All you need to know about Hashing, Encryption, Salting & Encoding

Encoding, encryption, hashing, salting…

The above four can undoubtedly be confusing terms as they serve approximately the same purpose. There are drastic variations among all of them. After you understand the use and mechanism of each phenomenon. Hashing vs encryption vs encoding vs salting will be crystal clear.

This piece of writing will help you in learning the purpose of why they exist. And which algorithms to use for which purpose, and what differentiates them from each other.

Hashing,Encoding,Encryption,Salting

Keeping all the differences aside, encryption, hashing, salting, and encoding, do share some similarities:

All four methods mentioned above are used to transform data into another format. Encoding & encryption can be reversed quickly, whereas hashing is not reversible. Furthermore, Salting is adding a random string called salt to hash to secure the data. At the same time, while app monetization, website monetization or running online marketing campaigns. You should be aware of the data security as you share customer data with others

Now, let’s have a look at these four methods of data transformation and what purpose they serve at each level. In the end, you will be presented a summary of the differences.

What is Encryption?

Encryption is converting data from one format to another to conceal data. The process ensures that the intended recipient receives the transmitted data.

Encryption implements through Caesar shift or stream cipher. Caesar shift is a kind of substitute for cipher where each letter of a given text has to replace by a letter with some set random numbering to the letters.

For example, with a shift of +3 to the right in alphabets word “B” will become “E”.

A stream cipher is an encryption algorithm that divides the plaintext into small blocks, either one bit or one byte long. After that, it encodes each block depending on many previous blocks.

Both methods have several uses depending on whether you need speed or security.

Encryption vs Hashing

Let’s do some Encryption

To give you an idea of how encryption works. We will use the Caesar shift method, which is the simplest ciphers of all the encryption techniques.

For example, if you want to encrypt a letter or a word.

Consider “Let’s Monetization” with a shift of four down the alphabet.,

abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz

With 4 shift in alphabets as we mentioned above, we get

wxyzabcdefghijklmnopqrstuv

Comparing the shifted cipher with original alphabets

abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz

wxyzabcdefghijklmnopqrstuv

then the “L” would shift into “p”, the “e” would shift into an “i” and so on.

We receive the encrypted information of:

Pix’w Qsrixmdexmsr

To decrypt the message back into its original form. The receiver should understand the encryption algorithm involved a shift of four in the order. Then only it will roll back each alphabet by four places.

And if you want to change it, you can easily alter the code, by switching each alphabet with a separate set of numerals. You can even employ a far better algorithm.

Types of Encryption Algorithms

  • DES/3DES or TripleDES
  • Blowfish
  • AES
  • Twofish

Benefits of Encryption

Integrity: Prove that it is not risky while sending the content information.

  • Authentication: the source of a message can be verified.
  • Nonrepudiation: the sender of data cannot refuse to send it.

Common Vulnerability of Encryption

  • If the attacker can gain a copy of your encryption key, then the individual can easily decrypt your message

Again if we compare Hashing vs Encryption, Hashing is always a step ahead. Encryption is a two-way function that includes encrypting and decrypting. But, hashing is only one function that changes a plain text into a unique digest which is irreversible.

What is Hashing?

Hashing is converting a string of characters such as letters, numerals or symbols by applying a mathematical formula. And transform it into a short fixed-length value called a “key”. The hash key is the product of the original string.

The hash function started from the concept of generating a hash which is a mixed-up variant of the original value.

You can also apply Hashing in various encryption methods. Hashing is much more suitable for indexing and retrieving items from a database.

The time required to find the original value longer when compared to the time needed while using the hashed key.

Hashes are inherently unidirectional, so this makes hashing an excellent way to store passwords in the database. It is very difficult to access the raw data or to invert it into its original form. As the stored passwords in hash format, to access raw data to invert it into its original form.

If you own a website and want your users to sign in. Then hashing would be a great way to store the users’ passwords. At first, you should hash the passwords for your users while they are signing up. Later when your user attempts to login then compare it with your stored hash. It is clear that when both the hash’ matches, the users are entering the correct password to their accounts.

Generally hashing looks like this,

Hash( password )

when hashed gives you a key like this

5e884898da28047151d0e56f8dc6292773603d0d6aabbdd62a11ef721d1542d8

You should save the hash key to match the user’s password. As both, the password matches the user gets to access his account. ‘This is how hashing makes users’ secure their passwords.

Hashing process

How hashing works in a real scenario?

