Trusted answers to developer questions
Trusted Answers to Developer Questions

Related Tags

cryptography
communitycreator

What is end-to-end encryption?

Cynthia Peter

Grokking Modern System Design Interview for Engineers & Managers

Ace your System Design Interview and take your career to the next level. Learn to handle the design of applications like Netflix, Quora, Facebook, Uber, and many more in a 45-min interview. Learn the RESHADED framework for architecting web-scale applications by determining requirements, constraints, and assumptions before diving into a step-by-step design process.

Overview

End-to-end encryption (E2EE) is a tool that is necessary for improving online privacy.

In the last few decades, we’ve gone from comfortably sharing our data to times where we don’t trust the internet enough to even share our data. Many of us may have had experiences where we talked to a friend on a social media chat about wanting to go on a vacation, and fifteen minutes later, we were advertised vacation homes in Seychelles on a different application like YouTube or Facebook.

Sometimes, you feel like your phone even listens to your conversations and feeds you information based on what you say or even think.

The importance of online privacy has never been greater, and this is especially true if we save our data and communicate with others via online apps and services. End-to-end encryption is one technique that individuals and businesses are adopting to ensure complete privacy and security.

But what is end-to-end encryption, and which apps use it to boost privacy?

What is end-to-end encryption?

End-to-end encryption (E2EE) is a popular security approach or a system of communication that prevents the third party from accessing data while it’s transferred from the sender to a receiver. Our device handles encryption and decryption. That way, no one, including the service provider, can access the message during transmission. E2EE messages/information delivered via these platforms are only accessible to the sender and receiver.

E2EE is used regularly with mobile messaging applications such as Signal. It is also used in email messaging apps like Protonmail and developing solutions for sensitive data-sharing like 1Password.

How end-to-end encryption works

Every message, email, or file we deliver over the internet is split into little data packets. These little data packets are then transported to the destination address by our internet service provider (ISP) or the app. Our data in the transfer process could get intercepted, modified, deleted, or used by third-party providers.

Encryption is the process of manipulating sets of data using efficient and reliable mathematical algorithms to make them unrecognizable and unreadable. Only decoding the encryption or using the authorized private keys will allow you to read encrypted data.

Although there are different encryption methods, like every other technology, some strategies are superior and lacking in some areas. Therefore, end-to-end encryption seems to check more boxes than the other encryption methods like client-side encryption when it comes to protecting communication channels.

Furthermore, when a communication channel enables end-to-end encryption, this is how it works: When we use an E2EE encrypted application to send a message in the form of texts, images, or video, this file is encrypted as the data is transmitted between devices. Encryption changes data into fragments that can only be decoded using a secret key.

Conclusion

widget

E2EE is considered one of the safest strategies to maintain customer privacy because the service provider cannot see the communications transferred between users. Additionally, companies are unable to hand over the contents of messages to law enforcement agencies as a result of this.

This secret key is that it is:

  • Not seen by third parties.
  • Created on the two devices that are communicating.

In essence, since only the people/devices communicating have access to the key, any attempt to tamper with the information will be unsuccessful.

Another example: a provider of digital point-of-sale (POS) solutions might integrate E2EE in its offering to protect sensitive data such as client credit card information.

Companies like The @ Company, Meta, Signal, and Zoom integrate end-to-end encryption in their applications.

However, the choice to implement E2EE and either make it optional for people to turn it on or off has sparked debate among these suppliers. The technology makes it more difficult for service providers to disclose user information with authorities and allow persons involved in illegal activity to communicate privately.

End-to-end encryption protects us from unauthorized surveillance either from the government, service providers, cybercriminals, or “man-in-the-middle” attacks. On the other hand, people can plan and execute crimes without being monitored.

Most messaging applications use different types of encryption. End-to-end encryption gives only the people with the “key” the access to encrypt or decrypt a message, thereby protecting the information sent across.

The @ Company advocates for end-to-end encryption and, as a result, has built the @platform. This new internet protocol allows developers to develop privacy-focused solutions without worrying about backend infrastructure.

RELATED TAGS

cryptography
communitycreator

Grokking Modern System Design Interview for Engineers & Managers

Ace your System Design Interview and take your career to the next level. Learn to handle the design of applications like Netflix, Quora, Facebook, Uber, and many more in a 45-min interview. Learn the RESHADED framework for architecting web-scale applications by determining requirements, constraints, and assumptions before diving into a step-by-step design process.

Keep Exploring