Cryptography and its Types in Ethical Hacking

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In this blog, we will learn about Cryptography in Ethical Hacking. If you want to crack any password, you must know about cryptography and its algorithms. So let’s see the basic understanding of cryptography.

Table of Contents


Cryptography plays a crucial role in ethical hacking and information security. It is used to protect data and communications from unauthorized access, ensuring confidentiality, integrity, and authenticity.

Ethical hackers often encounter cryptographic systems during their assessments, and understanding cryptography helps them identify vulnerabilities and strengthen security measures.

The Greek term “Kryptos” is where the word crypto comes from.

Kryptos was a symbol for everything that was hidden, veiled, secret, or mysterious.

The word “graph” comes from the Greek word “graphia” which means “writing”. That’s why “cryptography” is the art of “Secret Writing”.

Cryptography is the science and practice of secure communication in the presence of adversaries. It involves techniques and mathematical algorithms to transform plain, readable data (referred to as plaintext) into a form that is unintelligible and unreadable (referred to as ciphertext).

Cryptography is a vital component of modern information security, ensuring the confidentiality, integrity, and authenticity of data.

It is widely used in various applications, including secure communication, online transactions, data protection, and secure storage systems.

Objectives of Cryptography

The main objectives of Cryptography are as follows:


Cryptography ensures that only authorized individuals can access and understand the information. It prevents unauthorized parties from interpreting the ciphertext and obtaining the original plaintext without the proper decryption key.

The concept of confidentiality refers to the avoidance of disclosing information to unapproved computers or users.

Any confidentiality violation could cause both financial and emotional hardship. There have been cases of businesses going out of business as a result of a rival company’s system breach.

Furthermore, misuse of personal data can lead to system users’ deaths. As a result, information should only be accessible to authorized individuals.


Cryptographic techniques provide mechanisms to verify the integrity of data. This means that any alteration or tampering of the data can be detected, ensuring that the information remains unaltered during transmission or storage.


Cryptography helps establish the authenticity of messages and entities involved in communication. It ensures that the sender of a message is who they claim to be and that the recipient can verify the integrity of the message.


Cryptographic techniques can provide proof that a message was indeed sent by a specific sender, preventing the sender from denying their involvement later. Non-repudiation mechanisms ensure that the sender cannot falsely deny sending a message.

Some Important Key Terms for Cryptography

A) Plain Text: The original message, which may be in the form of a message, text, or object.

B) Cipher Text: Coded data such as a message, text, or object

C) Cipher: An algorithm for transforming plaintext into ciphertext

D) Key: It is a value that is used to encrypt or decrypt any given message.

E) Encipher (Encryption): The process of converting plain text to cipher text.

F) Decipher (Decryption): Process of the derivation of plain text from the cipher text.

G) Cryptanalysis: Study of methods of deciphering ciphertext without knowing the actual key.

H) Cryptology: Domain of Cryptography and Cryptanalysis.

Introduction to Encryption and Decryption Process Flow

Decryption and Encryption are fundamental processes in cryptography that involve transforming data between its original form (plaintext) and an unreadable form (ciphertext) using cryptographic algorithms and keys.


Encryption is the process of converting plaintext into ciphertext. It ensures that the original data is transformed into an unreadable format, making it unintelligible to unauthorized individuals who may intercept or access the data. Encryption requires the use of an encryption algorithm and an encryption key.

Encryption Algorithm: An encryption algorithm is a mathematical procedure that determines how the encryption is performed. Common encryption algorithms include Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), Data Encryption Standard (DES), and Rivest Cipher (RC).

Encryption Key: An encryption key is a secret value used by the encryption algorithm to transform the plaintext into ciphertext. The encryption key determines the uniqueness and strength of the encryption. In symmetric encryption, the same key is used for both encryption and decryption. In asymmetric encryption, a pair of keys is used: a public key for encryption and a private key for decryption.

The process of encryption typically involves the following steps:

  1. Select an appropriate encryption algorithm.
  2. Generate or obtain a secure encryption key.
  3. Apply the encryption algorithm and key to the plaintext to produce ciphertext.
  4. Transmit or store the ciphertext securely.


Decryption is the reverse process of encryption. It involves converting ciphertext back into its original plaintext form using the appropriate decryption algorithm and decryption key. Decryption ensures that only authorized individuals who possess the correct decryption key can retrieve and understand the original data.

Decryption Algorithm: A decryption algorithm is the counterpart to the encryption algorithm and performs the reverse operation. It takes the ciphertext and the decryption key as inputs and transforms the ciphertext back into plaintext.

Decryption Key: The decryption key is the secret value used by the decryption algorithm to reverse the encryption process and obtain the original plaintext. In symmetric encryption, the same key used for encryption is also used for decryption. In asymmetric encryption, the private key is used for decryption.

The process of decryption typically involves the following steps:

  1. Select the appropriate decryption algorithm corresponding to the encryption algorithm used.
  2. Obtain the correct decryption key.
  3. Apply the decryption algorithm and key to the ciphertext to obtain the original plaintext.
  4. Access and interpret the decrypted plaintext.

