Understanding Encoding, Encryption, and Hashing in just 2 minutes

Understanding Encoding, Encryption, and Hashing in just 2 minutes

Hey, let's talk about some important concepts in cybersecurity - encoding, encrypting, and hashing.

First up, encoding is any transformation of a given input. It's like turning something into a different form, but not necessarily making it more secure. For example, you could reverse a string of characters, like "hello" becoming "olleh".

Encoding is used in many areas of computing. For example, it's used in character encoding schemes like ASCII, UTF-8, and Unicode to represent text in binary form. It's also used in data compression algorithms like Base64 to reduce the size of data being transmitted over a network.

Next, encryption is a specific type of encoding that requires a key to obtain the output. The key makes it possible to choose who can reverse the function and get back the original input. When encrypting, you provide both the input value and a key, like a secret code. The result is called the ciphertext. The same key can be used for encryption and decryption, called symmetric key encryption. But if two different keys are used for encryption and decryption, it's called asymmetric key encryption.

Encryption is used to secure data and communications. It's commonly used to protect sensitive information such as passwords, credit card numbers. For example, HTTPS protocol uses encryption to secure data transmission over the internet, and VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) use encryption to secure communications between remote workers and company servers.

Finally, hashing is another type of encoding, but it's one-way. That means from an output of the hashing function, you can't get back the input. Hashing is commonly used to verify data integrity and check if an output corresponds to an input. Hashing uses a fixed-length string of characters to represent the original input, called a hash value. Hashing algorithms can also use a random value added to the input, called a salt, to make it harder for attackers to reverse the function and obtain the input.

Hashing is commonly used to store passwords in a database. When a user creates an account on a website or an application, their password is typically hashed and then stored in the database. This is done for security reasons, as storing passwords in plaintext in a database is not safe. If an attacker gains access to the database, they can see all the passwords and use them to access user accounts.

When a password is hashed, it is transformed into a fixed-length string of characters, which is called a hash value. This hash value is stored in the database instead of the plaintext password. When a user logs in to the website or application, their password is hashed again and compared to the hash value stored in the database. If the two hash values match, the user is authenticated.

In summary, encoding, encryption, and hashing are all ways to transform data, but they serve different purposes. Encoding is for changing the form of the data, encryption is for securing the data, and hashing is for verifying the data. It's important to understand these concepts and use them correctly to ensure the security and integrity of your data.