Many business owners are becoming cautious about security owing to the threats posed by hackers. The challenge is that hackers are honing their ciphering skills each passing day, meaning that the only escape route is to develop better security algorithms in a bid to curb the vice. The use of SSL protocol is an example of a common technique used to protect communication between a web browser and a server with various algorithms usually designed to work with it. This article looks at two most common security algorithms in ECC and RSA and we show you why ECC is far much better than former.
What are ECC and RSA Algorithms?
It is always important to start from the basics and in this case, the best place to start from the definitions of these algorithms. RSA (Rivest-Shamir-Adleman) is an algorithm that was first developed in 1977 by Ron Rivest, Adi Shamir, and Leonard Adleman, it was adopted in 1978. Ever since its adoption, it has grown to be the most popular cryptosystem. The algorithm was designed to work based on a public and private key in the encryption and decryption of information that is sent over the internet. The information is encrypted using a public key while at the receiver end; a private key is needed to decrypt the information. The algorithm, on the other hand, uses a reverse process for user authentication-a private key is used to encrypt digital signatures, then the receiver can use a public key to decrypt the digital signatures.
ECC (Elliptic Curve Cryptography) on the other hand is a public key cryptographic system that adopts the elliptic curve theory in algebra in a bid to provide efficient security in the realm of digital signatures, Pseudo random generators, encryption among others. The algorithm was designed back in 1985 but its adoption has only escalated at the turn of the century. ECC has been seen as the algorithm to take the mantle from RSA – in the world of encryption and rightly so.
What ECC will offer?
To make a clear comparison of these two algorithms we will take a step wise approach while basing our arguments on key parameters.
The essence of encryption is to provide better and efficient security in communication networks. Cryptographic experts usually recommend that communication systems have to offer a minimum of 128 security bits. To offer this kind of security, RSA uses 3072-bit keys, whereas ECC uses 256-bit keys. At the moment, RSA implementations offer 1024 or 2048-bit keys, which is generally offered security levels than what, has been recommended. To get a clear picture of the difference between these two algorithms, think of the dynamic nature of attacks. In simple terms, key lengths will usually need to increase in a bid to curb the attacks. It has been even suggested that 256 security bits to be used rather than the current 128 bits. To achieve this, one would need 512 ECC bit keys and 15,360 bit keys in the case of RSA.
In terms of performance, ECC has been found to exhibit a better operation in the 128-bit security levels. Aspects like key generation and managements are up to 10 times faster in the case of ECC than in RSA. This is particularly colossal in the systems whereby key generation is frequent, but irrelevant if a system is generating the keys on very rare occasions. In case of web communications, it has also been established that processing of ECC SSL certificates is much faster certificates. This means that ECC requires less server processing cycles, which in turn lead to quick web page loading.
The size of security usually does not affect the performance of a given algorithm, but it comes in handy when one puts memory requirements into consideration. These security keys need storage facilities, thus keeping in mind the size of the keys is quite important. In ECC algorithm at 128-bit security level, the size of the keys used are 256 as compared to 3072-bit keys used in RSA. Mathematically ECC keys are 12 times smaller than RSA keys – a feat that makes a huge difference in memory requirements.
CPU consumption is another important factor that needs to be kept in mind when going for a security algorithm. Certain cryptographic techniques are known to consume more space than others do and this is the case with RSA and ECC algorithms. In the client – server model, for example, public key computations and transmission of handshake messages usually consume space from the server and the client. However, it has been found that space requirements are much lower in the case of the ECC algorithm. This is usually beneficial for small devices that have limited CPU consumption capabilities an example being in the case of mobile phone devices.
From the analysis, it can be established that ECC is the algorithm to go for owing to its robust properties. The algorithm tends to deliver similar levels of security albeit with speed and efficiency in mind. Its popularity is growing with time and it is predicted that it will grow in the coming years. In fact, the future looks to be shaping up in favor of ECC as companies such as Symantec have moved to adopt the algorithm. Many other new standards have also advocated the use of ECC. Some good examples are Zigbee Networking Standards, Security Module PP standards, Suite B Cryptography standards, ITS Standards, etc. All these are just a clear indication that ECC has a bright future in cryptographic technology.