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Symmetric vs Asymmetric Encryption

  • Vrinda Mathur
  • Jun 18, 2022
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Information security has become a massive problem, particularly with contemporary communication networks, creating gaps that may be exploited to disastrous effect. This article discusses two prominent encryption algorithms in Symmetric and Asymmetric Encryption that may be used to increase communication security. 


In general, the easiest way to begin this topic is to begin with the fundamentals. Thus, we look at algorithm definitions and fundamental cryptographic ideas before diving into the meat of the topic, which is a comparison of the two ways.


In this post, we will look at the differences between symmetric encryption and asymmetric encryption. It is critical to understand both words and their distinctions.


Firstly, we have given a basic overview of encryption before delving into symmetric and asymmetric encryption.



What is Encryption


Encryption implies that the sender changes original information into an incomprehensible message and sends it across the network. It aids in the security of data that we send, receive, and keep. Text messages kept on our cell phones, fitness watch records, and financial details supplied by your internet account are all examples of data.


It is the process of converting conventional text, such as a text or email, into an unreadable format known as "cipher text." When the receiver accesses the message, the ciphertext is transformed back to its original form, a process known as decryption. It aids in the protection of digital information stored on or disseminated across a network such as the internet on computer systems.


Encryption will remain a critical security component in everything from video conversations to e-commerce and social networking. Basically, anything that may be shared or saved will be encrypted. 


Organizations and individual users alike would benefit from staying up to date on encryption standards to guarantee that their personal and professional data is not misused or compromised.


Also Read | Encryption vs Decryption



What is Symmetric Encryption and Asymmetric Encryption?


Symmetric Encryption


Symmetric encryption is a type of encryption in which the communication is encrypted and decrypted using the same key. This is in contrast to asymmetric or public-key encryption, which utilizes one key to encrypt a message and another key to decode it.


Symmetric encryption is a type of computerized cryptography that conceals the contents of an electronic message by using a specific encryption key. Its data conversion employs a mathematical technique and a private key, which may result in the inability to decrypt a communication for someone who has the necessary equipment. 


Because the mathematical technique is reversed when decrypting the message and the same private key is used, symmetric encryption is a two-way algorithm.


Private-key encryption and secure-key encryption are other terms for symmetric encryption.


This is the simplest basic type of encryption, using only one private key to cipher and decipher data. Symmetrical encryption is a well-known and ancient method. It employs a private key, which can be a number, a word, or a string of random characters. 


It is blended with plain text in a message to change the content in some way. Both the sender and the recipient must be aware of the private key used to encrypt and decrypt all communications.


Blowfish Symmetric Encryption Examples:- 


  • AES (Advanced Encryption Standard)



  • RC5 (Rivest Cipher 5) RC6 (Rivest Cipher 6) (Rivest Cipher 6)


Since the same key is used to encrypt and decrypt the data, it is referred to as symmetric encryption. In symmetric encryption, a single key is used to encrypt plain text into ciphertext and to decode that ciphertext back into plain text.


Secret key encryption is another name for symmetric encryption. Because the algorithm behind symmetric encryption is quicker and less complicated, it is the recommended method for transmitting data in bulk.


Asymmetric Encryption


In an encrypted communication, there are two parties: the sender, who encrypts the material, and the recipient, who decrypts it. Asymmetric encryption, as the name indicates, is unique on each side; the sender and recipient utilize separate keys. 


Asymmetric encryption, also known as public key encryption, employs a public key-private key pairing, which means that data encrypted with the private key can only be decrypted with the public key, and vice versa.


TLS (or SSL), the protocol that enables HTTPS, is based on asymmetric encryption. A client will receive the public key of a website from that website's TLS certificate (or SSL certificate) and use it to establish secure communication. The private key is kept private by the website.


Asymmetric Encryption handles these issues effectively with a pair of keys: a public key and a private key. While the data at the sender's end is encrypted using the receiver's public key, the data sent is decrypted by the receiver using his private key. Though the public key is made available to everyone, the private key required to decode the data is kept by the owner.


Asymmetric encryption allows for the safe exchange of information without the need to disclose private keys. This encryption also provides non-repudiation, authentication by digital signatures, and integrity.


This approach also addresses the flaw of symmetric encryption (the requirement to share the secret key used for encryption/decryption) by exchanging the key alone in an asymmetric fashion through public key/private key while still transferring high volume data in symmetric mode.


