End-to-end encryption technology: what you need to know about it

End-to-end encryption technology: what you need to know about it

Every day, Internet users are increasingly thinking about ensuring their own security and privacy when working online. The fact is that in the modern digital world, anonymity — This is no longer a luxury or empty words. This is already an urgent need. Along with the development of various Internet technologies, attackers are also improving their skills. They can quite easily intercept your data and gain access to personal accounts. And no one can reliably tell you for what purposes the information they receive will be used. But in any case, there is little charm here. It is one thing if you are bombarded with annoying advertisements, but it is completely different if your computer gets malicious software, if your bank details or passport data end up in the hands of attackers.

In principle, the modern market already offers several fairly effective solutions to ensure a high level of confidentiality and security on the Internet. And we will now dwell on one of these methods, which has already been repeatedly tested in practice, in more detail. We are talking about end-to-end encryption. Let's take a closer look at what it is and how it works. Let us highlight its key advantages over other types of encryption. We'll tell you what end-to-end encryption protects against and where its use will not give the desired results. Here are the key advantages and disadvantages. We will also suggest another solution that can rightfully be called universal in the process of ensuring high levels of anonymity and security on the Internet.

We also suggest studying modern network security technologies.

What is end-to-end encryption

End-to-End Encryption (E2EE) is a technology that provides secure communications and prevents third parties from accessing data that is transferred between devices or from one system to another. In this case, data is encrypted directly on the device or in the sender’s system. But their decryption is carried out at the destination. It turns out that if such a message is intercepted during transmission, no one will be able to read it or forge it, including specialized applications, an Internet provider, an attacker or any other third party.

This technology has already found wide application in practice. Thus, it is widely used by many modern instant messengers, including Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. It is noteworthy that this technology does not allow sites to provide information about their users even to the authorities, thereby ensuring truly secure and anonymous communication. Yes, on the part of law enforcement agencies, the insistent request to provide access to personal user accounts was explained by the fact that they want to prevent communication between attackers. As a result, a number of disagreements arose in the leadership circles of these messengers regarding the need to implement E2EE, but folding encryption was nevertheless implemented here.

A little about how end-to-end encryption works

When encrypting and decrypting user messages, special cryptographic keys are used. They are stored directly at the endpoints, that is, directly at the sender and at the recipient. This solution is implemented using so-called asymmetric encryption, that is, public key encryption. But, despite the name, there will actually be 2 keys here:

  1. Open. You can provide it to absolutely any user without any fears. Using this key, the encryption itself is carried out on the sender’s device.
  2. Closed. It should always be in a safe place and hidden from any outsiders. This is the key that will decrypt the message and allow the end user to read it.

It turns out that data that is encrypted using a public key is read with a private key. And nothing else is given here.

Almost any Internet connection involves the use of some kind of intermediary between the sender and recipients of the request. That is, a separate node is used, which transmits through itself all data flows both forward and backward. Often this is a server of an Internet provider, telecommunications company, or some other organization that is directly involved in data transfer. So, end-to-end encryption technology assumes that even this very link, which will pass all the data through itself, will not be able to decrypt and read it.

This technology is completely legal and legal. Moreover, the public key is always written in the certificate, which is digitally signed by a licensed certification authority. It all works quite simply:

  • Public key issued by a certification authority — known and widespread. It turns out that the certificate that he will sign can rightfully be called authentic.
  • Each certificate binds this same public key and a specific user — only one.
  • If it turns out that another public key is associated with the same name, the system will sign this certificate will not be available.

To understand how this works in practice, let's take a very simple example. Imagine that you are sending messages to someone you know. This friend sends you a public key received from a certificate authority, which will encrypt your messages on your own device. The encrypted message will then pass through the intermediate server without any changes: Simple pass-through. Even with a strong desire, no one will be able to read it on this server. After this, the message reaches the recipient's device. To decrypt it, the recipient uses their secret private key. After this, the message opens in readable form.

Now you understand exactly how end-to-end encryption works. Now let’s get acquainted with how E2EE differs from other types of encryption that are used in practice today.

Key differences between end-to-end encryption and other types

End-to-end encryption — this is a unique technology. Its main difference from any other encryption methods is that only the sender and recipient can read the transmitted message.

Along with asymmetric encryption (remember that this is what end-to-end encryption is based on), which involves public key encryption, we can also distinguish symmetric encryption, which uses only one key – closed. This also ensures that the transmitted messages are always encrypted, but it turns out that the same private key will be used twice. For the most part, this is some kind of password, a set of randomly generated numbers, a kind of code. It is sent to the recipient so that he can decrypt the content sent to him.

