Asymmetric cryptography

Asymmetric cryptography

Public key cryptography, or asymmetric cryptography, is any cryptographic system that uses pairs of keys: public keys which may be disseminated widely, and private keys which are known only to the owner. This accomplishes two functions: authentication, which is when the public key is used to verify that a holder of the paired private key sent the message, and encryption, whereby only the holder of the paired private key can decrypt the message encrypted with the public key. In a public key encryption system, any person can encrypt a message using the public key of the receiver, but such a message can be decrypted only with the receiver's private key. For this to work it must be computationally easy for a user to generate a public and private key-pair to be used for encryption and decryption. The strength of a public key cryptography system relies on the degree of difficulty (computational impracticality) for a properly generated private key to be determined from its corresponding public key. Security then depends only on keeping the private key private, and the public key may be published without compromising security.

It can be done in one below ways, 

  • Public keys are used for encrypting, Private keys are used for de-crypting. 
  • Private keys are used for signing, Public keys are used for verifying. 

Examples of asymmetric key algorithms,


  1. Diffie–Hellman key exchange (D–H) is a specific method of securely exchanging cryptographic keys over a public channel and was one of the first public-key protocols as originally conceptualized by Ralph Merkle and named after Whitfield Diffie and Martin Hellman.D–H is one of the earliest practical examples of public key exchange implemented within the field of cryptography.
  2. The Digital Signature Algorithm (DSA) is a Federal Information Processing Standard for digital signatures. It was proposed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in August 1991 for use in their Digital Signature Standard (DSS) and adopted as FIPS 186 in 1993.Four revisions to the initial specification have been released: FIPS 186-1 in 1996,FIPS 186-2 in 2000, FIPS 186-3 in 2009, and FIPS 186-4 in 2013.
  3. ElGamal encryption system is an asymmetric key encryption algorithm for public-key cryptography which is based on the Diffie–Hellman key exchange. It was described by Taher Elgamal in 1985.ElGamal encryption is used in the free GNU Privacy Guard software, recent versions of PGP, and other cryptosystems. The DSA (Digital Signature Algorithm) is a variant of the ElGamal signature scheme, which should not be confused with ElGamal encryption.
  4. Elliptic curve cryptography (ECC) is an approach to public-key cryptography based on the algebraic structure of elliptic curves over finite fields. ECC requires smaller keys compared to non-ECC cryptography (based on plain Galois fields) to provide equivalent security.Elliptic curves are applicable for encryption, digital signatures, pseudo-random generators and other tasks. They are also used in several integer factorization algorithms that have applications in cryptography, such as Lenstra elliptic curve factorization.
  5. Password-authenticated key agreement method is an interactive method for two or more parties to establish cryptographic keys based on one or more party's knowledge of a password.An important property is that an eavesdropper or man in the middle cannot obtain enough information to be able to brute force guess a password without further interactions with the parties for each (few) guesses. This means that strong security can be obtained using weak passwords.
  6. Paillier cryptosystem, named after and invented by Pascal Paillier in 1999, is a probabilistic asymmetric algorithm for public key cryptography. The problem of computing n-th residue classes is believed to be computationally difficult. The decisional composite residuosity assumption is the intractability hypothesis upon which this cryptosystem is based. The scheme is an additive homomorphic cryptosystem; this means that, given only the public-key and the encryption of {\displaystyle m_{1}} m_{1} and {\displaystyle m_{2}} m_{2}, one can compute the encryption of {\displaystyle m_{1}+m_{2}} m_{1}+m_{2}.
  7. RSA is one of the first practical public-key cryptosystems and is widely used for secure data transmission. In such a cryptosystem, the encryption key is public and differs from the decryption key which is kept secret. In RSA, this asymmetry is based on the practical difficulty of factoring the product of two large prime numbers, the factoring problem. RSA is made of the initial letters of the surnames of Ron Rivest, Adi Shamir, and Leonard Adleman, who first publicly described the algorithm in 1977. Clifford Cocks, an English mathematician working for the UK intelligence agency GCHQ, had developed an equivalent system in 1973, but it was not declassified until 1997.
  8. Cramer–Shoup system is an asymmetric key encryption algorithm, and was the first efficient scheme proven to be secure against adaptive chosen ciphertext attack using standard cryptographic assumptions. Its security is based on the computational intractability (widely assumed, but not proved) of the decisional Diffie–Hellman assumption. Developed by Ronald Cramer and Victor Shoup in 1998, it is an extension of the ElGamal cryptosystem. In contrast to ElGamal, which is extremely malleable, Cramer–Shoup adds other elements to ensure non-malleability even against a resourceful attacker. This non-malleability is achieved through the use of a universal one-way hash function and additional computations, resulting in a ciphertext which is twice as large as in ElGamal.
  9. YAK is a public-key authenticated key agreement protocol.[1] It is considered the simplest among the related protocols, including MQV, HMQV, Station-to-Station protocol, SSL/TLS etc. The authentication is based on public key pairs. As with other protocols, YAK normally requires a Public Key Infrastructure to distribute authentic public keys to the communicating parties. The author suggests that YAK may be unencumbered by patent.

