With the growth of powerful computers and consequent brute force attacks, the process of data encryption has been forced to evolve to meet the need for stronger security against unauthorized access. In general, the process encrypts data stored in devices to ensure data cybersecurity.
According to statistics, the revenue projection of the data security market is 5.9 billion US dollars in 2023, in particular, AES encryption. Currently, the most popular and secure encryption system is AES encryption, which is available in three types: 128-bit, 192-bit, and 256-bit.
AES, or Advanced Encryption Standard, has gained such popularity due to (relative) simplicity, efficiency in computing power in fulfilling its main task of encrypting information, openness, reliability, and time-tested, and, of course, standardization and recognition at the official level. Properly secured AES systems encrypt data and are not vulnerable.
Understanding AES Encryption
Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) was created by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) as the U.S. Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS).
AES is the “symmetric” encryption algorithm, adopted as a gold standard and widely used in various areas of national security agencies and in almost all areas of our lives, unthinkable without modern technology.
The AES encryption algorithm uses a substitution-permutation, or SP network, involving byte substitution, shifting rows, mixing columns, and adding a round key. This is key expansion, which is utilized to produce AES ciphertext as opposed to asymmetric encryption. This key expansion process makes it impossible for attackers to crack AES.
AES Encryption as a block cipher
AES Encryption belongs to the family of ciphers known as block ciphers. This is a simple and easy-to-implement encryption concept on various platforms, which boils down to substitutions and permutations of digits in blocks of processed data.
The block cipher works with separate fixed-length data blocks (in the case of AES, it is 128 bits) into which all encrypted information is divided. If the message length is less than the block length, then it is padded to the block size.
To solve the problem, AES involves a series of linked operations consisting of encryption modes, where the result of the initial key in processing a block depends on the result of encryption of the round key in the previous block. However, it is necessary that the sender and receiver both know the initial secret key to maintain data security.
So, Is AES encryption secure? Yes! Because of the symmetric key block cipher.
The Birth of AES-128
The NIST created the AES encryption standard in 1997 and was later used by the National Security Agency (NSA) as data encryption standard. After a plethora of objections, arguments, and investigations, the Rijndael encryption algorithm was finally chosen from several other encryption algorithms and marked as the preferred algorithm for AES in October 2000.
AES-128 was the name of the first version of AES, which later evolved to 192 and 256 bits. The repeated mathematical procedures involving SubBytes, ShiftRows, MixColumns, and AddRoundKey form the foundation of the AES algorithm. These procedures work together to create a sequence of encryption rounds that safeguard the data’s integrity.
Higher levels of security for data protection are provided by AES, which additionally employs encryption keys of various sizes. It was developed to offer businesses a high level of electronic data protection. Systems, businesses, and government institutions requiring data security use the AES encryption standard.
Enhancing Security with AES-192
Adopt the AES-192 encryption method to improve the security of your data. The ideal choice for protecting sensitive information across diverse applications, this key length improves defense against related key attacks while reducing potential computational costs.
By adopting an AES encryption algorithm such as AES-192, you strengthen your defenses against increasing cyber threats, particularly in applications where a midrange solution is sought, such as safeguarding communications, data, and stored information.
How does AES-192 work?
With a 192-bit key length, the AES-192 variant encrypts and decrypts data in blocks of 128-bit AES encryption keys. AES-192 provides more safety than AES-128 since its keys are longer. The AES algorithm can also encrypt (encode) data and decrypt (decode) data using the same key in blocks of 128 bits using cryptographic keys that are 128, 192, and 256 bits long.
AES-192 is widely used in many areas, such as wireless communication, e-commerce, financial transactions, and national security systems, among others. The substitution-permutation network technique, which comprises the replacing and rearrangement of the input data, serves as the foundation for the AES encryption process.
AES-256: The Ultimate Encryption
AES-256 variation encrypts and decrypts data in blocks of 128 bits with a 256-bit. Currently, the government and other sectors that require encryption most frequently use the AES-256 encryption technology.
As for government computer security, data confidentiality is necessary. Therefore, they use AES key length 256 for protecting sensitive government information. AES-256 employs 256-bit keys throughout the course of 14 rounds, with the processing stages of each round of encoding including plaintext into ciphertext by mixing, transposing, and substituting plaintext.
The AES-256 symmetric block cipher utilizes a single key for both encryption and decryption. Using keys of a length of 128, 192, or 256 bits, the AES encryption and AES decryption are the best encryption methods that can be used on data blocks of 128 bits. AES encryption works very effectively to secure data.
For data security, businesses are strongly advised to use AES-256.
Key Lengths in AES: Strength vs. Performance
AES Encryption secures data and guarantees the secrecy of data stored or sent in any system, being one of the most secure encryption protocols at the moment. With increasing key size, there are greater possible key combinations to decode the data. When examining the best encryption protocols, there is a trade-off between performance and strength:
AES-128 is extensively used and provides a good balance between security and performance due to contemporary processors and hardware acceleration techniques. While it is believed to be a secure method, it is less safe than AES-192 or AES-256. AES-128 requires less computational power to encrypt and decrypt data.
Ideally, this is a good choice for situations where latency and power are key concerns.
AES-192 utilizes 192 bits to encrypt and decrypt information. In comparison to AES-128, it provides higher security but at the cost of more computational power to perform well. Besides, it also needs more time for execution.
In general, it is recommended for situations where security is more important than latency and power.
According to experts, AES-256 provides the highest level of protection against brute force attacks out of AES-128, AES-192, and AES-256. However, it requires more computational power to perform operations and takes the longest time to finish execution. Longer key lengths affect performance in terms of throughput and sessions per second.
It is used in situations where security is of utmost importance.
Practical Applications of AES-256
In the real world, the AES-256 encryption key is widely used in an organization’s computing device since it has a higher security level that helps the entities secure their systems against the potential risk of brute force attacks.
- Government, military, healthcare, and financial institutions
- Cloud storage
- Software security
- Virtual Private Networks (VPNs)
- Wi-Fi Networks or wireless networks
- Wireless security systems
- IoT devices
- Password managers, etc
Conclusion: AES in a Changing Cybersecurity Landscape
Advanced Encryption Standard, or AES, has gained importance in the evolving field of cybersecurity and is widely known as the best encryption method. It is regularly used in many everyday situations and has an excellent level of security.
All Internet of Things (IoT) devices, financial institutions, healthcare providers, government agencies, military organizations, cloud storage providers, and e-commerce platforms use the strongest encryption AES-256, which has a 256-bit key length.
Specifically, AES-256 bits provide availability, secrecy, and integrity protection for sensitive data by preventing breaches and unauthorized access. AES remains crucial for data safety even as technology advances in today’s digital world.