The Difference Between Symmetric vs. Asymmetric Encryption

Luke Fitzpatrick

You may have heard about encryption and ways to make your personal information more secure, but do you know the difference between symmetric vs. asymmetric encryption? How will this knowledge help you?

Suppose hackers get access to your confidential data. In that case, they might be able to steal your password or personal information and use it for malicious purposes—understanding how these two types of cryptography work can help you safeguard your private data against unwanted intruders.

Get an in-depth look at the main differences between symmetric vs. asymmetric encryption so that you're ready to protect your data with whichever option is right for you.

What is asymmetric encryption?

Asymmetric encryption is a type of cryptography that implements two distinct keys. This means that one key is used to encrypt information and another to decrypt it. The encryption key is made public, but the decryption key is kept private. Asymmetric encryption can be used to send secure messages, exchange information, and store confidential data.

Secure Communication: You can use this type of encryption to securely communicate with people with a public key so that only they can read your message. Users can do this by getting a public encryption key and then sending a letter to the person's public key address. Symmetric encryption is only one-way. It means you can encrypt a message with a key but can't decrypt it.

How does asymmetric encryption work?

Asymmetric encryption works with a pair of public and private keys. The public key encrypts the data, making it unreadable to everyone except the person with the private key. The person with the data uses their private key to decrypt the information, making it readable again.

These keys are generated randomly, and the public key is distributed to everyone who may need to encrypt data for the private key owner. The owner should keep their confidential key secret, and anyone who needs to send the encrypted owner data can use the public key. The owner can then use their private key to decrypt the data.

Asymmetric encryption in digital certificates

To use asymmetric encryption, there is a way to discover public keys. One common technique in a client-server communication model is using digital certificates. A certificate is a collection of data that identifies a user and a server. It contains information such as the name of the organization, the organization that issued the certificate, the email address and country of the user, and the user's public key.

When a server and a client need to communicate securely and encrypted, they send a query over the network to the other party, who responds with a copy of the certificate. The certificate contains the public key of the other party. A certificate can also be used to identify the holder uniquely.

SSL/TLS uses both asymmetric and symmetric encryption, quickly looking at digitally signed SSL certificates like DV, OV, EV, cheap Essential SSL Wildcard, Multi-Domain SAN, or Wildcard SSL certificate issued by trusted certificate authorities (CAs).

You can protect your Main Domain and an unlimited number of Sub-Domains with the Comodo Positive SSL Wildcard certificate. It can encrypt your Main Domain and a total number of Sub-Domains with 128/256-bit encryption strength.

What is symmetric encryption?

Symmetric Encryption is the most basic and oldest type of cryptography, utilizing a single key to encrypt and decrypt data. The main advantage of this system is that both parties can use the same key to encrypt and decrypt data.

The problem with this type of encryption is that if someone gets access to the key, they can access the data. This type of encryption is often used to encrypt data on your computer and store it in an encrypted file.

You can also encrypt data stored on a cloud server, so only you can decrypt it. Because symmetric encryption is only one-way, it's often used in combination with asymmetric encryption to send secure messages and exchange information.

How does symmetric encryption work?

Symmetric encryption utilizes the use of the same key for both encryption and decryption. The person who owns the data must keep the key secret and separate it from the data. The key can be saved on a separate computer, written on paper, stored in a safe place, or transferred to a computer in an encrypted way.

While symmetric encryption is one-way, it's often used in combination with asymmetric encryption to send secure messages.

Differences between symmetric and asymmetric encryption (symmetric vs. asymmetric encryption)

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Conclusion

Asymmetric and symmetric encryption are two critical types of cryptography used in data protection. They use different keys for encryption and decryption, but asymmetric encryption uses longer keys. Asymmetric encryption is used for secure communication, and symmetric encryption is used for data encryption.

Keep in mind that the public key for asymmetric encryption is distributed to everyone, but the owner keeps the private key for symmetric encryption.

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Academic Speaker | Freelance Journalist | I have contributed to a variety of publications such as Forbes, Tech In Asia, and The Next Web. I cover a variety of topics ranging from fintech, big data, AI, blockchain, to lifestyle and breaking news stories.

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