Encryption and decryption form the foundation of secure communication, data protection, and confidentiality in various applications, including secure messaging, online transactions, secure file storage, and more.


Types of Cryptography

There are two types of Cryptography present in Ethical hacking, which are as follows:

A) Symmetric Cryptography/ Secret Key Cryptography

A symmetric key, also known as a secret key or shared key, is a type of cryptographic key used in symmetric cryptography.

It is a single key that is used both for the encryption and decryption of data. In other words, the same key is employed for both the encoding and decoding processes.

The most popular Symmetric Ciphers are AES and DES.


The working of symmetric key encryption involves three main steps: key generation, encryption, and decryption. Let’s explore each step in detail:

  1. Key Generation:
    • A symmetric encryption algorithm requires a secret key to perform encryption and decryption operations.
    • The key is typically generated using a random number generator or a key derivation function.
    • The length of the key depends on the specific algorithm being used and the desired level of security.
    • Once the key is generated, it needs to be securely shared between the communicating parties or securely stored for future use.
  2. Encryption:
    • The encryption process takes plaintext, which is the original data to be protected, and transforms it into ciphertext using the shared secret key.
    • The symmetric encryption algorithm divides the plaintext into fixed-size blocks and applies a series of mathematical operations to each block.
    • The algorithm uses the shared secret key to perform these operations, thereby scrambling the plaintext into an unintelligible form.
    • The result is the ciphertext, which represents the encrypted version of the original plaintext.
  3. Decryption:
    • The decryption process is the reverse of the encryption process.
    • It takes the ciphertext and the shared secret key as input and applies the inverse mathematical operations to each ciphertext block.
    • By using the same key that was used for encryption, the algorithm reverses the transformation, converting the ciphertext back into the original plaintext.
    • The decrypted plaintext represents the recovered version of the original data.

It’s important to note that both the encryption and decryption processes use the same shared secret key. This means that the key must be kept confidential and known only to the authorized parties involved in the communication.

To ensure the security of symmetric key encryption, several factors should be considered:

  • Key Distribution: The shared secret key should be securely shared between the communicating parties. This can be achieved through secure key exchange protocols, key management systems, or pre-shared keys.
  • Key Storage: The shared secret key must be stored securely to prevent unauthorized access. Proper key storage mechanisms should be implemented to protect the confidentiality of the key.
  • Key Refreshment: Symmetric keys should be periodically changed or refreshed to maintain security. Regularly updating the shared key mitigates the risk of compromise due to prolonged exposure or vulnerabilities.

Symmetric key encryption provides efficient and fast encryption and decryption operations, making it suitable for various applications that require secure data protection.


The challenge with the secret key is moving it over a vast network, such as the Internet, without allowing it to fall into the wrong hands.

Anyone who has access to the secret key can use this method to decrypt the communication. Asymmetric encryption can be used to solve this issue.

B) Asymmetric Cryptography

Asymmetric cryptography, also known as public-key cryptography, is a cryptographic system that uses pairs of mathematically related keys to perform encryption and decryption operations.

It differs from symmetric cryptography, where the same key is used for both encryption and decryption. In asymmetric cryptography, each participant possesses a public key and a private key.

Asymmetric cryptography provides a powerful tool for secure communication, authentication, and digital signatures.

Its unique key pair structure and mathematical relationships enable confidentiality, integrity, authentication, and non-repudiation in various applications, including secure messaging, secure transactions, digital certificates, and secure online communication protocols.


The working of asymmetric key cryptography involves key pair generation, encryption, and decryption. Let’s explore each step in detail:

  1. Key Pair Generation:
    • In asymmetric cryptography, each participant generates a key pair consisting of a public key and a private key.
    • The key pair is mathematically related, with the private key being computationally linked to the public key.
    • The private key is kept secret and known only to the owner, while the public key is freely distributed to other participants.
  2. Encryption:
    • When a sender wants to encrypt a message for a specific recipient, they use the recipient’s public key.
    • The encryption process applies mathematical algorithms to transform the plaintext into ciphertext.
    • The resulting ciphertext can only be decrypted using the corresponding private key, which is possessed only by the recipient.
  3. Decryption:
    • The recipient uses their private key to decrypt the ciphertext and recover the original plaintext.
    • The private key possesses the mathematical relationship with the public key that enables the decryption process.
  4. Digital Signatures:
    • Asymmetric key cryptography allows the creation and verification of digital signatures.
    • To create a digital signature, the sender uses their private key to sign a document or message.
    • The recipient can then verify the signature using the sender’s public key. If the signature is valid, it confirms the authenticity and integrity of the document.
  5. Key Distribution:
    • Asymmetric cryptography provides an efficient solution for key distribution challenges faced in symmetric cryptography.
    • Participants can freely distribute their public keys, as they are not required to remain secret.
    • This allows secure communication by encrypting data using the recipient’s public key, ensuring only the recipient, with the corresponding private key, can decrypt the message.
  6. Security Properties:
    • Asymmetric cryptography offers several important security properties:
      • Confidentiality: The recipient’s private key is required to decrypt the ciphertext, providing confidentiality.
      • Integrity: Digital signatures provide integrity assurance by verifying the authenticity and integrity of messages or documents.
      • Authentication: Public keys can be used to verify the identity of the sender, establishing authentication.
      • Non-repudiation: Digital signatures provide evidence that the sender cannot deny their involvement or the authenticity of the message.
  7. Performance Considerations:
    • Asymmetric key cryptography is computationally more intensive compared to symmetric key cryptography.
    • The algorithms used in asymmetric cryptography are typically slower and require more computational resources.
    • To mitigate performance issues, a common approach is to use asymmetric cryptography for key exchange or digital signatures, and then switch to symmetric cryptography for the actual data encryption, combining the benefits of both approaches.


