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## What is Encryption?

Encryption is used to protect data from being stolen, changed, or compromised and works by scrambling data into a secret code that can only be unlocked with a unique digital key. At its most basic level, encryption is the process of protecting information or data by using mathematical models to scramble it in such a way that only the parties who have the key to unscramble it can access it.

hat process can range from very simple to very complex, and mathematicians and computer scientists have invented specific forms of encryption that are used to protect information and data that consumers and businesses rely on every day.

## AES Disk Encryption

The Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) is a symmetric block cipher algorithm that encrypts and decrypts electronic data in blocks of 128 bits. It uses the same key to encrypt and decrypt data, so both the sender and receiver need to know and use the same secret encryption key. AES was developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in 1997 to replace the Data Encryption Standard (DES) and make government data more resistant to brute force attacks. It’s considered secure against all known attacks and is widely used in both public and private applications, including:

### VPNs, Password managers, Mobile applications, Wireless networks, File encryption, and Video games.

## How AES Disk Encryption Works

The key size for AES-256 is 256 bits, and it performs 14 rounds of encryption compared to 10 rounds for AES-128. Here’s a step-by-step example of how AES-256 works:

Step 1: Plaintext and Key

Plaintext: “ExampleMessage123” (128-bit block)

Key: “thisisaverysecureencryptionkey!!!” (256-bit key)

Step 2: Convert Plaintext and Key to Binary

Each character is represented in binary (ASCII).

Plaintext in binary:

01000101 01111000 01100001 01101101 01110000 01101100 01100101 01001101 01100101 01110011 01110011 01100001 01100111 01100101 00110001 00110011

Key in binary:

01110100 01101000 01101001 01110011 01101001 01110011 01100001 01110110 01100101 01110010 01111001 01110011 01100101 01100011 01110101 01110010

01100101 01101110 01100011 01110010 01111001 01110000 01110100 01101001 01101111 01101110 01101011 01100101 01111001 00100001 00100001 00100001

Step 3: Initial Round Key Addition

Each byte of the plaintext is XORed with the corresponding byte of the key.

Resulting binary (initial round):

00110001 00010000 00001000 00000000 00011000 00011111 00010100 00100001 00000000 00000010 00001110 00010010 00000010 00000110 01010100 01010100

Step 4: Rounds (AES-256 has 14 rounds)

Each round consists of:

SubBytes: Substitute bytes using a substitution table (S-box).

ShiftRows: Shift rows of the state array.

MixColumns: Mix the columns of the state array (not in the final round).

AddRoundKey: XOR the state with the round key.

Let’s go through one round (simplified):

SubBytes: Substitute bytes using an S-box.

Example: If the byte is 00110001, find the corresponding byte in the S-box.

ShiftRows: Shift rows of the state array.

The first row remains the same.

The second row shifts one byte to the left.

The third row shifts two bytes to the left.

The fourth row shifts three bytes to the left.

MixColumns: Mix the columns of the state array.

Example: Matrix multiplication in GF(2^8).

AddRoundKey: XOR the state with the round key.

Repeat these steps for 13 more rounds, with variations in the final round (no MixColumns).

Step 5: Final Round (No MixColumns)

Perform SubBytes, ShiftRows, and AddRoundKey.

Step 6: Ciphertext

The result after the final round is the ciphertext, represented in binary or hexadecimal.

Example Ciphertext (hexadecimal):

d6aa74fdd2af72fadaa678f1d6ab76fe

Summary

Plaintext: “ExampleMessage123”

Key: “thisisaverysecureencryptionkey!!!”

Ciphertext (Hex): d6aa74fdd2af72fadaa678f1d6ab76fe

This example is a simplified overview of the AES-256 encryption process. In practice, AES-256 involves more detailed operations, including key expansion and more complex transformations, especially for the 256-bit key, which requires more extensive key scheduling.

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