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Hashing vs. Encryption: How to Protect Data With Cryptography

7 Mins Read

PUREVPNOnline SecurityHashing vs. Encryption: How to Protect Data With Cryptography

About 56% of organizations use cryptography to protect their data, as presented by the Statista 2020 worldwide survey. 

Most people only know that encryption is a part of cryptography, but that’s not true. Cryptography has many methods that involve data protection. One of them is Hashing.

Now, what is hashing? Is it the same as encryption? 

In this blog, we’ll navigate which cryptographic method, hashing vs. encryption, is best for data security, their differences, and how they ensure the integrity and confidentiality of your digital assets.

hashing vs encryption

Hashing: The One-Way Transformation

The one-way function that takes your data and transforms it into fixed-length characters is known as hashing. 

What is Hashing?

Suppose you open any application and they ask you to add a password for security. 

That password is stored as a hash function. 

When you try to enter that password again to proceed, it is verified with the hash function stored through a process called hashing. 

This ensures that the saved password is the same as entered and allows you to access the application.

How Does Hashing Work?

The easiest way to learn how hashing works is to consider a function that shrinks your sensitive data into a set number of characters by using algorithms like SHA-256 and MD5 and storing it as a hash function for later verification processes.

Hashing is mainly used for data integrity and security verifications. You can understand more about its uses in the section below.

Where is Hashing used?

You have been using hashing in multiple scenarios but must be aware of it. Here are some practical examples of hashing.

Commonly used in Data Integrity Verification

To check the validity of data, hashing is used during transmission. It compares received information to the expected hash to detect alterations and errors.

To Store Passwords

You have been accessing websites like emails with your passwords without knowing how these websites verify the passwords. 

It’s simple: softwares confirms your password each time you log in by converting it into a hash function and comparing it with the stored hash function for the authentication of users. 

Digital Signatures and Certificates

You use digital signatures or certificates to ensure your digital document is authentic and validated. Have you ever wondered how digital signatures are verified? 

It is by hashing your digital content and encrypting the hash value with a private key. You can verify the signatures by hashing the received content and decrypting it with the sender’s public key. 

Moreover, you can use hashing for data fingerprinting. It means to create unique identifiers that are hashes for sensitive files.

Encryption: The Art of Securing Data

For most of us, hashing is a relatively new concept, while we use encryption almost everywhere to secure data.

What is Encryption?

If you want to protect your data and keep it confidential, then you need encryption. Encryption is a process that transforms your data into cipher text and provides you with a private and public key. 

Private keys allow you to stop unauthorized access to your data and keep it confidential, while public keys can decrypt it. You can read it or let other truncated users get access to it.

Where is encryption used?

You can use encryption where you require data confidentiality or a secure way to transmit sensitive information online.

Data Confidentiality with Encryption

To secure your sensitive data like personal information, financial records, or confidential secrets of your organization, encryption is what you need. Only authorized users or employees can access your data while staying secure from unwanted actors.

Provides a Secure Way for Sensitive Communications (SSL/TLS)

If you want secure web browsing and communication, try using protocols like SSL and TLS that encrypt your data during transmission and secure it from intrusions, eavesdropping, interferences, and tampering.

Protecting Data at Rest or Disk Encryption

Usually, we store our data in physical devices like hard drives or cloud storage servers. So, what about their security? Well, disk encryption protects your sensitive files or databases in these storages from unauthorized use.

A Mandatory by Compliances (HIPAA, GDPR)

Organizations must encrypt their data according to legal laws like HIPAA and GDPR to prevent data breaches on customer information.

What are the two fundamentals of encryption? 

You can easily encrypt your information by using either symmetric or asymmetric encryption.

Symmetric Encryption

If you use a single key for both data encryption and decryption of data, then it is symmetric encryption. AES, 3-DES, and RC4 are some examples of symmetric encryption. This method is widely used for encryption as it is fast and simple for securing data efficiently.

Asymmetric Encryption

You use an asymmetric method when private and public keys are involved in your encryption process. 

This means you’ll need a pair of keys to encrypt (Private key) and decrypt (Public key) data. 

It is mainly used in digital signatures. Asymmetric encryption uses RSA, DH, and ECC in the process.

Hashing vs. Encryption

Let’s discuss the critical differences between hashing and encryption in different categories.

Reversibility: Hashing vs. Encryption

Reversibility means you can transform your data and regain it in its original form when needed. 