Widely adopted:

  1. NTRUEncrypt public key cryptosystem, also known as the NTRU encryption algorithm, is a lattice-based alternative to RSA and ECC and is based on the shortest vector problem in a lattice (which is not known to be breakable using quantum computers). It relies on the presumed difficulty of factoring certain polynomials in a truncated polynomial ring into a quotient of two polynomials having very small coefficients. Breaking the cryptosystem is strongly related, though not equivalent, to the algorithmic problem of lattice reduction in certain lattices. Careful choice of parameters is necessary to thwart some published attacks.
  2. McEliece cryptosystem is an asymmetric encryption algorithm developed in 1978 by Robert McEliece.It was the first such scheme to use randomization in the encryption process. The algorithm has never gained much acceptance in the cryptographic community, but is a candidate for "post-quantum cryptography", as it is immune to attacks using Shor's algorithm and — more generally — measuring cost states using Fourier sampling.

Notable – yet insecure:

  1. Merkle-Hellman is an asymmetric-key cryptosystem, meaning that two keys are required for communication: a public key and a private key. Furthermore, unlike RSA, it is one-way: the public key is used only for encryption, and the private key is used only for decryption. Thus it is unusable for authentication by cryptographic signing. The Merkle-Hellman system is based on the subset sum problem (a special case of the knapsack problem). The problem is as follows: given a set of numbers A and a number b, find a subset of A which sums to b. In general, this problem is known to be NP-complete. However, if the set of numbers (called the knapsack) is superincreasing, meaning that each element of the set is greater than the sum of all the numbers in the set lesser than it, the problem is "easy" and solvable in polynomial time with a simple greedy algorithm.

Protocols using asymmetric key algorithms:

