Encryption is a widely used method to secure data from unauthorised access or theft. There are two main types of encryption, asymmetric and symmetric. The primary difference between these two types of encryption lies in the way that keys are used to encrypt and decrypt the data. In this article, we will explore the differences between asymmetric and symmetric encryption and provide examples of how these types of encryption may be used in ransomware attacks.
Symmetric encryption uses the same key to encrypt and decrypt data. This means that the same key is used to both encrypt and decrypt the data, which makes it easier to manage and faster to use. However, the main disadvantage of symmetric encryption is that the same key must be securely shared between the sender and receiver of the data. If the key falls into the wrong hands, then the data is at risk of being decrypted.
One of the most popular symmetric encryption algorithms is the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). AES is a block cipher encryption algorithm that uses a fixed block size of 128 bits and a key size of 128, 192, or 256 bits. AES is widely used to encrypt data for secure communication and storage, including in ransomware attacks.
Ransomware attacks typically use symmetric encryption to encrypt the victim’s files. Once the files are encrypted, the attacker will demand a ransom payment in exchange for the decryption key. If the victim refuses to pay the ransom, then the files will remain encrypted and inaccessible.
Asymmetric encryption uses two keys, a public key and a private key, to encrypt and decrypt data. The public key is used to encrypt the data, while the private key is used to decrypt the data. This means that the private key must be kept secret and only known to the owner of the key, while the public key can be freely distributed.
One of the most popular asymmetric encryption algorithms is the Rivest–Shamir–Adleman (RSA) algorithm. RSA is widely used for secure communication and authentication, including in the SSL/TLS protocol used for secure web browsing.
Asymmetric encryption is not typically used in ransomware attacks because it is slower and more complex than symmetric encryption. However, it can be used to protect the symmetric encryption key used in a ransomware attack. This technique is known as hybrid encryption and involves using asymmetric encryption to securely transmit the symmetric encryption key to the victim’s computer. Once the key is securely transmitted, the attacker can use symmetric encryption to encrypt the victim’s files.
In conclusion, the main difference between asymmetric and symmetric encryption is the use of keys. Symmetric encryption uses the same key to encrypt and decrypt data, while asymmetric encryption uses two keys, a public key and a private key. Symmetric encryption is faster and easier to manage, but requires secure key sharing, while asymmetric encryption is slower and more complex, but provides better security. In ransomware attacks, symmetric encryption is typically used to encrypt the victim’s files, while asymmetric encryption may be used to protect the symmetric encryption key used in the attack.