019
- encryption - How secure is AES-256? - Cryptography Stack ... - June 2nd, 2019
- The World's Email Encryption Software Relies on One Guy, Who ... - May 5th, 2019
- Encryption breakthrough could keep prying eyes away from your ... - May 5th, 2019
- What Is Data Encryption? Definition, Best Practices & More ... - May 1st, 2019
- IronClad Encryption Partners with Data443 Risk Mitigation ... - April 30th, 2019
- What Is Encryption? An Overview of Modern Encryption ... - April 30th, 2019
- Symmetric vs. Asymmetric Encryption What are differences? - April 29th, 2019
- Difference Between Hashing and Encryption - ssl2buy.com - April 29th, 2019
- What is Advanced Encryption Standard (AES)? - Definition ... - April 29th, 2019
- How to Encrypt Your Wireless Network - Lifewire - April 29th, 2019
- After Paris, Encryption Will Be a Key Issue in the 2016 ... - April 22nd, 2019
- Email encryption - Wikipedia - April 8th, 2019
- What is Encryption, and Why Are People Afraid of It? - April 8th, 2019
- Data encryption | cryptology | Britannica.com - April 8th, 2019
- How to Enable Full-Disk Encryption on Windows 10 - April 1st, 2019
- After Paris, Encryption Will Be a Key Issue in the 2016 Race - March 27th, 2019
- Does Encryption Really Help ISIS? Heres What You Need to ... - March 27th, 2019
- AES and RSA Encryption Explained - March 27th, 2019
- Encryption: What it is and why its important - Norton - March 23rd, 2019
- Email encryption in transit - Gmail Help - March 21st, 2019
- Authenticated encryption - Wikipedia - March 19th, 2019
- Email Encryption Options for MDaemon Email Server - March 14th, 2019
- How to Encrypt Files on Windows - Tutorial - Toms Guide - March 6th, 2019
- Encryption, Key Management - bank information security - March 5th, 2019
- Which Types of Encryption are Most Secure? - February 7th, 2019
- JSON Object Signing and Encryption (JOSE) - February 4th, 2019
- What Is Encryption, and How Does It Work? - January 26th, 2019
- The Pitfalls of Facebook Merging Messenger, Instagram, and ... - January 26th, 2019
- Encryption: Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Lead to Breaches - January 14th, 2019
- Encryption | Information Technology Services - December 31st, 2018
- Encryption - Investopedia - December 16th, 2018
- How to Protect Data at Rest with Amazon EC2 Instance Store ... - December 9th, 2018
- Next Generation Encryption - blogs.cisco.com - December 4th, 2018
- 3 Different Data Encryption Methods - DataShield blog - November 22nd, 2018
- Security and encryption | Documentation | Turtl - November 18th, 2018
- Encryption | General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) - November 16th, 2018
- Using Encryption and Authentication Correctly (for PHP ... - November 13th, 2018
- Encryption | SANS Security Awareness - November 9th, 2018
- Types of Encryption | Office of Information Technology - November 5th, 2018
- Use Your own Encryption Keys with S3s Server-Side ... - October 29th, 2018
- What is Tokenization vs Encryption - Benefits & Uses Cases ... - October 12th, 2018
- Device Encryption | it.ucsf.edu - October 12th, 2018
- 5 Common Encryption Algorithms and the Unbreakables of the Future - September 15th, 2018
- Top 5 best encryption software tools of 2018 | TechRadar - August 26th, 2018
- New EBS Encryption for Additional Data Protection | AWS ... - August 22nd, 2018
- Best Encryption Software 2018 - Encrypt Files on Windows PCs - August 20th, 2018
- Download BestCrypt Volume Encryption 3.78.05 / 4.01.09 Beta - July 26th, 2018
- End-to-end encryption - Wikipedia - July 24th, 2018
- Download Symantec Encryption Desktop 10.4.0 Build 1100 - July 15th, 2018
- HTTPS - Wikipedia - July 10th, 2018
- AES encryption - June 20th, 2018
- Encrypt email messages - Outlook - June 20th, 2018
- Download Sophos Free Encryption 126.96.36.199 - softpedia.com - June 19th, 2018
- Does Skype use encryption? | Skype Support - June 16th, 2018
- Encryption- Computer & Information Security - Information ... - May 25th, 2018
- Enable BitLocker on USB Flash Drives to Protect Data - May 25th, 2018
- Transparent Data Encryption (TDE) - msdn.microsoft.com - April 12th, 2018
- Encryption Software Market - Global Forecast to 2022 - March 24th, 2018
- Encryption vs. Cryptography - What is the Difference? - March 24th, 2018
- Energy-efficient encryption for the internet of things | MIT News - February 16th, 2018
- The Best Encryption Software - TopTenReviews - February 16th, 2018
- File-Based Encryption | Android Open Source Project - February 7th, 2018
- Beyond Encryption | Secure Enterprise email using existing ... - February 1st, 2018