Encryption standards can vary from period to period, but three in particular have stood the test of time: Data Encryption Standard (DES), Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) and the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES).
DES was approved by the U.S. government in 1975 and is commonly known as “Triple DES” because it requires the use of three keys to encrypt a single piece of data. DES is fast and easy to use, which is why it continues to be popular even today, 43 years later. Unfortunately, because it’s been around for so long, cybercriminals have become quite familiar with it as well.
PGP was developed by Phil Zimmermann and Paul Leyland in 1991 and was designed to supersede DES. PGP is a publicly available, free software program that operates in “open” and “secret” modes. It was designed with security and privacy in mind and is often described as “end-to-end” security because everything from the client to the server must be able to encrypt and decrypt the data. For a long time, PGP was the go-to standard for encrypted communication because of its ease of use and high degree of security.
AES was first proposed in the 1990s and continues to be approved for use by the U.S. government today. Like the other two standards mentioned above, AES is also “end-to-end” security, but it departs from the other two in that it doesn’t rely on a client to encrypt data for a server. AES is the state-of-the-art in symmetric encryption, which makes it the ultimate standard for anyone looking to keep their communications secure.
Why Should You Use aES in Your VPN?
AES offers some distinct advantages over the other encryption standards mentioned above. For one thing, due to its size, it’s much more efficient to use AES in a VPN than it is to use Triple DES in a similar scenario. Second, because it’s been around for so long, cybercrime experts have had the chance to analyze it and break it down in their own unique ways. This is extremely helpful when trying to thwart a cyberattack, since it means that even if your communications are encrypted, your adversary won’t necessarily know what you’re doing.
The biggest advantage of AES, however, is that it’s truly designed for use in virtual private networks (VPNs). Remember those crazy days when you couldn’t separate your online and real-world identities? You were constantly at risk of having your personal data stolen because it was all mixed together? Well, with AES, that’s all in the past. With a virtual private network tunnel, all of your personal information is completely isolated from the internet, so it doesn’t matter what kind of intrusion a hacker manages to pull off, your data will remain secure.
How Do You Know When to Use Which Encryption Standard?
It’s important to note that any VPN, even one using the most advanced encryption algorithms, can be compromised. The biggest factor in determining which standard to use is how strong your needs are for security. If you’re just doing some daily shopping online or using the VPN to browse the web, you probably don’t need AES encryption since DES is plenty secure enough to meet your needs. If, on the other hand, you’re doing international business or working with financial institutions, you might want to consider using AES since it’s the most secure option available.
Which Type of Encryption Should You Use?
There are two distinct types of encryption that you need to know about: Symmetric and asymmetric. Symmetric encryption is when both the sender and the receiver of the data encrypt it using the same method. This makes it simpler for anyone intercepting the communication to decrypt it, because they’ll need to “decrypt-and-re-encrypt” the information several times before they can use it. Asymmetric encryption is where each individual piece of data is encrypted using a different method, meaning that each person sending the data has a different key to encrypt it with. This makes asymmetric encryption very difficult to crack. Just keep in mind that asymmetric encryption is much more time-consuming and resource-intensive to use than its symmetric counterpart. Finally, it’s important to note that all three encryption standards mentioned above are used in both symmetric and asymmetric versions, which means that you don’t necessarily need to use the same method to encrypt data regardless of whether you’re sending it over a public or private network.
For the best overall security and performance, you should use the AES asymmetric algorithm for all your VPN needs. To learn more, check out our best VPNs for 2020 guide, which includes a comprehensive analysis of all the major VPN providers and the advantages and disadvantages of each one.