Cryptography plays a crucial role in ethical hacking and offers several advantages. Here are some key benefits of cryptography in ethical hacking:


Cryptography ensures the confidentiality of sensitive information by encrypting it. When performing ethical hacking, professionals may come across confidential data such as passwords, financial details, or personal information. By leveraging cryptographic algorithms, this data can be encrypted, preventing unauthorized access and maintaining confidentiality.

Data Integrity:

Cryptography helps verify the integrity of data during ethical hacking. By using cryptographic techniques such as hashing or digital signatures, ethical hackers can verify that the data they are analyzing or transmitting has not been tampered with. This ensures that the data remains intact and has not been modified maliciously, which is crucial for maintaining the accuracy and reliability of the findings.


Cryptography enables strong authentication mechanisms, which are vital for ethical hacking. Authentication ensures that users and systems can be verified and trusted. Ethical hackers often encounter scenarios where they need to assess the security of authentication systems. By utilizing cryptographic protocols and mechanisms, they can identify vulnerabilities and potential attack vectors more effectively.

Secure Communication:

Ethical hackers often need to communicate securely with clients or team members during their engagements. Cryptography provides secure communication channels through the use of encryption, ensuring that sensitive information transmitted between parties remains confidential. This enables ethical hackers to discuss findings, share vulnerabilities, and exchange data without the risk of interception or unauthorized access.

Vulnerability Assessment:

Cryptography is a valuable tool for vulnerability assessment during ethical hacking. By examining cryptographic implementations and protocols, ethical hackers can identify weaknesses or vulnerabilities that can be exploited. They can assess the strength of encryption algorithms, key management practices, and other cryptographic components to determine potential attack vectors and recommend improvements.

Malware Analysis:

Cryptography is often used in malware analysis to understand the behavior and capabilities of malicious software. By reverse engineering cryptographic algorithms used by malware, ethical hackers can decipher its communication protocols, command-and-control mechanisms, or encryption techniques. This information is critical in assessing the impact of malware and developing countermeasures.


. Here are some disadvantages to consider when using cryptography in ethical hacking:


Cryptography can be complex, requiring a deep understanding of algorithms, protocols, and key management. Ethical hackers need to possess expertise in cryptography to effectively analyze cryptographic implementations and identify vulnerabilities. The complexity of cryptography can pose challenges, especially for less-experienced ethical hackers who may struggle to grasp the intricacies of cryptographic systems.

False Sense of Security:

Cryptography, when implemented correctly, can provide strong security measures. However, it is crucial to remember that cryptography is just one aspect of overall security. Relying solely on cryptography for protection may create a false sense of security. Ethical hackers should be aware that vulnerabilities can exist in other areas such as system configurations, application vulnerabilities, or social engineering attacks, which may bypass or undermine the cryptographic protections in place.

Implementation Flaws:

Cryptographic systems are vulnerable to implementation flaws, even if the underlying algorithms are robust. Ethical hackers often encounter situations where cryptographic systems are poorly implemented, leading to vulnerabilities. Weak key management practices, flawed random number generation, or incorrect use of cryptographic algorithms can render the entire system susceptible to attacks. Assessing the implementation details becomes crucial to identify such weaknesses.

Performance Impact:

Cryptographic operations can introduce a performance overhead, especially in resource-constrained environments. Encrypting and decrypting data may increase processing time and consume additional computational resources. Ethical hackers should be aware of the potential performance impact of cryptography on systems they are assessing, as it can affect the overall functionality and user experience.

Backdoors and Weak Algorithms:

The use of weak cryptographic algorithms or the existence of undisclosed backdoors can severely undermine the security of systems. Ethical hackers may come across systems that employ outdated or insecure cryptographic algorithms, making them susceptible to attacks. They should pay close attention to the cryptographic choices made during their assessments and recommend the use of strong, well-vetted algorithms.


What is Cryptography?

Cryptography plays a crucial role in ethical hacking and information security. It is used to protect data and communications from unauthorized access, ensuring confidentiality, integrity, and authenticity.
Ethical hackers often encounter cryptographic systems during their assessments, and understanding cryptography helps them identify vulnerabilities and strengthen security measures.
The Greek term “Kryptos” is where the word crypto comes from.
Kryptos was a symbol for everything that was hidden, veiled, secret, or mysterious.
Since the word “graph” comes from the Greek word “graphia” which means “writing”. That’s why Cryptography” is the art of “Secret Writing”.

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