What Are the Types of Cryptography?

The different types of cryptography include symmetric cryptography, asymmetric cryptography, and cryptographic hash functions. Symmetric cryptography relies on a single key for encryption and decryption. Asymmetric cryptography employs a pair of keys—a public key and a private key—for these processes. Cryptographic hash functions generate fixed-size output from input data to ensure data integrity and enable the creation of digital signatures and message authentication codes. Each type of cryptography serves distinct purposes and offers unique advantages and disadvantages in terms of security, efficiency, and applicability to various use cases.

Symmetric Cryptography (Private-Key or Secret-Key Cryptography)

In symmetric cryptography, the same key is used for both encryption and decryption. The sender and the receiver must securely share this key before starting communication. Symmetric cryptography is generally faster and requires less computational power compared to asymmetric cryptography.


  • Data Encryption Standard (DES): DES is an early symmetric-key block cipher developed in the 1970s. It uses a 56-bit key and operates on 64-bit blocks of data. However, due to its small key size and known vulnerabilities, DES is no longer considered secure and has been largely replaced by more robust algorithms.
  • Triple DES (3DES): Triple DES is an extension of DES that applies the DES algorithm three times with either two or three distinct keys, effectively increasing the key size and security. While 3DES is more secure than DES, it is slower and has been gradually phased out in favor of more modern algorithms like AES.
  • Advanced Encryption Standard (AES): AES is a widely used symmetric-key block cipher that was established as the encryption standard by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in 2001. AES supports key sizes of 128, 192, and 256 bits and operates on 128-bit blocks of data. AES is considered secure and efficient, making it the preferred choice for many applications, including SSL/TLS, Wi-Fi encryption, and file encryption.
  • Blowfish: Blowfish is a symmetric-key block cipher designed by Bruce Schneier in 1993. It operates on 64-bit blocks of data and supports variable key sizes up to 448 bits. While Blowfish is considered secure, it has been largely replaced by newer algorithms like AES and Twofish.
  • Twofish: Twofish is a symmetric-key block cipher also designed by Bruce Schneier as a successor to Blowfish. It operates on 128-bit blocks of data and supports key sizes of 128, 192, and 256 bits. Twofish is considered secure and efficient, although it is less widely adopted than AES.
  • RC4 (Rivest Cipher 4): RC4 is a symmetric-key stream cipher designed by Ron Rivest in 1987. It is used in various applications, including SSL/TLS and the now-deprecated WEP Wi-Fi encryption standard. However, due to known vulnerabilities and biases in its output, RC4 is no longer considered secure and has been replaced by more robust algorithms in most applications.
  • ChaCha20: ChaCha20 is a symmetric-key stream cipher designed by Daniel J. Bernstein as an alternative to RC4. It is considered secure and efficient, with good performance on both software and hardware platforms. ChaCha20 is often used in combination with the Poly1305 message authentication code (MAC) in the ChaCha20-Poly1305 authenticated encryption scheme.
  • Salsa20: Salsa20 is another symmetric-key stream cipher designed by Daniel J. Bernstein. It is a predecessor to ChaCha20 and shares many similarities in design and performance. Like ChaCha20, Salsa20 is considered secure and efficient, although ChaCha20 is more widely adopted in modern applications.


  • Fast encryption and decryption, making it suitable for large amounts of data.
  • Simpler and less computationally intensive compared to asymmetric cryptography.


  • Key distribution and management can be challenging, as the same key needs to be securely shared among all communicating parties.
  • Not scalable for large networks, as the number of keys required increases with the number of participants.
  • Doesn’t provide non-repudiation, as the same key is used by both sender and receiver.

Asymmetric Cryptography (Public-Key Cryptography)

Asymmetric cryptography involves a pair of keys: a public key and a private key. The public key is used for encryption and can be shared openly, while the private key is used for decryption and must be kept secret. Asymmetric cryptography is the foundation for secure key exchange, digital signatures, and public-key infrastructure (PKI).


