In order to clarify ideas, we shall start from the formal definition of these three fundamental components of Cybersecurity.
The term cryptography came about during the 1650s with the meaning of “art of writing in secret characters” from Modern Latin.
Encryption, instead, stands for the process used to convert simple readable data known as plain text to unreadable data, known as ciphertext, which can only be converted to plain text if the user knows the encryption key.
Finally, encoding is the process to transform data in such a format that it can be easily used by distinct types of systems.
What is the relation between them?
The above question is the right point around which the comparison can be built.
Cryptography involves techniques for exchanging secure messages even in the presence of adversaries. It is concerned with the construction and analysis of protocols that prevent third parties or the public from reading private messages; various aspects in information security such as data confidentiality, data integrity, authentication, and non-repudiation are central to modern cryptography. Cryptography is an umbrella term for practices and studies of techniques for secure communication in the presence of adversarial behavior.
On the other hand, the Computer Security Resource Center defines encryption as the “cryptographic transformation of data (plaintext) into a form (ciphertext) that conceals the data’s original meaning to prevent it from being known or used.” CSRC definition proceeds to define the reversal process. “If the transformation is reversible (injective), the corresponding reversal process is called decryption, which is a transformation that restores encrypted data to its original state.” We can safely conclude that encryption is one of the components of cryptography.
When talking about encoding we mean sequences of characters such as letters, numbers, and other special characters into a specialized format for easier transmission. The major purposes of developing encoding are data transmission, data storage and data compression/decompression. Also, encoding is part of the vast field of cryptography, but it has a completely different purpose with respect to encryption. The algorithms used to encode the data is publicly available and it can be easily decoded in the readable form. It does not require any key at all, which is instead required to decrypt a ciphertext. The main purpose of encoding is data usability, and not at all data confidentiality. The aim of encoding is to transform the data so that it can be effectively used by a different type of system.
For the sake of clarity, we provide the following comparison-table.
Author: Mattia Forzo