What is end-to-end encryption? How it works?

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You must have seen “end-to-end encryption” written at the start of a WhatsApp conversation. What does this mean? What is encryption? Can WhatsApp read your conversations??

This post by Terminal Stack will answer all these questions!

What Is Encryption:

The term encryption means to transform the cleartext to the cipher text. Now what is this cleartext and ciphertext?

Cleartext is the readable form of the text. Basically it’s the message you want to send and the ciphertext is the final result of the encryption process. It is unreadable text which differs  from the cleartext but is related to the cleartext through some algorithm. Algorithms are the set of processes which we are going to apply in the procedure. Let us see a simple example of encryption:

Suppose the text you want to send is “Hello Terminal Stack”, here this is the cleartext.

Now if we apply the algorithm to shift a single alphabet by two places forward the text becomes “Jgnnq Vgtokpcn Uvcem“ , this unreadable form is the ciphertext.

At the receiver’s end, the opposite of encryption takes place in which cipher text is converted to cleartext. This process is called decryption.

This was a very simple example, Algorithms that are practically used are much more complex and are harder to break. The encryption process requires a key to function and also it requires a key at the receiving point to decrypt the ciphertext.

This encryption of data is very important because if someone actually steals the private(important) data he will not be able to understand it. Only the person who has the key and algorithm to decrypt the text will be able to understand the actual text. This study of encryption and decryption is known as cryptography.

Types of Encryption:

There are two types of encryption processes:

  1. Symmetric encryption
  2. Asymmetric encryption
  • Symmetric Encryption: In this type both the sender and receiver have the same private keys. The key is a character, string or number which activates the algorithm. The encryption and decryption in this method is comparatively fast. However this method of encryption has some drawbacks, the main drawback is that there is no secure way to send the key over the network; the key must be sent through physical contact. 
  • Asymmetric Encryption: This type of encryption needs two keys to execute properly one is public key and another one is private key. As the name suggests the public key is open and is vulnerable to any attack aiming for it. The other one is a private key; both sender and receiver have different private keys. The same problem of distributing the keys over insecure networks is overcome by relating the private key with the public key through complex mathematical relations. 

The message that is encrypted using the public key can only be decrypted using the receiver’s private key and the message that is encrypted by the sender’s private key can only be decrypted using the public key. Thus the same key is not responsible for encryption and decryption. 

Also read: 5 best tech hacks in this digital world

Encryption in WhatsApp: 

WhatsApp uses asymmetric encryption. Every user has their unique public and private key. If you want to text a person you need their phone number, the server searches for the public key which is linked to the receiver’s number. Once the receiver’s public key is found you are able to send the message. The message is encrypted using your private key and the cipher text is sent over the internet to the receiver. This cipher text can only be decrypted by the receiver’s private key, hence nobody not even the WhatsApp servers are able to read the message. So WhatsApp is a great and secure app, never doubt your privacy; your conversations are absolutely safe.

We hope this post helps you understand encryption, its types and how it works in whatsapp.

If you liked this post do let us know in the comment section below! 🙂

References: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/end-to-end-encryption-symmetric-asymmetric-what-you-should-louis-metz-1f/

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Prajwal

    Nice description about end to end encryption I like it!

  2. Prajwal Bundhade

    Very useful information about End to End encryption. 👏
    Good work bro..🙌

    1. Krishna Varma

      Thank you for your appreciation Prajwal. We are glad you liked it 🙂

  3. Deepak Katiyar

    Simply explained for the common man in an equally simple language.
    Good Job.

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