The disadvantage of this encryption is that it takes longer than symmetric encryption. Asymmetric encryption is slower than secret-key encryption because the latter uses a single shared key to encrypt and decode the message, but public-key encryption uses two separate keys that are linked by a complicated mathematical procedure. As a result, with public-key encryption, encryption and decryption take longer.


A communication encrypted with a public key can be decrypted using a private key, but a message encrypted with a private key can be decrypted using the public key. Asymmetric encryption is commonly used in everyday communication channels, particularly on the internet.


Also Read | Strongest Data Encryption Algorithms in Cryptography



Symmetric vs Asymmetric Encryption


Few of the major differences seen could be, When communicating, symmetric encryption employs a single key that must be shared among the persons who need to receive the message, whereas asymmetric encryption uses a pair of public and private keys to encrypt and decode communications.


Asymmetric encryption is a relatively recent technology compared to symmetric encryption. Asymmetric encryption was developed to address the inherent problem of the requirement to share the key in the symmetric encryption paradigm, by eliminating the necessity to exchange the key through the use of a pair of public-private keys.


Asymmetric encryption takes significantly longer than symmetric encryption. Let's take a closer look at the differences between Symmetric and Asymmetric Encryption in the table below :

        Key Difference 

Symmetric Encryption 

Asymmetric Encryption 

Keys employed

It encrypts and decrypts the communication using a single shared key (secret key).

It employs two distinct keys for encryption and decryption.


In symmetric encryption, the ciphertext may be the same or lower in size than the plain text.

In asymmetric encryption, the ciphertext may be the same or bigger in size than the plain text.

When to Apply

When we need to send vast amounts of information and data, we employ symmetric key encryption.

When we need to transport relatively little quantities of data, we employ asymmetric key encryption.

Resource Utilization

In the case of symmetric key encryption, resource utilization is significantly lower.

In the case of asymmetric key encryption, resource use is significantly greater.


It is effective since this method is advised for vast volumes of material.

Since this approach is only used for brief messages, it is inefficient.


As symmetric encryption employs a single key for encryption and decryption, it is quicker.

Asymmetric encryption is slower than symmetric encryption because it employs two separate keys that are linked through a difficult mathematical procedure.


Symmetric encryption is mostly used to transfer large amounts of data.

It is mostly used for minor transactions.

It is used to create a secure communication channel before sending data.


A single key for encryption and decryption may be compromised

Two keys are created 

independently for encryption and decryption, eliminating the need to share a key.


3DES, AES, DES, and RC4 are the algorithms used in symmetric encryption.

RSA, DSA, Diffie-Hellman, ECC, Gamal, and EI are all cryptographic algorithms.


Also Read | Cryptographic Key Management




In cryptography, two forms of encryption are used: asymmetric and symmetric encryptions. In symmetric encryption, there is just one key that is used for both encryption and decryption. 


The key must be shared by all parties that intend to encrypt and decode data. Asymmetric encryption, on the other hand, employs two distinct keys that are mathematically connected to one another. Private keys and public keys are the two types of keys.


 A certificate is typically paired with a public key, which contains information about the public key owner. The certificate comprises information such as the user's identity, the name of the company, the algorithms used, and so on. 


Despite the fact that symmetric and asymmetric encryption appear to be identical, symmetric encryption is quicker than asymmetric encryption; consequently, asymmetric encryption is slower in terms of performance.


When it comes to encryption, the most recent techniques may not always be the greatest match. Always choose the encryption algorithm that is appropriate for the job at hand. 


Indeed, as cryptography evolves, new algorithms are being created to keep up with eavesdroppers and safeguard information to improve secrecy. In the next few years, hackers will undoubtedly make life difficult for professionals, so expect more from the cryptography community!


We've almost finished discussing the key differences between symmetric and asymmetric encryption. Questions like "what is the difference between symmetric and asymmetric encryption" and "symmetric key versus asymmetric key" should be answered by now. 


Though they are vastly different in terms of mathematical constructions, they have both found use in a variety of contexts. For example, symmetric encryption is used to safeguard file content or in disk encryption, but asymmetric encryption is utilized with digital signatures.


Aside from SSL, a mixture of both of these approaches is utilized in a variety of different situations. End-to-end encryption is utilized by messaging apps such as Signal and WhatsApp, where asymmetric encryption is used to initiate the encrypted communication channel and the remainder of the discussion proceeds using symmetric encryption. 

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