  1. S/MIME (Secure/Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions) is a standard for public key encryption and signing of MIME data. S/MIME is on an IETF standards track and defined in a number of documents, most importantly RFCs 3369, 3370, 3850 and 3851. It was originally developed by RSA Data Security Inc. and the original specification used the IETF MIME specification with the de facto industry standard PKCS#7 secure message format. Change control to S/MIME has since been vested in the IETF and the specification is now layered on Cryptographic Message Syntax, an IETF specification that is identical in most respects with PKCS #7. S/MIME functionality is built into the majority of modern email software and interoperates between them.
  2. GNU Privacy Guard (GnuPG or GPG) is a free software replacement for Symantec's PGP cryptographic software suite. GnuPG is compliant with RFC 4880, which is the IETF standards track specification of OpenPGP. Modern versions of PGP and Veridis' Filecrypt are interoperable with GnuPG and other OpenPGP-compliant systems. GnuPG is part of the GNU project, and has received major funding from the German government.
  3. Internet Key Exchange (IKE, sometimes IKEv1 or IKEv2, depending on version) is the protocol used to set up a security association (SA) in the IPsec protocol suite. IKE builds upon the Oakley protocol and ISAKMP. IKE uses X.509 certificates for authentication - either pre-shared or distributed using DNS (preferably with DNSSEC) and a Diffie–Hellman key exchange - to set up a shared session secret from which cryptographic keys are derived. In addition, a security policy for every peer which will connect must be manually maintained.
  4. Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) is an encryption program that provides cryptographic privacy and authentication for data communication. PGP is often used for signing, encrypting, and decrypting texts, e-mails, files, directories, and whole disk partitions and to increase the security of e-mail communications. It was created by Phil Zimmermann in 1991.PGP and similar software follow the OpenPGP standard (RFC 4880) for encrypting and decrypting data.
  5. ZRTP (composed of Z and Real-time Transport Protocol) is a cryptographic key-agreement protocol to negotiate the keys for encryption between two end points in a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone telephony call based on the Real-time Transport Protocol. It uses Diffie–Hellman key exchange and the Secure Real-time Transport Protocol (SRTP) for encryption. ZRTP was developed by Phil Zimmermann, with help from Bryce Wilcox-O'Hearn, Colin Plumb, Jon Callas and Alan Johnston and was submitted to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) by Zimmermann, Callas and Johnston on March 5, 2006 and published on April 11, 2011 as RFC 6189.
  6. Transport Layer Security (TLS) and its predecessor, Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), both frequently referred to as "SSL", are cryptographic protocols that provide communications security over a computer network. Several versions of the protocols find widespread use in applications such as web browsing, email, Internet faxing, instant messaging, and voice-over-IP (VoIP). Websites use TLS to secure all communications between their servers and web browsers.
  7. SILC protocol can be divided in three main parts: SILC Key Exchange (SKE) protocol, SILC Authentication protocol and SILC Packet protocol. SILC protocol additionally defines SILC Commands that are used to manage the SILC session. SILC provides channels (groups), nicknames, private messages, and other common features. However, SILC nicknames, in contrast to many other protocols (e.g. IRC), are not unique; a user is able to use any nickname, even if one is already in use. The real identification in the protocol is performed by unique Client ID.[2] The SILC protocol uses this to overcome nickname collision, a problem present in many other protocols. All messages sent in a SILC network are binary, allowing them to contain any type of data, including text, video, audio, and other multimedia data. The SKE protocol is used to establish session key and other security parameters for protecting the SILC Packet protocol. The SKE itself is based on the Diffie-Hellman key exchange algorithm (a form of asymmetric cryptography) and the exchange is protected with digital signatures.
  8. Secure Shell (SSH) is a cryptographic network protocol for operating network services securely over an unsecured network.The best known example application is for remote login to computer systems by users. SSH provides a secure channel over an unsecured network in a client-server architecture, connecting an SSH client application with an SSH server.Common applications include remote command-line login and remote command execution, but any network service can be secured with SSH. The protocol specification distinguishes between two major versions, referred to as SSH-1 and SSH-2.The most visible application of the protocol is for access to shell accounts on Unix-like operating systems, but it sees some limited use on Windows as well. In 2015, Microsoft announced that they would include native support for SSH in a future release.
  9. Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency and a payment system invented by an unidentified programmer, or group of programmers, under the name of Satoshi Nakamoto. Bitcoin was introduced on 31 October 2008 to a cryptography mailing list, and released as open-source software in 2009. There have been various claims and speculation concerning the identity of Nakamoto, none of which are confirmed. The system is peer-to-peer and transactions take place between users directly, without an intermediary. These transactions are verified by network nodes and recorded in a public distributed ledger called the blockchain, which uses bitcoin as its unit of account. Since the system works without a central repository or single administrator, the U.S. Treasury categorizes bitcoin as a decentralized virtual currency. Bitcoin is often called the first cryptocurrency, although prior systems existed and it is more correctly described as the first decentralized digital currency. Bitcoin is the largest of its kind in terms of total market value.
  10. Off-the-Record Messaging (OTR) is a cryptographic protocol that provides encryption for instant messaging conversations. OTR uses a combination of AES symmetric-key algorithm with 128 bits key length, the Diffie–Hellman key exchange with 1536 bits group size, and the SHA-1 hash function. In addition to authentication and encryption, OTR provides forward secrecy and malleable encryption. The primary motivation behind the protocol was providing deniable authentication for the conversation participants while keeping conversations confidential, like a private conversation in real life, or off the record in journalism sourcing. This is in contrast with cryptography tools that produce output which can be later used as a verifiable record of the communication event and the identities of the participants. The initial introductory paper was named "Off-the-Record Communication, or, Why Not To Use PGP".

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