What is End-to-end encryption & how It works

End-to-end encryption (E2E) is a method of secure communication used for securing encrypted data while it is moving from the source to the destination.

End-to-end encryption is the act of applying encryption to messages on one device such that only the device to which it is sent can decrypt it. The message travels all the way from the sender to the recipient in encrypted form.

It is that the data is encrypted on one end and decrypted on the other end so only the sender and receiver can read it.

Nobody in between, be they an Internet service provider, application service provider, or hacker, can read it or tamper with it if you are using End-to-end encryption.

When end-to-end encrypted, your messages, photos, videos, voice messages, documents, status updates, and calls are secured from falling into the wrong hands.

How E2E encryption Works

End-to-end encryption

In End-to-end encryption, the data is encrypted on the sender’s system or device and only the recipient is able to decrypt it. In this encryption, the user initiates the encryption from a source device.

The cryptographic keys used to encrypt and decrypt the messages are stored exclusively on the endpoints, a trick made possible through the use of public-key encryption.

Although the key exchange in this scenario is considered unbreakable using known algorithms and currently obtainable computing power, there are at least two potential weaknesses that exist outside of mathematics. 

This also provides greater flexibility to the user in deciding which data to encrypt. E2EE was created as a means of communication that keeps eavesdroppers out of a conversation.

Even if the data is somehow intercepted on the way from one “end” to another “end”, it will make no sense to the eavesdropper (usually referred to as “man-in-the-middle” or MITM) because it is encrypted.

The security behind end-to-end encryption is enabled by the creation of a public-private key pair. This process, also known as asymmetric cryptography, employs separate cryptographic keys for securing and decrypting the message.

Public keys are widely disseminated and are used to lock or encrypt a message. Private keys are only known by the owner and are used to unlock or decrypt the message.

In end-to-end encryption, the system creates public and private cryptographic keys for each person who joins.

Advantages of End-to-end encryption

There are several advantages of End-to-end encryption (E2E) over the standard encryption:

  • A separate key is not required for the decryption of the packet data in the hop computer on the network.
  • It keeps your data private. If you use Gmail, Google can know every intimate detail you put in your emails, and it can save your emails even if you delete them. E2EE gives you control over who reads your messages.
  • The availability of choosing specific configurations helps in higher modularization of the functionality.
  • The end-to-end encryption process consumes fewer resources and time and the file size is generally small.
  • Encrypting data with the help of selective configurations can help in achieving higher modularization of the End-to-end encryption (E2EE) process.

How E2E encryption different from other forms of encryption?

A more common form of encryption, known as transport layer encryption, relies on a third party, like a tech company, to encrypt messages as they move across the web.

With this type of encryption, law enforcement and intelligence agencies can get access to encrypted messages by presenting technology companies with a warrant or national security letter. The sender and recipient would not have to know about it.

Here’s an example of a phrase of text that’s been encrypted:

Plain text: Hello how are You.
Encrypted text: eXP3jH+7giCt1gIg0zHm3j3DPI1xuFRvbhmaKJx/uQQ=

End-to-end encryption ensures that no one can eavesdrop on the contents of a message while it is in transit. It forces spies or snoops to go directly to the sender or recipient to read the content of the encrypted message.

Or they must hack directly into the sender’s or recipient’s device, something that can be harder to do “at scale” and makes mass surveillance much more difficult.

Can end-to-end encryption be hacked?

Security practitioners often point out that security is a chain that is only as strong as the weakest link. Bad guys will attack the weakest parts of your system because they are the parts most likely to be easily broken.

Given that data is most vulnerable when stored on a server, hackers’ techniques are focused on gaining access to servers.

End-to-end encryption however does protect stored data. In fact, it secures and protects data throughout its journey. As such, end-to-end encryption is the safest option for data security available.

What end-to-end encryption doesn’t protect against

The use of end-to-end encryption lets you hide the content of your message, that you sent a message to a certain person (or received one from them) will be apparent.

The server can’t read the messages, but it is definitely aware that you exchanged messages on a certain day and at a certain time. In some cases, merely communicating with particular people may draw unwanted attention.

If someone gains access to the device you use to communicate, they will be able to read all of your messages, as well as write and send messages on your behalf.

Therefore, protecting end-to-end encryption requires the protection of devices and application access even if only with a PIN code so that if the device is lost or stolen, your correspondence, along with the ability to impersonate you, does not fall into the wrong hands.

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