Now that you learn what hash functions are, in general, it’s time for you to know them in practice. If we put a sample text of “audienceplay” into an SHA-256 online calculator, it will generate a key for us:

8888391e791700a4b03455d85f431e1ec0400e6e62494d918477688ab41e19fe

If you change a single position of a single character or add a new character of the hash key, it changes the entire hash drastically. Any addition to this simple text like “audienceplay!” with an exclamation would yield a complete contrary result:

cd1de3bcadff339a9bb86bb98614c23b6cf9c353905fef43ac3e852d949d1d6d

While examining Hashing vs Encryption, you cannot use the above-hashed key via reverse function to retain the original input again. The hash functions don’t work the same way as encryption, as their attributes make them a reliable source for digital signatures and in diverse applications.

Hashing also proves to be very convenient while monetizing your website or app data.
It is the most secured way to protect your data while you are sharing your valuable information for data monetization or data exchanges.

Types of Hashing Algorithms

  • RIPEMD
  • WHIRLPOOL
  • TIGER
  • HMAC-SHA256
  • PBKDF2

Uses of Hashing

  • Hashing is an effective method to analyze and avoid duplication in databases.
  • Hashing can be used to find a particular piece of data in big databases.
  • It is used in SSL certification.
  • It is broadly used in computer graphics.

Common Vulnerability of Hashing

  • The most common way for attackers to detect the original string is to run a random set of characters on the algorithm by which the hash was created. It would be impossible when hashing is performed securely.

Hashing vs Encryption

The prime difference between encryption and hashing is that the entire process is based upon a key system. Without the specified key, the encrypted message can’t be unencrypted.

If decrypting the resulting data is necessary, then encryption should only be employed instead of hashing. Let us assume that if you want to send a piece of secure information to someone in a discreet manner. Encryption is the best way to secure your data compared to hashing. As the transmitted data is of no use to the recipient if they cannot decrypt it.

If the information you sent is restricted to be identified for any application to work on. At that instant hashing should be chosen over encryption. While weighing hashing vs encryption, hashing is more reliable and secure.

It protects your data against potential alterations so that your data isn’t changing one bit. A hash is a number that generates from a text through a hash algorithm. This number is smaller than the original text.

What is Salting?

If you understand what hashing is, this will make it much easier for you to understand salting. Salting is generally related to hashing and making passwords more secure in the process of hashing.

It is a unique value that may be a text, numerals, symbols or combinations of them, which are added to the end of the password before it is hashed to generate a different hash value. This certainly adds an additional layer of protection to the hashing method, particularly against cyber brute force intrusions.

A computer network or botnet generates a brute force attack to crack the passwords. It is a trial or error which runs in every imaginable combination of letters and numbers to recognize the right combination by the attacker.

Far more “salt” is the end product of salting which gets by salting. Salt can be anything letters or numerals. The concept relates to the fact that by adding salt to the password in any manner and later hashing it, you have minimum brutal force attack from cracking passwords easily.

To make salting more secure it should generate from a complex system called Cryptographically Secure Pseudo-Random Number Generator. CSPRNGs are compound in nature rather than ordinary pseudo-random number generators, like the “C” language’s rand() function. As the name implies, CSPRNGs are there for making cryptographically secure. They assure a high level of randomness. We don’t want our salts to be at risk, so we must use a CSPRNG.

Salting Vs Hashing

Let’s test the hash function when added with a pinch of SALT:

As an example, let’s say you have an audienceplay account and you have a simple password like “money”. That would generate the following as the key:

8d2ac8b58ead9744d77286de9b0bcb7a894f238c3149fc9f3b1e3caff36330fe

Thereafter, the generation of the hash key you can find it in the database of the audienceplay. Assume a password, say “money” after the hashing procedure is complete the hash key should match against the hash key found in the database. Later the two values should match in order to grant access to the user.

To make things more secure, we add a pinch of “salt” which is a random string of data to the password before it has gone through the process of hash. Therefore, the key difference between hashing vs salting is, hashing is a single procedure data mapping to a certain length whereas salting is an extra step after hashing. The additional value needs to add to the hash value which changes the end result.

