Plenty of companies love to claim that they protect your data by military-grade encryption. To anyone who is not familiar with the tech-savvy jargon, this term might sound like an impenetrable safe where your data is never in fear of compromise. After all, if the military uses it, it would be amazing.
I want to expand on the term Military-Grade which in actuality does not exist. Well, at least not in the way you did think. Military-Grade is a term used for marketing purposes. In reality, the companies provide Advanced Encryption Standard (AES 256-bit Encryption). This article is all about military-grade encryption so, let’s get started with it.
Encryption is a way to take information and scramble it so it looks gibberish. You can decrypt the data, but only if you have the encryption key. The term used for encrypting and decrypting is known as “Cipher. It relies on a piece of information known as “key.”
While visiting the HTTPS encrypted website and signing in with a password, private data is sent over the internet in a gibberish form. Only your device and the website you are communicating with can understand it. It prevents others from snooping on your credentials or credit card details.
There are a lot of different encryption algorithms. Some are more secure and harder to crack than others.
What Does Military-Grade Encryption Means?
Military-grade encryption refers to AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) with 256-bit keys. In 2001, AES was determined as the new standard for Information Security by the NIST.
Military-grade encryption uses a key size equal to or greater than 128-bits. The US government specifies that AES-128 is used for secret classified information. In contrast, AES 256-bit is for top-secret classified information. If an entity handles information on both levels like Banks, it adopts AES 256-bit as its standard.
The difference between the two encryption methods is their crucial size. When we talk about 128-bit encryption, the key needed to decrypt the data is 128-bit in size. It has 3.4×1038 possible key combinations that run into 39 digits. In contrast, the 256-bit key has 1.1×1077 possible key combinations, and the key runs into 78 digits. With such a gigantic figure, any supercomputer needs billions of years to crack the key, which is impossible.
To a person who is not tech-savvy, these letters and numbers won’t mean much. The security companies started to look for a term that describes the highest-level security with less jargon. The US government uses AES to secure classified information and NSA to protect national security data. After it, the term “military-grade” seemed suitable.
Difference Between Bank-Grade Encryption and Military-Grade Encryption
Bank-Grade Encryption is another term that’s being used as a marketing gimmick. It’s the same thing as AES 256-bit encryption or AES 128-bit encryption, as most banks use those. Some banks even advertise their military-grade encryption.
This is good encryption in widespread use. It’s often considered the best and the most secure option. Timothy Quinn writes that both encryptions should be called industry-grade encryption.
Is Military-Grade Encryption Crackable?
It has never been reported that AES 256-bit encryption gets hacked, but that hasn’t been for lack of trying. The first reported attempt at AES was in 2011, against AES-128 encryption.
The attackers use an advanced cyberattack known as biclique. Biclique is like a standard brute-force attack but four times more potent. The good thing was that the attack failed.
It would take up to a billion years for an attack to force its way through a 126-bit key, let alone an AES 128-bit key. As long as the encryption gets implemented, no attack can crack AES’s protection for the time being.
As for 256 bit-encryption, it is equal to 2256 key possibilities. Suppose that a billion supercomputers team up to take down the AES encryption algorithm to look into detail. We also assume that those supercomputers can look at 250 keys per second. It makes them capable of approximately searching one quadrillion keys per second. Thirty-one million five hundred thirty-six thousand seconds are in a year. It means that if a billion computers calculate non-stop for one year, they will check around 275 key possibilities. You can rest knowing this information, that it will take about years to crack the AES Encryption.
It is still unknown how long this protection will last. It’s almost impossible to determine whether AES encryption will ever be obsolete. The NIST created the Data Encryption Standard (DES), whose lifetime was 20 years before a vulnerability was found.
The AES supports larger key sizes than what DES supports. It means that AES can surpass the twenty-year mark.
Is Military-Grade Encryption Necessary?
With the increase in cyberattacks, encryption has become a necessity for anyone using the internet. You need to secure your credentials, files, personal information, and anything available on the internet.
If done right, the encrypted files would take years to get cracked even while using many supercomputers altogether.
So, it is about that much-advertised military-grade encryption that companies advertise endlessly. It might be a single phrase that inspires reliance. In truth, the so-called military-grade encryption has already covered you from the start. For example, Google has started de-ranking websites in 2018 that were still using HTTP protocol. Hopefully, now you have a better understanding about military-grade encryption. Do share your views in the comment section.