Securing Communications

Securing Communications
Securing Communications

In this article we will talk about Securing Communications, and in previous article we already discussed aboURI, URN, and URL.

Organizations must provide support to secure the data as it travels across links. This may include internal traffic, but it is even more important to protect the data that travels outside of the organization to branch sites, telecommuter sites, and partner sites.

Securing Communications

Early in the previous topic, cryptography is mentioned as part of the CIA information security triad. In this topic you will get a deeper dive into the many types of cryptography and how they are used to secure the network.

These are the four elements of secure communications:

  • Data Integrity – Guarantees that the message was not altered. Any changes to data in transit will be detected. Integrity is ensured by implementing either of the Secure Hash Algorithms (SHA-2 or SHA-3). The MD5 message digest algorithm is still widely in use but it is inherently insecure and creates vulnerabilities in a network. The use of MD5 should be avoided.
  • Origin Authentication – Guarantees that the message is not a forgery and does actually come from whom it states. Many modern networks ensure authentication with protocols, such as hash message authentication code (HMAC).
  • Data Confidentiality – Guarantees that only authorized users can read the message. If the message is intercepted, it cannot be deciphered within a reasonable amount of time. Data confidentiality is implemented using symmetric and asymmetric encryption algorithms.
  • Data Non-Repudiation – Guarantees that the sender cannot repudiate, or refute, the validity of a message sent. Nonrepudiation relies on the fact that only the sender has the unique characteristics or signature for how that message is treated.

Cryptography can be used almost anywhere that there is data communication. In fact, the trend is toward all communication being encrypted.

Symmetric Encryption

Symmetric algorithms use the same pre-shared key to encrypt and decrypt data. A pre-shared key, also called a secret key, is known by the sender and receiver before any encrypted communications can take place.

To help illustrate how symmetric encryption works, consider an example where Alice and Bob live in different locations and want to exchange secret messages with one another through the mail system. In this example, Alice wants to send a secret message to Bob.

In the figure, Alice and Bob have identical keys to a single padlock. These keys were exchanged prior to sending any secret messages. Alice writes a secret message and puts it in a small box that she locks using the padlock with her key. She mails the box to Bob. The message is safely locked inside the box as the box makes its way through the post office system. When Bob receives the box, he uses his key to unlock the padlock and retrieve the message. Bob can use the same box and padlock to send a secret reply to Alice.

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