Symmetric Encryption Algorithms, DES, DESX, Triple DES, 3DES, RC2, RC5, RC4, AES, IDEA, Blowfish, CAST, Block Cipher, Streaming Cipher

Data Encryption Standard (DES): An encryption algorithm that encrypts data with a 56-bit, randomly generated symmetric key. DES is not a secure encryption algorithm and it was cracked many times. Data Encryption Standard (DES) was developed by IBM and the U.S. Government together. DES is a block encryption algorithm.

Data Encryption Standard XORed (DESX): DESX is a stronger variation of the DES encryption algorithm. In DESX, the input plaintext is bitwise XORed with 64 bits of additional key material before encryption with DES and the output is also bitwise XORed with another 64 bits of key material.

Triple DES (3DES): Triple DES was developed from DES, uses a 64-bit key consisting of 56 effective key bits and 8 parity bits. In 3DES, DES encryption is applied three times to the plaintext. The plaintext is encrypted with key A, decrypted with key B, and encrypted again with key C. 3DES is a block encryption algorithm.

RC2 and RC5: Ronald Rivest (RSA Labs), developed these algorithms. They are block encryption algorithms with variable block and key sizes. It is difficult to break if the attacker does not know the original sizes when attempting to decrypt captured data.

RC4: A variable key-size stream cipher with byte-oriented operations. The algorithm is based on the use of a random permutation and is commonly used for the encryption of traffic to and from secure Web sites using the SSL protocol.

Advanced Encryption Standard (AES): Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) is a newer and stronger encryption standard, which uses the Rijndael (pronounced Rhine-doll) algorithm. This algorithm was developed by Joan Daemen and Vincent Rijmen of Belgium. AES will eventually displace DESX and 3DES. AES is capable to use 128-bit, 192-bit, and 256-bit keys.

International Data Encryption Algorithm (IDEA): IDEA encryption algorithm is the European counterpart to the DES encryption algorithm. IDEA is a block cipher, designed by Dr. X. Lai and Professor J. Massey. It operates on a 64-bit plaintext block and uses a 128-bit key. IDEA uses a total of eight rounds in which it XOR’s, adds and multiplies four sub-blocks with each other, as well as six 16-bit sub-blocks of key material.

Blowfish: Blowfish is a symmetric block cipher, designed by Bruce Schneier. Blowfish has a 64-bit block size and a variable key length from 32 up to 448 bits. Bruce Schneier later created Twofish, which performs a similar function on 128-bit blocks.

CAST: CAST is an algorithm developed by Carlisle Adams and Stafford Tavares. It’s used in some products offered by Microsoft and IBM. CAST uses a 40-bit to 128-bit key, and it’s very fast and efficient.


Block Cipher: A block cipher divides data into chunks, pads the last chunk if necessary, and then encrypts each chunk in its turn.

Streaming Cipher. A streaming cipher uses a series of random numbers seeded with a cipher key to encrypt a stream of bits.

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