What is the Symmetric-key Algorithm

When a message is enciphered or converted into cipher text, there has to be a key that is used to lock the encryption. The encryption of data can be referred to as locking a confidential message. The key as obvious will be the only way to access into the message. However, there are two main types of algorithms followed to encrypt or decrypt a message. One is named as symmetric-key algorithm and the other one as asymmetric key algorithm. Right now, we will understand the symmetric key algorithm and how it works. Please read on to know more about it.

Understanding What Symmetric-Key Algorithm Is:

As clear from the name that it is a class that is related to algorithms used for encrypting and decrypting a message. However, the main characteristic of symmetric key algorithm is that is uses a shared key or an identical key for the encryption and decryption of the data. These keys can be almost same or a mere relation between the two might exist as well. This type of encryption and decryption method provides a secure way of keeping the messages or communication between two parties safe and confidential but there are a few weaknesses to this type of algorithm. We will be discussing about the weaknesses later.

There are few other names that refer to the same system of algorithm of symmetric key. It is known with the name of private key or one-key as well. There are two main divisions of symmetric key algorithm. These two divisions are black ciphers and stream ciphers. When the bits that are present in a message are being encrypted one by one, it will be referred to as stream cipher. When referring to the block ciphers, a specific number of bits are taken and then converted into one block or unit. The most commonly used bit blocks have been of 64 bits. Recently, some improvements have been made and 128 bits ciphers are also in use now.

Speed of Symmetric-Key Algorithm:

If you start searching about the asymmetric key algorithm you will often notice a trend that people are complaining about its slow speed. Contrary to the asymmetric key algorithm, symmetric key algorithms are faster. The difference is not small. Symmetric key algorithms can be thousand times faster than asymmetric ones.

A big disadvantage of symmetric-key algorithm is the weak protection against cryptographic attackers. The whole idea of sharing the same key at both ends makes it prone to attacks. Key management is required in order to make the communication between various channels safer. However, the key management process is not easy and it can get harder at times to achieve it.

Most Popular Symmetric-Key Algorithms:

Not all of them but many symmetric key algorithms are known popularly by people for their level of security and services they provide. These names include the IDEA, 3DES, Bowfish, Serpet and Twofish. You can surely get further information about these vendors on their own websites. When you are searching for a symmetric-key algorithm in the market or online, you should make sure to know what method and technique it follows. As mentioned above, there are two types of ciphers that are used by the symmetric key algorithm. Various sources are available on the internet to get more information about ciphers and different types of providers of symmetric key algorithm.