Kevin Henry - Understanding Cryptography Part 2

Those algorithms are still the main form of encryption used today. They are used, for example, for hard drive encryption, TLS and IPSec and wireless communications.  

Asymmetric Algorithms

In the mid-1970s, we saw the development of a new form of encryption algorithm – the use of asymmetric or public-key encryption. 


This started with the work of Diffie-Hellman and continued with algorithms such as RSA and ECC (Elliptic Curve Cryptography). Asymmetric algorithms opened up many new possibilities for us – Authenticity, integrity, non-repudiation and access control – in addition to confidentiality which was the main benefit of symmetric algorithms. 

What are Asymmetric Algorithms?

Asymmetric algorithms are based on the use of a key pair – a set of mathematically related keys that only work as a pair.

These are known as the private key and the related public key. They are based on a one-way function – a process that is easy to go in one direction but computationally infeasible to execute in the inverse direction.

For example, it is simple for the holder of a private key to calculate the public key – but it is not possible for the holder of the public key to determine what the private key is.

2 simple rules

So that leads us to the simple rule – Private keys MUST be kept private – not shared with anyone – or else this whole process is compromised. But the public key does not need to be protected and can be shared with the whole world. Perhaps on a business card, website, email or key ring, 

The other rule we must remember is that the keys ONLY work as a pair – if an operation (function) is done using one half of the key pair – the ONLY key that is used to complete the operation is the other half of the same key pair – the corresponding another half of the key pair.

 If we remember these two rules, then the operation of Asymmetric Algorithms is simple and logical. From this, we can realize the many benefits that asymmetric algorithms can provide. 

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