Let’s take a 16 character random data of salt:

For example “DATAMONETIZATION”

We add this to our simple password of “money” which we created for hashing above:

“moneyDATAMONETIZATION”

Now that we have added salt and we put it through the same hash function as mentioned before, then it will return a new key:

94c3dde43a1144469091dc8892afc191ac173fb3496e63f1f10bb36c4ea8b6f9

This hash value isn’t any longer or more complicated than the previous one, but that’s not the point here. While the keys are of the same length, you might feel that “moneyDATAMONETIZATION” is a rare password. Hence, the restoration of the hash in the hash tables or rainbow tables have very fewer chances.

A password that is safe in a hash table, the chances of intervention are much likely to happen. In this way, adding salt for hashing passwords helps to make them more safe and secure.

Types of Salting Algorithms

  • Argon2
  • Scrypt
  • Bcrypt
  • PBKDF2

Benefits of Salting

  • Salts protect against hash tables.
  • Salts make it more complicated and slower for brute-force attacks and dictionary attacks for cracking the passwords.

Common Vulnerability of Salting

Using a less secure or predictable salt can lead to a hack. To make that impossible, we could use different ways of hashing with salt. Simple salt is like “hash (password+salt)”, but we can make it more complicated like hash(salt+password+salt) and many other formats.

What is Encoding?

Encoding modifies data from one format into another format using a scheme that is publicly available. So, that it can easily restore back into the predefined data. It does not need any key to decode it, unlike the above functions mentioned. You need only the algorithm which accounts for its encoding.

Therefore the only difference between encoding and encryption is that encoding does not require a key. But, only the algorithm used to encode it. Yet encryption requires a key to reverse the content into plain text.

A prevalent example of encoding would be Morse code. Individuals who do not know Morse code may not understand the message or even realize they have new messages. But, with a small amount of research, the information could be read and understand as well.

Encoding is used when confidentiality is not your highest priority, but you still want it to be there. Therefore you require a fast method of obscuring information.

Encoding Security System

Let’s try some Encoding

Using Base64 format to encode a text “Data Monetization”. By encoding, we will end up with “RGF0YSBNb25ldGl6YXRpb24=”

Types of Encoding Methods

  • ASCII
  • Unicode
  • URL Encoding
  • Base64

Advantages of Encoding

  • Less storage space
  • Speeding up data entry
  • Increase the accuracy of data entry
  • Faster searching for data

Common Vulnerability of Encoding

  • The only drawback of encoding is that anyone with a little time on their hands will be able to analyze the protected message.

But what is the main difference between – Encoding, Encryption, Hashing, and Salting?

As we’ve gone through all the aspects of encryption, hashing, salting, and encoding. It’s time for us to get back to the fundamental differences, so that would be easy for you to understand. While every process here is related to one another, they each toil for a distinct purpose.

While encoding is a code to change into the original data form for the external process. Therefore, you should not confuse encoding with encryption. Encryption hides the content and whereas hashing is an algorithm by making use of which you can verify data integrity.

Encryption is a means of encoding data while protecting its integrity. Encrypted data can only be decrypted by those who have the correct key to retain it into its original form. Encryption algorithms can be easy to reverse the data. It renders us a way to keep it away from intruders but still be able to get it when it is much needed.

It is extensively used to keep everyone safe online, by performing a vital role in the online security protocols. A protocol holds user’s data safe and secure when it is collected and also while in transition.

Why hashing is the more secure procedure?

In contradiction to hashing vs encryption vs encoding, hashing is simply a one-way process.

Cryptographic hash functions have numerous attributes that allow us to validate the integrity and authenticity of the data. Such as through authentication codes and digital signatures.

Particular types of hash functions are also utilized to store passwords. Storing a password’s hash rather than a raw form gives us an extra layer of protection. It means that if any intruder who obtains access to this database, can’t have quick hands-on original passwords.

While hashing passwords do make life more challenging for hackers, it can still be bypassed. This is where we start adding salt. Salting adds data called as salt to the passwords before they have been hashed. This would make attacks more resource-heavy, complicated and time-consuming. By using passwords and salts, ideally, we can make rainbow tables and hash tables impossible to attack.

Altogether, encryption, hashing, salting, and encoding are all crucial aspects of having everyone safe online. Without these methods hackers would have a free-for-all with your data, leaving you with no security on the web.

Aditi L

I'm a technical writer and excel in writing on the latest technologies of the digital advertising industry. I possess significant knowledge and proven experience in adtech & martech trends and even indulge in-depth research on modern digital technologies to deliver engaging content. Writing inspiring blogs and light-minded poems have always been my passion. I also dream of writing a book one day. Apart from writing, enjoying art & music has been my forte.

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