The code itself is often quite complex. For an intermediary server, it will look like a chaotic set of characters that does not carry any value. But still, in a number of cases, the intermediary can obtain this key and subsequently decrypt the intercepted message with its help. What happens if an attacker takes the place of the intermediary server? Most likely, the information you transmitted will be completely in his hands in unencrypted form. Yes, to tell the truth, symmetric encryption also works and makes it much more difficult for attackers. They need to not only intercept the message itself, but also the code that allows it to be decrypted. This significantly reduces their chances of success, but still does not reduce them to zero.

If you visually demonstrate the operation of symmetric and asymmetric site encryption, then schematically it will look like this:

  1. Symmetric encryption. It looks like this: plain text — encrypting it with a private key — sending encrypted text and passing it through an intermediary server — decryption of a message on the recipient's device using a private key — clear text, ready to read.
  2. Asymmetric encryption. It looks like this: clear text — its encryption with a public key — transmission of encrypted text through an intermediary server — decryption on the user device with a private key — clear text, ready to read.

Let us repeat once again that end-to-end encryption works using asymmetric technology.

Another encryption option that is used in practice today — This is encryption in transit, that is, “in the state of transmission.” In this case, it is assumed that the sender encrypts his message, which is subsequently specially decrypted at some intermediate point. Often this is some kind of third-party server belonging to the same messenger. Here it is encrypted again using a new code and only then sent to the recipient. It turns out that in this case 2 separate keys are already used, but during transmission it remains unreadable.

But still, it is impossible to call such a solution as encryption in transit end-to-end encryption, since it was already decrypted directly during the transfer process. In this case, interception directly along the route is excluded. But this technology has one very weak and vulnerable spot — This is directly the intermediate node on which the message will be decrypted and re-encrypted. By and large, such intermediate points are reliably protected by the system. But you cannot reliably know what level of skill an attacker will have if he decides to take over your data. A striking example of “in-transit” encryption is there will be a TLS protocol, that is, Transport Layer Security.

Now you know how end-to-end encryption works, as well as its key differences from other popular methods of hiding transmitted information today: symmetric encryption and encryption in transit. Now let's move on to where this technique has found wide application in practice, its advantages and disadvantages.

Where and how is end-to-end encryption used?

End-to-end encryption — one of the most effective ways to ensure data security. Today it is widely used in the financial sector, communication systems, and healthcare organizations. It has also received widespread use in various areas of business — where special attention is paid to confidentiality and information protection.

Vivid examples of such a solution include various electronic sales points: POS, point-of-sale, POS terminal. Their high efficiency has been proven where it is necessary to ensure the security of bank card data. Also, end-to-end encryption can rightfully be called the security standard in the customer payment card industry today. That is, where one of the mandatory requirements — ensure storage of the card number, magnetic stripe parameters, and all additional codes directly on client devices.

Using end-to-end encryption, you can protect yourself and your business from the following types of threats:

  1. An attacker gains access to the direct content of your messages. We have already said that asymmetric encryption provides access to the context of the letter exclusively to the sender and recipient, because only they will have the decryption keys. Yes, such a message will be seen by the intermediary server through which it will pass. But it is not possible to open it and examine the contents. It turns out that even if an attacker manages to intercept your letter, he simply will not be able to read it and, accordingly, gain access to the data he needs.
  2. Making changes to the content. It is impossible to change a message that has been encrypted using asymmetric encryption, at least predictably. At the same time, the system will see all attempts to make such adjustments, which will provide them with an additional level of protection.
  3. That is, there are only 2 threats from which you can protect yourself using end-to-end encryption, but they are very significant. Let us separately highlight a number of dangers from which end-to-end encryption does not protect.

What end-to-end encryption will not protect against

The exchange process itself using public and private keys between the recipient and the sender in this case is considered invulnerable. Special algorithms are used here and the current computing power of the hardware is taken into account. But still, experts found several potential dangers in the technology:

  • Use of metadata. We have already repeatedly mentioned that E2EE provides protection for the information contained within the message, but at the same time, the information about the message itself, including the date, exact time of sending, recipient and sender, remains open. This is the data that can tell a hacker the most vulnerable places to intercept information, including before it is encrypted and after decryption.
  • Middleman vulnerability. Despite the fact that many Internet providers today claim that they use end-to-end encryption in their work, in practice it turns out that their technology is more close to in-transit encryption, which we already discussed above. This means that the transmitted information can be stored on an intermediate server for a short period of time. That is, the attacker has the opportunity to gain access to it.
  • Endpoint compromise. If the sender or recipient is compromised, then the hacker has the opportunity to see the contents of the letter before it goes through the encryption stage or after decryption. The whole point is that a compromised endpoint allows attackers to obtain their access keys. Next, the MiTM attack is launched, or as it is also called “man in the middle”, Man-in-the-Middle.

