What is the difference between encoding, encryption, and hashing?

What is the difference between encoding, encryption, and hashing?

  • Encoding, encryption, and hashing are techniques used to convert the format of data.
  • These are common concepts in the security world, and may often be confused with each other.

First, let’s understand each of these techniques to explore how they are different from each other.

Encoding

Encoding is done to transform data into a form that can be read by other machines or used by other processes.

  • Security is not the primary goal of encoding, as it usually uses publicly available algorithms for transforming the data format.
  • Encoded data can be easily transformed back into its original form.
  • The size of audio and video files can be reduced by encoding. Each audio and video file format is associated with a specific coder-decoder (codec) program that is used to code it and then decode for playback.

American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII) is a common encoding scheme for files with text.

Encryption

The process of scrambling data to ensure that unintended recipients are not able to make sense out of it is called encryption.

  • This technique involves a key, which is a set of mathematical values, to turn the data into an encrypted form.
  • The receiver also has the key and uses it to decrypt the data. This process of encryption and decryption is referred to as cryptography.
  • Because this technique provides security benefits such as authentication and confidentiality, encryption is a valuable technique, especially in cases where sensitive data is involved.

There are several encryption types available such as column-level encryption, end-to-end encryption, field-level encryption, and transport-layer encryption, to name a few.

Hashing

Hashing transforms a string of characters into a value of fixed length. This generated value is called hash.

  • When a message is sent, a hash of the message is also sent along with it. At the receiving end, the same hashing algorithm is applied to generate a hash.
  • If both the hashes are identical, then it can be confirmed that the message has not been tampered with.
  • This technique is also used in storing data. For example, passwords are hashed and stored in the database. When the password is entered during the next login, the entered password is hashed and the hash is compared against what is stored in the database.
  • If both the values are identical, then access is granted.
  • Blockchain and indexing have widespread uses for the hashing technique.

Understanding each of these techniques can help you decide which one should be employed in different situations. A combination of the techniques can also be used to amplify security measures.