Traditional cryptographic methods are demonstrating vulnerabilities in the face of the digital explosion, increasingly complex enterprise environments, more sophisticated algorithms in the hands of bad actors, and the rapidly developing field of quantum computing.
The only known perfect cipher — the one-time pad — presents a time-honored solution, and a viable one for the enterprise now that breakthrough OTP-inspired encryption solutions are becoming available.
Fundamental to the uncrackable encryption OTP provides are four critical attributes — read on for the low down on what makes the one-time pad the “gold standard” in cryptography.
The One-Time Pad: Four Critical Attributes for Perfect Secrecy
An OTP cipher delivers higher quality cryptography, widely considered to be the most secure encryption method available. In 1945, Claude Shannon, the inventor of information theory, proved mathematically that ciphertext encrypted with OTP is unbreakable so long as an OTP key displays four critical attributes. If all four are present, not even the fastest, most powerful brute-force computing power could decipher the encrypted data.
The four critical attributes of an OTP key are:
- Randomness — The first, and most foundational requirement for one-time pad encryption is that the key used for encryption must be truly random. The security of the encryption is directly proportional to the genuine randomness of the key. If the key is predictable, an attacker can easily crack the encryption and obtain the plaintext information — an issue for much of today’s traditional encryption, which can often contain buried, repeating patterns that compromise its security.
- Size — The second attribute is that the size of the OTP key must be at least equal to, or greater than the size of the plaintext data. Each byte of plaintext is encrypted by combining it with a corresponding byte from the equal-sized OTP key. There must be as many possible keys as there are possible ciphertexts in order to ensure the security of the OTP encryption.
- Uniqueness — The third critical OTP attribute is that the OTP key must be used only once; it must never be recycled, in order to avoid attackers deciphering and applying any information from one encryption to the next. No two-time pads. Although the OTP key may be used only once to encrypt one item of data, it may be used more than once to decrypt data (akin to reading the same email attachment multiple times).
- Secret — The fourth and final OTP attribute is perhaps the most obvious one, but no less important: the OTP key must be kept secret. Much like any encryption cipher, the key must remain unknown to attackers to ensure the security of the plaintext. Even if an attacker has access to the encrypted message, they cannot determine the original message without access to the OTP key.
Once an OTP key checks all of these boxes — randomness, size, uniqueness, and secrecy — the resulting ciphertext becomes completely impossible to decrypt.
One-time pad encryption, despite its undeniable advantages, hasn’t been widely adopted for use in large-scale communication networks because of certain inherent drawbacks including:
- Key distribution: If the key is intercepted or not properly distributed, the encryption is compromised.
- Key re-use: If the same key is used to encrypt multiple messages, the encryption is no longer secure.
- Key generation: Generating a truly random key can be difficult and time-consuming, and if a key is used that isn’t genuinely random, the encryption is vulnerable to attack.
- Key storage: Storing the key securely can be a challenge, especially if it needs to be transported or shared between multiple parties.
- Limited use: One-time pads are most effective for short messages, and become less secure as the length of the message increases. This makes them less practical for many real-world applications.
The good news is, OTP is now a viable option for the enterprise as one-time pad-inspired solutions are emerging that solve for these limitations. With the threats to conventional cryptography on the rise, a return to the best there ever was couldn’t come soon enough.
One-Time Pad-Inspired Encryption for the Enterprise
A new generation of commercially viable OTP has arrived.
Theon Technology is driving a paradigm shift on the road to perfect secrecy. We utilize patented, quantum-resistant algorithms to provide a truly scalable, commercially viable, enterprise ready, one-time pad inspired security solution without the need for specialized hardware.
Our TheonSDK™ encryption tools provide higher entropy random number generation, with no repeats, ever, and a one-time pad-inspired solution that reduces OTP key storage and transmission overhead, making secure keys practical for deployment across multiple use cases.
The escalating demands of complex enterprise security environments today need better encryption solutions — and Theon is delivering with a revolutionary approach to data security.
Protect your data with the best of the best — Contact a Theon expert today to start taking advantage of scalable one-time pad-inspired encryption for your organization. We also have free eBooks available for download, including our OTP primer, Adapting OTP for the Enterprise.