We note right away that the likelihood of the vulnerabilities described above is very, very low, but it is still not possible to completely eliminate them. This is the case when you can say: “Forewarned means — armed."

Advantages and disadvantages of end-to-end encryption

Like any other technology, end-to-end encryption has its advantages and disadvantages. Knowing the first and second, you will be able to determine the potential of this solution and its effectiveness in using it in your work processes.

Main advantages

One of the most significant advantages of end-to-end encryption — This is to ensure a high level of confidentiality of transmitted information. This is ensured by a set of the following parameters:

  1. Good security during data transmission. This is ensured by asymmetric encryption, in which the public key is certified and is freely available, as well as the private key, which is stored directly on the end device. It turns out that the encryption and decryption of the message is carried out exclusively by the sender and the recipient, that is, no outsider can read it.
  2. High level of protection against unauthorized access. The keys that will be used for decryption do not need to be transferred between participants. They will automatically appear on the recipient's device. If it turns out that during the transmission of a message that was encrypted with a public key, it will be forged or replaced, then the recipient will still not be able to decrypt it.
  3. Compliance with legal regulations. The fact is that many manufacturing industries and banking structures operate on the basis of certain laws and regulatory requirements, which, among other things, apply to the level of data security. And here end-to-end encryption will provide significant help. It will make the transmitted information completely unreadable.

Key disadvantages

Despite the fact that end-to-end encryption ensures the security of digital data transmission at a fairly high level, it cannot guarantee 100% confidentiality. And the main difficulties here are as follows:

  1. Problems with defining endpoints. In practice today, there are often cases where a number of end-to-end encryption implementations provide for the decryption and re-encryption of data that was originally encrypted on the user device using a public key at one time or another during transmission. That is why a clear separation of all endpoints in the established connection must be provided, which will ensure more stable and secure operation.
  2. Visible metadata. We have already talked about this above, noting that attackers can determine not only the date and time a message was sent, but also the end users themselves. That is, by analyzing the metadata, an attacker will be able to identify a number of vulnerabilities and gain access to truly important information.
  3. Lots of privacy. This aspect causes a number of complaints and, let’s say, concerns from law enforcement agencies. They argue that attackers can use such encryption to evade police and conduct their criminal activities. Even with a strong desire, Internet providers will not be able to provide information about users who use end-to-end encryption, even at the request of the police.
  4. Inability to work with compromised endpoints. We have already mentioned that if the endpoint is compromised, the user will not be able to access the information being sent.
  5. Dubious prospects. Let us note once again that today this encryption technology can rightfully be called one of the most progressive and effective. But today many experts agree that in the foreseeable future the cryptography used in this technology will become obsolete. They suggest that quantum computing will make it possible to decrypt data.

To summarize

It is impossible to say unequivocally whether end-to-end encryption is worth using in practice. Here it is necessary, first of all, to proceed from the specifics of your business, as well as the requirements that are placed on it. The only thing we can say with high certainty is that today this technology has found very wide application in many industries. It was first used in messaging software, including Jabber, Apple iMessage, Signal Protocol (formerly TextSecure Protocol). It is also used in POS terminals, ensuring compliance with PCI DSS requirements.

Yes, today there are a number of disagreements related to the demands of law enforcement agencies to provide access to users’ personal data, but no fundamental changes are expected here yet. Therefore, the only thing we can recommend today is to personally evaluate the advantages and features of end-to-end encryption in order to understand whether this technology will be convenient for your work and whether it will meet your expectations.

Well, one more point that we would like to draw your attention to is mobile proxies, as one of the most effective and reliable ways to ensure high levels of privacy and security on the Internet. In this case, we are talking about using an intermediary server that will pass the entire data flow through itself, but will be able to replace the IP-address and the geolocation of your device to your own technical parameters. This ensures:

  • connection confidentiality;
  • protection from any unauthorized access, including hacker attacks;
  • gaining access to sites that are blocked in your region, including at the legislative level;
  • the ability to work in multi-threaded mode with accounts on social networks;
  • use of programs that automate actions on the network, etc.

That is, with mobile proxies you will ensure truly stable and functional work on the network without any risks or restrictions. And one of the best solutions today in this market segment offers the MobileProxy.Space service. Follow the link https://mobileproxy.space/en/user.html?buyproxy to learn more about the functionality of mobile proxies, current tariffs, available geolocations and other features that will allow you to both get acquainted with the product itself and make sure that they are perfect for ensuring the security and confidentiality of your online work. If difficulties arise in the work process, you will need additional advice and assistance from specialists; technical support is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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