  • Rivest-Shamir-Adleman (RSA): RSA is one of the most widely used and well-known public-key cryptosystems. It is based on the mathematical properties of large prime numbers and provides key exchange, encryption, and digital signatures. RSA is used in various protocols like SSL/TLS, PGP, and SSH.
  • Diffie-Hellman (DH) Key Exchange: Although not an encryption algorithm itself, Diffie-Hellman is an essential asymmetric algorithm for secure key exchange. It enables two parties to establish a shared secret key over an insecure channel, which can then be used for symmetric encryption. The Elliptic Curve Diffie-Hellman (ECDH) is a variant that uses elliptic curve cryptography for the same purpose, providing better security with smaller key sizes.
  • ElGamal Encryption: ElGamal is an asymmetric encryption algorithm based on the Diffie-Hellman key exchange. It provides semantic security against chosen plaintext attacks and is often used for secure communication and key exchange. However, it is less widely used compared to RSA due to its less efficient encryption and decryption process.
  • Elliptic Curve Cryptography (ECC): ECC is an approach to public-key cryptography based on the algebraic structure of elliptic curves over finite fields. It provides the same level of security as RSA but with much smaller key sizes, making it more efficient and faster. ECC is used in various cryptographic algorithms, such as Elliptic Curve Digital Signature Algorithm (ECDSA) for digital signatures and Elliptic Curve Diffie-Hellman (ECDH) for key exchange.
  • Lattice-based Cryptography: Lattice-based cryptography is a relatively new and emerging area of public-key cryptography based on the hardness of certain problems in lattice theory. Lattice-based cryptographic schemes, such as Learning With Errors (LWE) and Ring Learning With Errors (RLWE), are considered to be resistant to attacks by quantum computers, making them a promising alternative to traditional asymmetric algorithms in the post-quantum cryptography era.
  • Post-Quantum Cryptography: Post-quantum cryptography refers to a class of cryptographic algorithms that are believed to be secure against attacks by quantum computers. In addition to lattice-based cryptography, other post-quantum cryptographic approaches include code-based cryptography (e.g., McEliece and Niederreiter cryptosystems), multivariate quadratic cryptography (e.g., UOV, Rainbow), and hash-based cryptography (e.g., SPHINCS).


  • Provides a scalable solution for secure communication in large networks, as key distribution is easier compared to symmetric cryptography.
  • Offers non-repudiation through digital signatures, allowing verification of message origin and integrity.
  • Enables secure key exchange without the need for pre-shared secret keys.


  • Slower and more computationally intensive than symmetric cryptography, making it less suitable for encrypting large amounts of data.
  • Susceptible to attacks if weak or poorly chosen keys are used.

Cryptographic Hash Functions

Hash functions are one-way cryptographic functions that take an input of arbitrary size and produce a fixed-size output, typically a hash value. The same input will always generate the same hash value, but even a small change in the input will produce a significantly different output. Hash functions are widely used for password hashing, ensuring data integrity, creating message authentication codes (MACs), and generating digital signatures.


  • Secure Hash Algorithm (SHA) family:
    • SHA-0: The first version of the SHA family, withdrawn shortly after publication due to security concerns.
    • SHA-1: An early version of the SHA family, now considered insecure due to discovered vulnerabilities.
    • SHA-2: An improved version of SHA, with various output sizes such as SHA-224, SHA-256, SHA-384, SHA-512, SHA-512/224, and SHA-512/256.
    • SHA-3: The latest version of the SHA family, developed through the NIST hash function competition. It includes SHA3-224, SHA3-256, SHA3-384, and SHA3-512.
  • Message Digest (MD) family:
    • MD2: An early hash function, now considered insecure and obsolete.
    • MD4: A hash function designed by Ronald Rivest, also considered insecure due to discovered vulnerabilities.
    • MD5: A widely used hash function in the past, now deemed insecure due to collision attacks and other vulnerabilities.
  • RIPEMD (RACE Integrity Primitives Evaluation Message Digest) family:
    • RIPEMD: The original version, no longer considered secure.
    • RIPEMD-128 and RIPEMD-160: Improved versions with different output sizes, but now considered less secure than newer hash functions.
    • RIPEMD-256 and RIPEMD-320: Less commonly used variants with larger output sizes.
  • Whirlpool: A cryptographic hash function designed by Vincent Rijmen and Paulo Barreto, with a 512-bit output size. It has three versions: Whirlpool-0, Whirlpool-T, and Whirlpool (the latest version).
  • BLAKE family:
    • BLAKE: A hash function based on the same primitive operations as the ChaCha stream cipher, with output sizes of 256 and 512 bits.
    • BLAKE2: An improved version of BLAKE, with various output sizes such as BLAKE2s (256-bit) and BLAKE2b (512-bit). BLAKE2 is faster and more parallelizable than SHA-2 and SHA-3.


