Symmetric Key vs. Asymmetric Key: What’s the difference?

You probably know that public and private keys are an essential part of the encryption system, and you’ve maybe even heard of public-key cryptography. You may also have heard about elliptic curve cryptography (ECC).

But you may not know that ECC is based on asymmetric key algorithms, which differ from the cryptographic systems that use symmetric key algorithms. In this article, we’ll look at symmetric and asymmetric keys to see how they differ and how they are used in the world of information security. Let’s get started!

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Main Difference

A symmetric key is a type of cryptography where the same key is used to encrypt and decrypt a message. An asymmetric key is a type of cryptography where two different keys are used to encrypt and decrypt a message. The main difference between these two types of keys is that symmetric keys are easier to generate and use, while asymmetric keys are more secure.

Symmetric keys are typically used in smaller networks, such as within an organization, because they are less complex and easier to manage. Asymmetric keys are used in more extensive networks, such as the internet, because they offer more security. One downside of asymmetric keys is that they can be slower than symmetric keys.

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What are Symmetric Keys?

A symmetric key is a type of cryptography where a single key is used to encrypt and decrypt data. This means that the sender and receiver of the message must have access to the same key. Symmetric keys are typically faster and more efficient than asymmetric ones but are less secure. For this reason, most modern encryption uses asymmetric keys.

For example, if I wanted to send you an encrypted email using symmetric encryption, I would have to find out what your public key is so that I can encrypt it with your private key. And since only you can decrypt messages encrypted with your private key, we would need to exchange our public keys for this system to work.

But since all messages sent from me would be encrypted with your public key and then decrypted by you with your private key, anyone could intercept my message on its way to you. If someone blocked my statement, they could read it because it was not encrypted with their public key (hence, the content was not obscured). Syncing these keys isn’t always easy, as doing so requires trust between both parties.

What are Asymmetric Keys?

Public key cryptography is a technique where two parties use their unique keys to encrypt data. These keys are public because anyone can access them; however, only the private key owner can decrypt the message. To send encrypted messages, both parties must have a copy of each other’s public key.

Key Differences

There are two main types of cryptography: symmetric-key cryptography and asymmetric-key cryptography. The critical difference between symmetric and asymmetric cryptography is that symmetric cryptography uses the same key for encryption and decryption, while asymmetric cryptography uses different keys for encryption and decryption.

  1. Symmetric keys are used to encrypt data. A symmetric key is used to decrypt encrypted data.
  2. Asymmetric keys are used to sign data. An asymmetric key is used to verify the signature of a message.
  3. Symmetric keys use the same key to both encrypt and decrypt data.
  4. Asymmetric keys use different keys to encrypt and decrypt data.
  5. Symmetric keys have a fixed length.
  6. Asymmetric keys have a variable length.
  7. Symmetric keys can only be decrypted using the original key.
  8. Asymmetric keys can be decrypted using any key.
  9. Symmetric keys cannot be used to create signatures.
  10.  Asymmetric keys cannot be used for encryption.
  11. Symmetric keys require less processing power than asymmetric keys.
  12. Asymmetric keys require more processing power than symmetric keys.
  13. Symmetric keys do not need to be stored.
  14. Asymmetric keys must be stored.

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How does Public Key Cryptography Work?

To understand how public key cryptography works, we first need to look at symmetric cryptography. Symmetric cryptography is a method of encryption where the same key is used for encryption and decryption. To encrypt a message using symmetric cryptography, a user would take the plaintext (the unencrypted text) and apply some algorithm to create ciphertext. Once the ciphertext is created, the user then uses the same algorithm for the ciphertext to get back the original plaintext.

To decrypt a message, the user takes the ciphertext and applies the same algorithm to get back the plaintext. However, since the same key was used for encryption and decoding, the result should always match what was initially sent.

Symmetric cryptography is excellent for sending small amounts of information over long distances, but it is not secure enough for more significant pieces of sensitive information. One way to make symmetric cryptography more secure is to use a different encryption key than the one used for decryption. This is known as asymmetric cryptography.

In asymmetric cryptography, two keys are generated: a public key and a secret key. The public key is published to everyone, while the secret key is kept private. When a user wants to send someone a message, they generate a random number and encrypt it using the recipient’s public key. Only the person who holds the corresponding secret key can decrypt the message and read its contents.

Why Use Asymmetric Cryptography?

Asymmetric cryptography provides several advantages over symmetric cryptography. First, verifying whether a sender owns a particular public key makes it much more manageable. If the public key is published, anyone can check if it corresponds to any secret keys. Second, it prevents man-in-the-middle attacks, which occur when someone intercepts a communication between two users and alters the content. Third, it is much faster than symmetric cryptography. Since asymmetric cryptography requires generating a new keypair for every message, it is much slower than symmetric cryptography.

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How do you know what kind of key you need?

There are two main types of cryptography: symmetric-key cryptography and asymmetric-key cryptography. The main difference is that symmetric-key cryptography uses the same key for encryption and decryption. In contrast, asymmetric-key cryptography uses a different key for encryption and decryption.

Which one should you use?

If you want to keep your data safe, you’ll want to use an asymmetric key. Unlike a symmetric key, which uses the same key for encryption and decryption, an asymmetric one uses two different keys. If one key is compromised, your data will still be safe.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the main difference between symmetric and asymmetric key cryptography is that symmetric key cryptography uses the same key for encryption and decryption. In contrast, asymmetric key cryptography uses different keys for encryption and decryption. Symmetric key algorithms are faster than asymmetric vital algorithms but less secure because the same key is used for encryption and decryption. Asymmetric key algorithms are more secure because they use different keys for encryption and decryption, but they are slower than symmetric key algorithms.

About Alisha John

A Nature Lover and Freelance Writer! I write about daily practices for optimizing both happiness and health.

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