How End to End Encryption Works
Hey OriginalPath! I’m Box and I am crazy for encryption! I love how it functions and how it can be used in real life situations to provide security and protection to otherwise vulnerable areas of the internet, programs, etc. My favourite example and use of encryption is in RSA (Rivest Shamir Adleman.) RSA (Or at least the basic idea and functionality of RSA) is used as encryption for many chat applications like Whatsapp or Viber.
In this day and age we use so many different ways to communicate and interact and we use so many different platforms for this. In these last few weeks there’s been a lot of talk about data security on these platforms and how people’s data is being accessed without their permission.
Facebook Privacy Scandal Hearings: What You Missed
7 years ago, I wrote in this column about why LinkedIn was more valuable than Facebook. Before you read any further, let me set the record straight: Facebook is bigger than LinkedIn: its valuation currently is almost $478 Billion. LinkedIn got acquired by Microsoft in 2015 for “only” $26B.
Let me explain how RSA works.
Let's say a nigerian prince wants to transfer a million dollars to you. And let's also say that the only way to transfer anything is to ship it by air. He can just ship the money to you in a box but that stands the risk of it being stolen. So you're smart and you send this prince a box with two locks. One lock can only open the box and one can only close it. Along with the unlocked box you send the key that can lock the box while you keep the key that can only unlock it. You tell the prince to put the money in the box and then close it with the key that can lock the box and ship the key along with the box. That way no one can unlock the box except the person with the key that can unlock it.
This applies in the exact same way to transfer of data over the internet with RSA. How RSA works is, You and the person you want to communicate with generate and a private and public key. The public key can encrypt text but cannot decrypt it. Vise versa with the private key but the private key can only decrypt the encrypted text. The names serve it exactly how it’s written. The public key can be shared with anyone without any problem, but the private key must remain a secret at all costs.
So you and your friend want to chat. He generates what we call a keypair (The public and the private key.) You also generate a keypair. You both store your private keys somewhere super secret and private that no one can find and then exchange your public keys. So let’s recap, you have your friend’s public key and have your private key stored away and your friend has his private key stored away and he has your public key. Now here comes the coolest part. You can encrypt the message you want to send to him with his key and then send it to him and no one can read the message other that the person with the private key. He enrypts his message with your key and sends it to you and you keep chatting like that. With a big enough RSA key no one in the entire world could ever listen in on what you’re discussing.