In the modern digital landscape, encryption is a cornerstone of online security. Whether you’re processing payments, storing sensitive data, or communicating securely, encryption ensures that your information remains protected from unauthorized access. This blog delves into the intricacies of encryption, focusing on SSL (Secure Sockets Layer), and how Flux Payments leverages advanced encryption techniques to safeguard user data.

### SSL/TLS: The Foundation of Secure Communication

SSL (Secure Sockets Layer/TLS (Transport Layer Security) is a standard security technology for establishing an encrypted link between a server and a client—typically a web server and a browser, or a mail server and a mail client. SSL ensures that all data transmitted between the web server and browser remains encrypted and private.

#### The Role of Certificate Authorities

At the heart of SSL is the concept of certificate authorities (CAs). CAs are trusted entities that issue digital certificates, which serve as electronic “passports” that verify the identity of websites and other entities on the internet. These certificates contain the public key and the identity to which the certificate is issued.

When a browser connects to a secure site, the site presents its SSL certificate. The browser checks if the certificate is from a trusted CA, if it is still valid, and if the certificate is being used by the website for which it was issued. If any of these checks fail, the browser displays a warning to the user.

#### RSA: The Backbone of Public Key Encryption

RSA (Rivest-Shamir-Adleman) is a widely used algorithm for secure data transmission. It is a type of public-key cryptography, which involves a pair of keys: a public key and a private key.

**Public Key**: This key is shared openly and is used to encrypt data.**Private Key**: This key is kept secret and is used to decrypt data encrypted with the corresponding public key.

The security of RSA relies on the mathematical difficulty of factoring the product of two large prime numbers. For example, if we take two small primes like 7 and 3, their product is 21. However, when large primes are used, the resultant product (a key) becomes extremely difficult to factorize, even with advanced algorithms and computational power.

To put this into perspective, a 2048-bit RSA key would require a mind-boggling amount of time and computational resources to crack through brute force. This is due to the sheer density of possible combinations, making RSA a robust choice for secure encryption.

##### Estimating the Time to Crack RSA Encryption

Cracking RSA encryption involves factoring a large composite number, which is the product of two prime numbers. The difficulty of this task increases exponentially with the size of the number, making RSA encryption extremely secure with sufficiently large key sizes. Let’s break down the computational effort required to crack RSA encryption.

##### Understanding the Scale

For a concrete example, let’s consider a 2048-bit RSA key. This key size is commonly used and considered secure under current computational capabilities. A 2048-bit key means that the modulus n in the RSA algorithm is a 2048-bit number, which is roughly 2^{2048}

##### Prime Factorization and Computational Limits

To crack RSA, one must factorize n into its two prime factors, p and q. The best-known algorithm for large integer factorization is the General Number Field Sieve (GNFS), which has a complexity of:

O( exp((64/9)1/3(log n)1/3(log log n)2/3))

For a 2048-bit number, this complexity translates to an astronomically high number of operations. To get a sense of the time required, let’s consider the capabilities of a modern computer.

##### Example Calculation: Modern Computer Capabilities

A high-end consumer computer today can perform around 10^{9} operations per second (1 gigaflop). Let’s conservatively estimate the number of operations needed to crack a 2048-bit RSA key.

Assume we need 10^{30} operations (this is a simplification for the sake of this example, but the actual number is even higher). The time to perform these operations on a single computer is:

Time = 10^{21} seconds

Convert this to years:

10^{13} years

##### Comparing with Age of the Universe

For context, the age of the universe is estimated to be about 13.8×10^{9} years. So, cracking a 2048-bit RSA key would take:

2,300 times the age of the universe.

This calculation shows the impracticality of cracking a 2048-bit RSA key with current technology.

RSA is asymmetric, meaning the keys for encryption and decryption are different. This asymmetry is crucial for the security and functionality of many encryption protocols, including SSL.

#### AES: Advanced Encryption Standard

AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) is another critical component of encryption, widely used for its efficiency and security. Unlike RSA, AES is a symmetric encryption algorithm, which means the same key is used for both encryption and decryption.

One of the most secure variants of AES is AES-GCM-256, which includes:

**GCM (Galois/Counter Mode)**: This mode adds both security and performance enhancements.**256-bit Key Length**: This represents a high level of security, making it extremely challenging to crack.

AES uses a nonce (numbers used only once) to ensure the same plaintext will encrypt to different ciphertexts each time, enhancing security. The time complexity to crack AES-GCM-256 through brute force is astronomical, making it a reliable choice for securing sensitive data.

### Combining RSA and AES in SSL

SSL/TLS (Transport Layer Security) protocols often use both RSA and AES to maximize security and performance. Here’s a simplified explanation of how they work together in SSL:

**Handshake**: When a secure connection is initiated, the remote server sends its public key (part of the RSA key pair) to the local client.**Session Key Generation**: The client generates a session key using AES. This session key is then encrypted with the server’s public key and sent back to the server.**Secure Communication**: Both the client and server now have the AES session key and use it to encrypt and decrypt the data transmitted during the session. This approach combines the security of RSA for key exchange with the efficiency of AES for data encryption.

### Message-Level Encryption (MLE)

To further enhance security, MLE (Message-Level Encryption) is employed. MLE involves encrypting plain text data at the application layer, ensuring that the message remains encrypted throughout its transmission and storage.

### HSM: The Guardian of Sensitive Data

Hardware Security Modules (HSMs) are dedicated devices designed to safeguard and manage digital keys for strong authentication and encryption. HSMs are crucial in tokenizing and storing sensitive data securely.

Tokenized data is processed in three steps:

**Encryption/Decryption Process**: This runs on a secure HSM device.**Ciphertext Storage**: The encrypted data (ciphertext) is stored in a secure database.**Key Storage**: The HSM securely stores the encryption keys used for decryption.

### How Flux Payments Secures User Data

At Flux Payments, we take data security seriously. We employ MLE to provide an additional layer of protection for user data. By encrypting data at the application level, we ensure that it remains secure throughout its lifecycle.

Additionally, we follow stringent PCI (Payment Card Industry) standards to ensure that our encryption practices meet the highest security benchmarks. PCI standards mandate robust encryption protocols, regular security assessments, and stringent access controls to protect cardholder data.

### Conclusion

Understanding encryption is crucial for any merchant looking to protect their customers’ data and ensure secure transactions. SSL, RSA, AES, MLE, and HSM are all fundamental components of modern encryption practices. By leveraging these technologies, Flux Payments provides robust security solutions, ensuring that your data remains safe and secure.

For more information on how Flux Payments can help secure your transactions and protect your sensitive data, contact us today.