by Dinesh Thakur Category: Advanced Database Tech.

A DBMS can use encryption to protect information in certain situations where the normal security mechanisms of the DBMS are not adequate. For example, an intruder may steal tapes containing some data or tap a communication line. By storing and transmitting data in an encrypted form, the DBMS ensures that such stolen data is not intelligible to the intruder. Thus, encryption is a technique to provide privacy of data.

 Data Encryption

In encryption, the message to be encrypted is known as plaintext. The plaintext is transformed by a function that is parameterized by a key. The output of the encryption process is known as the cipher text. Ciphertext is then transmitted over the network. The process of converting the plaintext to ciphertext is called as Encryption and process of converting the ciphertext to plaintext is called as Decryption. Encryption is performed at the transmitting end and decryption is performed at the receiving end. For encryption process we need the encryption key and for decryption process we need decryption key as shown in figure. Without the knowledge of decryption key intruder cannot break the ciphertext to plaintext. This process is also called as Cryptography.

The basic idea behind encryption is to apply an encryption algorithm, which may' be accessible to the intruder, to the original data and a user-specified or DBA-specified encryption key, 'which is kept secret. The output of the algorithm is the encrypted version of the data. There is also a decryption algorithm, which takes the encrypted data and the decryption key as input and then returns the original data. Without the correct decryption key, the decryption algorithm produces gibberish. Encryption and decryption keys may be same or· different but there must be relation between the both which must me secret.

Techniques used for Encryption

There are following techniques used for encryption process:


• Substitution Ciphers

• Transposition Ciphers


Substitution Ciphers: In a substitution cipher each letter or group of letters is replaced by another letter or group of letters to mask them For example: a is replaced with D, b with E, c with F and z with C. In this way attack becomes DWWDFN. The substitution ciphers are not much secure because intruder can easily guess the substitution characters.


Transposition Ciphers: Substitution ciphers preserve the order of the plaintext symbols but mask them-;-The transposition cipher in contrast reorders the letters but do not mask them. For this process a key is used. For example: iliveinqadian may be coded as divienaniqnli. The transposition ciphers are more secure as compared to substitution ciphers.

Algorithms for Encryption Process

There are commonly used algorithms for encryption process. These are:


• Data Encryption Standard (DES)

• Public Key Encryption


Data Encryption Standard (DES)


It uses both a substitution of characters and a rearrangement of their order on the basis of an encryption key. The main weakness of this approach is that authorized users must be told the encryption key, and the mechanism for communicating this information is vulnerable to clever intruders.


Public Key Encryption


Another approach to encryption, called public-key encryption, has become increasingly popular in recent years. The encryption scheme proposed by Rivest, Shamir, and Adheman, called RSA, is a well-knm.vnexample of public-key encryption. Each authorized user has a public encryption key, known to everyone and a private decryption key (used by the decryption algorithm), chosen by the user and known only to him or her. The encryption and decryption algorithms themselves are assumed to be publicly known.

Consider user called Suneet. Anyone can send Suneet a secret message by encrypting the message using Sunset's publicly known encryption key. Only Suneet can decrypt this secret message because the decryption algorithm required Suneet's decryption key, known only to Suneet. Since users choose their own decryption keys, the weakness 0f DES is avoided.

The main issue for public-key encryption is how encryption and decryption keys are chosen. Technically, public-key encryption algorithms rely on the existence of one-way functions, which are functions whose inverse is computationally very hard to determine.

The RSA algorithm, for example is based on the observation that although checking whether a given number of prime is easy, determining the prime factors of a nonprime number is extremely hard. (Determining the prime factors of a number with over 100 digits can take years of CPU-time on the fastest available computers today.)

We now sketch the intuition behind the RSA algorithm, assuming that the data to be encrypted is an integer 1. To choose an encryption key and a decryption key, our friend Suneet-- create a public key by computing the product of two large prime numbers: PI and P2. The private key consists of the pair (PI, P2) and decryption algorithms cannot be used if the product of PI and P2 is known. So we publish the product PI *P2, but an unauthorized user would need to be able to factor PIP2 to steal data. By choosing PI and P2 to be sufficiently large (over 100 digits), we can make it very difficult (or nearly impossible) for an intruder to factorize it.

                             user u2 communicate with user u1 public key technique

Although this technique is secure, but it is also computationally expensive. A hybrid scheme used for secure communication is to use DES keys exchanged via a public-key encryption scheme and DES encryption is used on the data transmitted subsequently.

Disadvantages of encryption

There are following problems of Encryption:

  • Key management (i.e. keeping keys secret) is a problem. Even in public-key encryption the decryption key must be kept secret.
  • Even in a system that supports encryption, data must often be processed in plaintext form. Thus sensitive data may still be accessible to transaction programs.
  • Encrypting data gives rise to serious technical problems at the level of physical storage organization. For example indexing over data, which is stored in encrypted form, can be very difficult.
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About Dinesh Thakur

Dinesh ThakurDinesh Thakur holds an B.SC (Computer Science), MCSE, MCDBA, CCNA, CCNP, A+, SCJP certifications. Dinesh authors the hugely popular blog. Where he writes how-to guides around Computer fundamental , computer software, Computer programming, and web apps. For any type of query or something that you think is missing, please feel free to Contact us.