The Importance of Private Messaging Part 2
On our journey through the evolution of encryption technology, we’ve covered advancements from ancient civilisations all the way to the development of the Data Encryption Standard during the 1970’s. This week’s blog post is a continuation of that journey, and will take us through the 1980’s, 1990’s, and 2000’s as we delve into current encryption methods.
The Data Encryption Standard or (DES) was developed by IBM as a symmetric key algorithm. While it was originally chosen by the NSA as a secure form of encryption, it was later discovered to be a less desirable method due to its smaller key size.
Shortly after the birth of DES, another method of encryption came to the scene built off the concept of public key encryption: RSA encryption. RSA, named for the initials of its creators, is an asymmetric key encryption system. With this method, a user with a private key can write a message, then users with a public key can intercept and engage with the message. Well into the 2000’s, competitions were in place by the creators of RSA encryption as a challenge to see if people could actually factor numbers used in the system. While some were factored, several remained unobtainable.
The 1980’s and 1990’s saw the birth of several influential encryption programs. USENET, developed in the 80’s, resembled a bulletin board and is considered to be the precursor to internet forums. USENET hid objectionable material and spoilers, and allowed users to engage on different posts. In 1991, Pretty Good Privacy was developed by Phil Zimmermann. The program’s emphasis was on encrypting and decrypting texts, emails, and files. The development of Pretty Good Privacy led to an increase in the security of emails.
The 1990’s saw a shift in encryption methodology with the development of the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). The AES uses three different key sizes, each of which cause the algorithm to behave differently. Like its predecessor DES, the AES is also a symmetric algorithm, but its success lies in its larger key size. With an increased key size comes an increased complexity of the cipher algorithm, which, in laymans terms, means that there are a larger number of bits to scramble to keep the data more secure. In the end, AES was chosen by the NSA to replace the DES.
Now, in the 21st century, encryption technology continues to advance at a rapid pace. With the creation of smart phones, comes two distinct categories of encryption, “end-to-end” and “data-at-rest.” The most secure of the two is “end-to-end,” a method first used by Pretty Good Privacy back in 1991. This method of encryption prevents others from being able to read messages and keeps third parties from accessing data. “Data-at-rest” refers to stored data on the device itself. Most text messaging applications, including iMessage, rely on “end-to-end” encryption to keep the messages secure.
As our series continues on encryption methodology and advancements, we will look at how Pantepic fits into the dialogue and how the app’s encryption technology works to keep your information safe.