The Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), sometimes known by its original name of Rijndael, was first published in 1998. It was later used a data security standard with the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in 2001. It is widely used by the United States government as well as other governmental agencies around the world.
What is AES?
In its simplest form, AES uses a fixed block size of 128 bits alongside a key size of 128, 192, or 256 bits. The key size ultimately refers to the number of secured transformation cycles, or rounds, that are used while converting the plaintext document into the secure final form, also known as ciphertext. The number of transformation cycles used is as follows:
Naturally, more transformation rounds used will result in a greater level of encryption. However, AES is so strong that any level of encryption is virtually unbreakable with modern technology. This stands in stark contrast to the previous 56-bit DES (Data Encryption Standard) encryption that was widely used by governmental entities around the globe, which could easily be hacked by an experienced and determined hacker.
But the additional security isn't the only reason why AES is so popular amongst governmental agencies. It's also highly cost-effective and comparatively easy to implement when compared to other forms of data security.
What is AES-XTS?
One of the strongest forms of AES encryption is known as XTS (XEX Tweakable Block Cipher with Ciphertext Stealing), or AES-XTS. Standardized in late 2007, AES-XTS has become the default algorithm for protecting data-at-rest on the various storage mediums that are available today, including data storage devices, databases, and even self-encrypting drives. It is supported by a long list of platforms and environments, including:
However, XTS does have some weaknesses. Because there are no authentication tags, AES-XTS is prone to data manipulation. It's also threatened by various forms of traffic analysis and randomization attacks, although neither of these two threats would result in exposing the encrypted data contained within. Data scientists have also uncovered some key risks associated with AES encryption in general, including related- and known-key attacks. Side-channel attacks, which generally use leaked information that originates from the target system, are also possible to execute on AES-protected systems.
Using AES-XTS to Secure Your Data
Modern encryption is meant to solve three primary issues. First, the data needs to remain secure and confidential above all else. It also must be easy to retrieve and free of any wasted disk space. Not only does AES-XTS achieve all three of these benchmarks, but it does so in a manner that is unbreakable by modern, consumer-grade technology. After all, the fact that it's currently used by numerous governmental agencies around the world speaks volumes about its ability to store data in a safe, secure, and confidential manner.