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Hashing vs Encryption: What is The Technical Difference?

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Hashing vs Encryption

Understanding the Fundamentals of Hashing and Encryption

Today we are going to talk about the terms we frequently hear when we talk about cybersecurity. Information security and cryptography domains use the terms such as hashing vs encryption, and hashing and encryption.

Both are used interchangeably in many instances. However, there’s quite a big difference, and we are here to clear all your doubts with this handy guide. With this article, we’ll provide a balanced introduction to encryption and hashing. So, let’s get started.

What is Hashing?

Hashing is a data sealing method that produces random mathematical outputs that are uniform and one-way. The process of hashing converts information from a string into a unique integer of fixed length to represent the original data.

The result is called a message digest or a hash. Hash functions can be applied to any data point if necessary to produce a hash of fixed value regardless of the length of the incoming data. Here are some key features of Hashing:

  • It is impossible to recover the original data after it has been encoded using a hashing algorithm.
  • A fixed hash value can be calculated from a single unique data point.
  • Hash functions are easier to implement, but reversing them is far more difficult.

A few examples of hashing algorithms include MD5, SHA1, and Whirlpool. In the end, the hash table will provide a list where all key/value pairs are stored and can be quickly retrieved using the index.

Characteristics of Hashing

  • Every hash value or result must be unique.
  • The security of a hash function is essential. A drastically different hash value should be generated from the input file, even if only one character is changed.
  • It cannot be reversed, meaning that a hash value cannot be used to reconstruct the original file.
  • The rate at which hashes are generated is also critical. The time required for a hash function to generate a hash value should be short.

See Also: DNS over TLS vs. DNS over HTTPS

What is Encryption?

Encryption is the process of transforming a message from its plaintext form into an unreadable form called ciphertext. The encryption key makes it simple to convert the ciphertext produced by the encryption back to plaintext. Moreover, an encryption algorithm and a corresponding encryption key are required to create ciphertext.

There are two major categories of encryption: symmetric and asymmetric. This differentiation is based on the types of keys both use. Let’s learn more about each

  • Symmetric encryption: It employs the use of a single secret key for both encrypting and decrypting messages.
  • Asymmetric encryption: Unlike symmetric encryption, it relies on a pair of keys—a public key used for encryption and a private key used for decryption. While the public key could be shared with anyone, the private key must be safeguarded.

RSA (Rivest Sharia Adleman), AES (Advanced Encryption Standard), and Blowfish are all examples of encryption algorithms.

Difference Between Hashing vs Encryption: Core Algorithms

Hashing and encryption differ in various instances, such as security strength, speed, purpose, and reversibility. However, the real difference lies in their core algorithms which are built to serve different needs.

Core Algorithms of Hashing

There are many algorithms in hashing. However, we have listed only a couple of primary algorithms to give you a glance at the concept.

1. SHA-0, SHA-1, and SHA-2: Since SHA-0 and SHA-1 have become obsolete, SHA-2 has become the standard in SSL/TLS cipher suites. For very sensitive data, it is recommended to use a hashing algorithm with a minimum of SHA-256.

2. WHIRLPOOL: WHIRLPOOL is a popular hash function recommended by NESSIE and adopted by ISO and IEC. Designed after the Square block cipher, WHIRLPOOL is a part of the block cipher functions. This hash algorithm returns the 512-bit hash message digest and is based on the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES).

3. RIPEMD: RIPE Message Digest is another hash algorithm that includes RIPEMD, RIPEMD-128, and others. Among others, RIPEMD-160 is a commonly used function represented with 40-digit hexadecimal numbers.

Core Algorithms of Encryption

Similar to hashing, encryption makes use of a plethora of algorithms. Here’s a list of a few of the most fundamental algorithms commonly used.

1. Advanced Encryption Standard: Often abbreviated as AES, it’s a symmetric block cipher widely used due to its efficiency. Since the few real-world successful attacks against AES have used side-channel attacks, the algorithm is widely accepted as secure.

2. Rivest-Shamir-Adleman: In RSA, a message can be encrypted using either the public or private key and decrypted with the corresponding key.

Detailed Comparison: Hashing vs. Encryption

Key DifferencesHashingEncryption
DefinitionHashing is a cryptographic process that encodes a given text or data into a cipher value of fixed length that is uniform, one-way, and consistent.Encryption is a bidirectional process where data is transformed into ciphertext, which can be deciphered with the use of an encryption key, also known as the private key.
ObjectiveHashing serves as an indexing and retrieval mechanism for data.Encryption is a method of changing data to conceal it from prying eyes.
ReversibilityIt cannot be reversedIt can be reversed
Security & SpeedIt provides a higher level of safety & speed than encryption.Comparatively less secure than hashing.
Maximum LimitInformation that has been hashed is typically short and uniform in length. It is not proportional to the length of the data being stored.There is no set limit on the size of the encrypted data. It swells as more and more data is added.
Examples of use casesYou can use it to send and receive passwords, files, and search queries.Transferring confidential corporate information

Conclusion of Hashing vs Encryption

And that’s a wrap. In summary, hashing and encryption are two components of data security. Encryption is when information is transformed into ciphertext and then deciphered using a key. Hashing, on the other hand, is a process that generates a one-of-a-kind identifier from the given data.

Both technologies are most commonly used by digital security certificate issuers to encrypt and hash the user data collected. SSL certificates issued by the Certificate Authority or purchased from trusted distributors use hashing and encryption algorithms. This helps them secure the user data with proper security standards. That said, see you till the next!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is hybrid encryption?

Symmetric and asymmetric encryption are combined in this method. It uses the best features of both encryption methods while avoiding their flaws.

What are three hashing types?

Numerous alternative hash algorithms can be used to check a file’s integrity, such as MD5, SHA-2, and CRC32. However, the most common ones are MD5, SHA-1, and CRC32.

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