What’s The Difference Between Hashing And Encryption?

February 3, 2023

Encryption and hashing are processes used to keep sensitive data secure. But talking about cybersecurity often raises questions. For example, what are the differences between hashing and encryption? What strategies does ShareRing use to keep information safe? And why?

We’ll explain what you need to know.

There are similarities between the hashing and encryption processes, but hashing is the most secure option for handling important data like passwords. 

When you upload your identity documents to your ShareRing Vault, you can relax knowing it’s hashed onto the ShareLedger blockchain, making it unreadable by anyone but you.

What is encryption? 

Encryption is a method of scrambling sensitive data to make it unreadable. A key is used to convert a plaintext message (unencrypted) to ciphertext (encrypted). The key is created by a collection of algorithms that scramble and unscramble the data; every key is random and unique. 

Only someone who knows the key can read the message after encryption, by turning the ciphertext back into plaintext. 

There are two main types of encryption systems: symmetric encryption and asymmetric encryption.   

  • Symmetric encryption uses one key to encrypt and decrypt data.        
  • Asymmetric encryption, also known as public-key encryption, is a relatively newer method that uses two mathematically connected keys instead of one. A ‘public’ key encrypts the data and is shared among users. A ‘private’ key decrypts the data and is not shared.

One of the most important aspects of encryption is that encrypting the same file more than once will potentially create different outputs. (When a piece of data is hashed, it always produces the same output). Parties sharing encrypted data can also be authenticated via public-key encryption.

What is hashing? 

A hash is a cryptography process that, like encryption, is used to scramble data and make it unreadable. 

However, hashing converts the original data into an unreadable string of bytes with a fixed length (typically 64 digits). The output created by a hash function is called the ‘hash value,’ ‘hash code,’ or simply ‘hash.’ Because the hash value is always the same length, it’s extremely difficult for hackers to work out how long or short the input data was – adding another layer of security.

Unlike encrypted data, it is near-impossible to convert hashed data back into readable content. However, every time you hash a piece of data, its output is identical. This makes it easy to confirm the original data has not been tampered with or altered in any way – minimizing the risk of identity fraud.

Hashing can be used to work out who owns a piece of data without revealing whose data it is. This is one of the ways the blockchain remains incredibly secure.

Another good practice is to ’salt’ hashes. This is the process of adding a string of randomized characters to the original input. By adding salt before the hash is derived, the output is guaranteed to be unique, even if the original inputs are the same (e.g., two identical passwords).

If you want to know more about hashing and what hash functions can do, check out our explainer here.

How does ShareRing store my personal data?

Security underpins everything ShareRing does. ShareRing was founded to give you control over your digital identity by prising your data away from the hands of companies, who often host information in vulnerable cloud services.  

That is why ShareRing doesn’t store your information in a centralized database that third parties can access. Instead, only a hash of your data is kept on the ShareLedger blockchain. All your personal information is also encrypted and stored in the terminal device of the individual. 

Any data sent to third parties will always require the users’ permission. To prevent the leaking or tampering of user data when in the hands of third parties, watermarks are placed over your data to track where that data is going, and to whom.

Minimize the risk of identity fraud to protect your digital footprint and reputation. Find out more about ShareRing Vault here.

From the ShareRing Blog

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