Data encryption is a security solution designed to achieve data privacy and compliance, which are the utmost requirements of every business environment. It can help enterprises, educational institutions and government departments retain control over the data they use and store but also protect sensitive and confidential information and deliver a secure method of communications.

A major benefit of encryption is that even if an unauthorised user manages to access a sensitive data file, they will be unable to read the information contained within. There are many different types of data encryption available for users, and which option they require will depend on their business needs.

In this blog, we’ll compare two options, transport-layer encryption and end-to-end-encryption. Read on to learn more about these solutions and to understand the significant differences between them.

What is transport-layer encryption?

Sometimes referred to as Transport Layer Security or TLS for short, transport layer encryption is an encryption protocol employed to deliver communication security over a computer network. Online sites employ transport layer encryption to secure each communication that occurs between their servers and commonly used web browsers. Well-considered configuration of transport layer encryption also provides extra privacy properties, such as ensuring that the disclosure of encryption keys in the future cannot be employed to decrypt any encrypted communications that were recorded previously.

How does transport-layer encryption work?

When a connection between a client and server is secured using transport-layer encryption, it has three defining attributes.

It utilises the same cryptographic keys for both encrypting and decrypting the data. Additionally, the identity of communicating parties involved can be authenticated employing public-key cryptography. Finally, messages transmitted using transport layer encryption will also include an integrity check that uses a message authentication code, effectively preventing undetected alteration or loss of data during communications.

What is end-to-end encryption?

End-to-end encryption is another method of secure communication that is designed to prevent third parties from being able to access data while it is being transferred from one device or end system to another. It can also be used to secure data files not only in transfer, but when they are at rest or being stored on servers or in the cloud.

In end-to-end encryption, the data is first encrypted on a sender’s device or system, and only its intended recipient is given the ability to decrypt it. During transit to its desired destination, the data cannot be tampered with or read by an application service provider, internet service provider, threat operator, incorrect recipient or any other service or individual.

Understanding how end-to-end encryption works

In end-to-end encryption, the cryptographic keys which are employed to encrypt and then decrypt messages are effectively stored on endpoints. This type of approach utilises public key encryption.

Asymmetric, or public key encryption, involves a public key that is designed to be shared with other individuals along with a private key. Once it is shared, other users can employ the public key for encrypting a message and sending it to the public key’s owner. However, the message or data file can only be decrypted by utilising the public key’s corresponding private key, which is sometimes called the decryption key or a decryptor.

During communications online, there is nearly always some type of intermediary that hands off messages between any two parties who are involved in a specific exchange. This intermediary may be a server that belongs to an Internet Service Provider, a telecommunications firm, or various other organisations. Fortunately, the public key infrastructure used by end-to-end encryption ensures that intermediaries can never eavesdrop on any messages that are transmitted.

The technique employed for ensuring that a public key is the authentic key that was created by the recipient is to efficiently embed the public key within a certificate that is digitally signed by a recognised certificate authority. As the certificate authority’s public key is distributed widely and known, its legitimacy can be depended on; any certificate that is signed by the public key can therefore be presumed to be authentic. As the certificate associates the public key with the recipient’s name, the certificate authority would not presumably sign a certificate that associates a different public key with this same name.

Understanding the difference between transport-layer encryption and end-to-end encryption

While Transport-layer encryption only delivers encryption between service providers and individual users, end-to-end encryption encrypts communication transmissions directly between users.

For instance, with end-to-end encryption, if you send a plaintext message it will get encrypted at your end and only gets decrypted after it reaches the intended recipient’s computer. However, in transport-layer encryption, a plaintext message is encrypted at the sender’s end and then decrypted when it reaches the server. At this point, the message only gets encrypted depending on whether the intended recipient is also employing transport-layer security, making it a less secure solution.

If you require cutting-edge end-to-end encryption for your company, contact us here at Galaxkey to get started.