In the case of Hashing, your data cannot be reversed, which means it is a one-way process. Once you hashed your data, it’ll be stored that way.

However, encryption is different as it can be reversible. You can transform your data into coded text and receive a key to access it while decrypting it using another key to its original form.  

Purpose: Data Integrity vs. Data Confidentiality

The primary purpose of using hashing is to verify the data. It is a process in which even a single change can transform the hash function. 

Meanwhile, encryption provides confidentiality to your data by enabling unauthorized access and only allowing trustworthy users to access your information.

Verification vs. Secrecy

The primary goal of Hashing is to provide data integrity, like file checksums, digital signatures, and password storage. It confirms if data is altered or not. 

On the other side, encryption provides data security by keeping it confidential, like during information transmission, communication, and storage, enabling only authorized users to avail of it.

Keyless vs. Key-dependent

Hashing does not use keys but hash functions for data integrity. However, encryption uses keys to secure data confidentiality. This means you don’t need to manage the key while using hashing but only hash values.

Is Hashing more secure than encryption?

Hashing and encryption serve specific functions inside the verse of data security. Hashing is more often used for information integrity and verification. It converts data into a set string of characters (hash) in a one-way procedure, making it impossible to convert the hash into its original form. 

On the other hand, encryption is designed for information confidentiality. It transforms records into ciphertext with the usage of keys, making it unreadable without the appropriate decryption key. 

Neither hashing nor encryption is inherently more secure than the other; their safety depends on their intended use. Hashing is superior for data integrity, whereas encryption excels at confidentiality. Both are crucial components of a data protection strategy.

Why is Hashing Irreversible?

Hashing is irreversible because of its one-way mathematical feature. When data is hashed, it undergoes a transformation that generates a set of strings of characters, commonly called a hash value or digest. 

The irreversibility of hashing is a crucial aspect of its use in diverse security packages, including password storage and information integrity verification. 

It guarantees that even if a person obtains the hash, they can’t easily determine the authentic data, improving the protection of sensitive information. 

What causes collisions in Hashing?

In the context of hashing, collisions occur when two users input the same hash function or digest. Hash features are designed to take data and generate a fixed string of characters that looks random and unique for each precise input. 

However, due to the finite variety of hash values and the infinite possibilities of inputs, collisions in hashing are inevitable.

Collisions can be difficult in security programs, including password storage, where attackers may also try to find two inputs that produce the same hash function, permitting them to access your data. 

To mitigate collisions, modern hash technologies provide techniques like salting (random information for input) and the use of strong, collision-resistant algorithms like SHA-256. The aim is to limit the chance of collisions and ensure the security and integrity of hashed information.

Can attackers access encrypted data?

When you visit a website, which includes an online banking portal or an e-trade site, your records are encrypted during transmission to protect them from interception by malicious actors.

For instance, while you enter your financial information to make a purchase, the data is encrypted for your device before being sent to the internet server. This encryption transforms the sensitive records into ciphertext, making it unreadable to anyone accessing it without the right decryption key. 

The server on the alternative end possesses the key to decrypt and process your price securely. 

This ensures that even though someone intercepts the data throughout transmission, they cannot decipher or misuse it, illustrating the crucial function of encryption in safeguarding your sensitive data online from cyber-criminals.

Does VPN use Hashing and Encryption?

Yes, VPNs like PureVPN use hashing and encryption for authentication and confidentiality of data. When you log in, your password is hashed for verification. Hash functions also generate checksums for data packets, confirming their integrity during transmission. 

Key protocols can also be used for stable connections. For instance, the Internet Key Exchange (IKE) protocol uses hashing to secure the trade of encryption keys.

However, VPNs have multiple protection layers. They mostly use encryption (like AES) to hold your information confidentiality, tunneling protocols to create stable channels, and hashing as complementary protection. The combination guarantees a stable, private communication exchange.

Hashing vs. Encryption: Which One Will You Use?

This blog lets you understand the different uses of hashing and encryption. 

Hashing ensures data integrity by creating unique fingerprints, while encryption safeguards data confidentiality through reversible transformation. 

Both methods are important for digital security, and their careful application is crucial for protecting data in this increasingly complex and threatening digital world.

author

Anas Hasan

date

September 22, 2023

time

9 months ago

Anas Hassan is a tech geek and cybersecurity enthusiast. He has a vast experience in the field of digital transformation industry. When Anas isn’t blogging, he watches the football games.

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