  • Provides a way to verify data integrity, as even a small change in the input will result in a different hash value.
  • Can be used to generate digital signatures and message authentication codes (MACs) to ensure authenticity and non-repudiation.
  • Typically faster and more efficient than both symmetric and asymmetric encryption algorithms.


  • Not suitable for encryption or secure communication, as hash functions are one-way operations.
  • Vulnerable to attacks if weak or outdated hash functions are used (e.g., MD5 or SHA-1).

What Are the Types of Cryptographic Protocols?

Cryptographic protocols are sets of rules that govern how cryptographic operations are performed. Some common cryptographic protocols include:

  • Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) / Transport Layer Security (TLS): SSL and its successor, TLS, are cryptographic protocols that provide secure communication over a computer network. They are widely used to secure web traffic, email, and other sensitive data transfers. TLS uses various cryptographic algorithms, including symmetric and asymmetric encryption, hashing, and digital signatures.
  • Secure Shell (SSH): SSH is a cryptographic network protocol for operating network services securely over an unsecured network. It is commonly used for remote command execution and secure file transfer. SSH uses public-key cryptography for authentication and symmetric encryption for data confidentiality.
  • Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) / OpenPGP: PGP and its open standard, OpenPGP, are cryptographic protocols for encrypting and signing data, such as email and file transfers. They use a combination of symmetric and asymmetric encryption algorithms, along with digital signatures and message authentication codes, to provide data confidentiality, integrity, and non-repudiation.
  • Internet Protocol Security (IPsec): IPsec is a suite of cryptographic protocols for securing network communications at the IP layer. It provides data confidentiality, integrity, and authentication between network devices. IPsec uses a combination of symmetric encryption, public-key cryptography, and message authentication codes.
  • Secure/Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (S/MIME): S/MIME is a cryptographic protocol for securing email messages. It uses a combination of asymmetric encryption, digital signatures, and message authentication codes to provide data confidentiality, integrity, and non-repudiation in email communications.
  • Signal Protocol: The Signal Protocol is an end-to-end encryption protocol used for secure instant messaging and voice/video calls. It is employed in messaging apps like Signal, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger. The protocol combines the Double Ratchet Algorithm, prekeys, and the Extended Triple Diffie-Hellman (X3DH) key agreement protocol to provide forward secrecy, future secrecy, and message authentication.
  • Off-the-Record (OTR) Messaging: OTR is a cryptographic protocol for secure instant messaging, providing encryption, authentication, deniability, and perfect forward secrecy. It uses a combination of symmetric encryption, public-key cryptography, and digital signatures.
  • Kerberos: Kerberos is a network authentication protocol that uses secret-key cryptography to authenticate users and devices in a computer network. It relies on a trusted third party, known as the Key Distribution Center (KDC), to issue tickets that prove the identity of users and services.
  • Zcash Protocol: The Zcash Protocol is a privacy-focused cryptocurrency protocol that employs zero-knowledge proofs (zk-SNARKs) to enable private and shielded transactions. It combines cryptographic techniques like commitment schemes, zk-SNARKs, and Merkle trees to ensure transaction confidentiality and integrity.
  • Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP): SFTP is a cryptographic protocol for secure file transfer over a network, often used as a secure alternative to the File Transfer Protocol (FTP). SFTP operates over an SSH connection and provides encryption, authentication, and data integrity.

What Are the Different Cryptographic Standards?

Cryptographic standards are guidelines and specifications established by organizations or governing bodies to ensure the secure and interoperable use of cryptographic techniques. Some widely recognized cryptographic standards include:

  • Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS): U.S. government standards for cryptographic algorithms and key management, including FIPS 140-3 for cryptographic modules and FIPS 197 for the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES).
  • National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Special Publications: A series of publications that provide guidelines and recommendations for various aspects of cryptography, including key management and cryptographic algorithm selection.
  • Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) Request for Comments (RFC): A series of documents that define Internet standards, including cryptographic protocols such as TLS, SSH, and IPsec.
  • International Organization for Standardization (ISO) / International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) standards: International standards related to cryptography, such as ISO/IEC 27001 for information security management and ISO/IEC 29192 for lightweight cryptography.

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