Although, for all practical purposes, current encryption techniques are still considered viable solutions, the growth of big data and its application in several industries have forced industry insiders to look for stronger security solutions that guarantee privacy, efficiency and scalability. This article examines an emerging algorithm called 3-Dimensional Advanced Encryption Standard (3D AES) and summarizes a research paper by Nur Afifah, Nadzirah Adnan, and Suriyani Ariffin — touching on issues that are front and centre in encryption research.
Data encryption has a long and storied history that predates the advent of digital technology. Humans have long devised clever methods to protect information from potentially malicious actors, and repeatedly have humans decoded these methods.
One early model was the Data Encryption Standard (DES), which has been broken and was subsequently replaced with the 3DES algorithm, which has also been proven to be vulnerable. 3DES has been succeeded by the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES).
AES and other cryptographic techniques are still projected to be reliable for the near future. However, initial research indicates that quantum computing is a possible, though not serious, threat to asymmetric cryptographic techniques, whereas other techniques are not quite at risk. With quantum computers, a brute force search may have search time reduced to the square root of the space of the given size, using Grover’s algorithm. To mitigate the threat, these encryption techniques can simply increase the key size to compensate for the increased speed of quantum decryption.
Researchers now look towards new techniques to maintain security in a time when data has become such a precious commodity. One such technique is yet another generational jump from the AES, the 3D AES, still very tentatively considered for deployment in the cloud storage of big data.
The 3D AES techniques utilize larger keys and a 3-dimensional matrix to complicate cryptanalysis of construction, and larger block sizes allow for the encryption for larger sets of data, necessary for the field of big data. Initial analysis, through differential analysis, of the technique’s security shows that 3D AES has proven to be secure against boomerang attacks.
Encryption in Big Data Security and Cloud Storage
Big data is nothing new; the concept and rudimentary forms of implementation, like that of data encryption, dates back many years, but only in recent times has come to wider attention as a result of technology that greatly enhances its execution.
For our purposes, big data is understood as large volumes of data that arrive at an exponentially increasing velocity, to be used for a range of purposes across multiple interconnected systems. Recommendation systems are an obvious real-world example of this. Perhaps less glamorous than the fields of artificial intelligence, the internet of things and blockchain technology, big data is nonetheless expected to play a pivotal role in the future of business.
A key factor in the need for a more secure form of encryption derives from the fact that big data relies on third-party cloud storage systems. These systems cannot guarantee the security of the data they store, so a stronger cipher algorithm in a time where encryption grows ever more vulnerable is necessary, however theoretical the possibility of unintended decryption.
3-Dimensional Advanced Encryption Standard
This is where the 3D AES comes in. The AES, originally called the Rijndael algorithm after the two cryptologists who first developed it, employs a block size of 128-bits but accommodates 3 different key lengths, 128-bit, 192-bit and 256-bit, which subsequently change the number of transformations (ShiftRows, MixColumns among other transformation methods) that eventually lead to an encrypted form of the data.
The 3D AES is an extension of that idea and takes the entire process many levels further. It operates on 512-bits, uses 512-bit keys and goes beyond the 14 rounds of processing used for 256-bit keys used in AES, instead of using 22 rounds — although variations of the 3D AES exist, each taking a different approach to the cryptographic process. However, the most innovative feature is the use of a 3-dimensional matrix as opposed to two, which subsequently greatly increases the complexity of decryption.
3D AES is very much a process that is “in the works”, currently mostly of academic interest, and, in terms of performance, is inferior to AES. However, this new technique, whatever form it takes, is preparation from institutions and businesses for a world in which security of data is more important than ever.
3D AES is not the only emerging encryption technique being developed; Quantum cryptography is a very broad field in and of itself; though it is even more nascent than 3D AES.
Advances have been made in the field of Quantum Key Distribution, which is not quantum cryptography itself, but only the production and distribution of keys to the involved parties. The advantage here lies in the fact that a third party trying to intercept the key exchange results in its alteration, as the whole technique is based on the quantum mechanical property wherein an observer measuring a system causes a disturbance. This can then be used with an encryption algorithm to securely produce keys and distribute them across a channel in which interference can be detected.
A few successful pilots have been carried out in Quantum Key Distribution, including one where a Canadian research team from the University of Waterloo accurately exchanged keys from the ground to a moving plane, which was separated by a distance of 2 miles.
Another team of researchers has managed to perform Quantum Key Distribution at a distance of 7600 KM between China and Europe, utilizing ground stations to relay the results. Similarly, this key exchange has also been performed from Earth to a low-orbit satellite at a distance of 1,200 KM.
Both distance and energy-efficiency are key obstacles that must be resolved before the technique can hit the mainstream.
Cryptography lays the foundation for growth in several other emerging fields of technology, including AI, blockchain, IoT and big data analysis, and is something of a pre-requisite for the growth of these technologies.
When working with encryption techniques, the choice of technique is highly dependent on the particular network and use for the encryption, and there are always compromises. How much should efficiency be sacrificed in favour of security? This is a difficult question to answer and, given that the world is undeniably heading towards a cloud-based one, is all the more pressing.
Researchers are developing the necessary algorithms for the efficient and secure transmission of data on a large scale. Its development is a matter of if, not when, and 3D AES is a promising development.
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