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An Overview of Bulk Encryption

written by: William Busse•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 6/29/2010

Bulk encryption protocols provide safe and cost effective methods for protecting data transmissions from compromise and theft. This article explores the encryption process, the different available algorithms, and the bulk encryption process.

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    The Encryption Process

    Encryption is a methodology used to temporarily hide information. In the encryption process, data is transformed into an unintelligible code called ciphertext. When transmitted and received by the intended party, the ciphertext is then decoded back into its original form. The obvious intent of encryption technology is to protect critical information from hackers, competitors and others who would use the information for malicious intent.

    At the core of every encryption system is an algorithm which defines the manner in which the data will be sent. Since it is impractical to write a new algorithm for every transmission, encryption technology also includes a “key." In order to decipher the transmission, the receiver must be in possession of both the decryption algorithm and the key.

    The two most common types of encryption algorithms are public key and symmetric. A public key algorithm requires separate keys for the encryption and decryption process while a symmetric algorithm only requires a single key. Encryption schemes that do not involve the use of a key are far less secure and subject to compromise. In fact, anyone who was in possession of the decryption algorithm could decipher any transmission written with that particular algorithm.

    Common uses for encryption technology would apply to a local area network and the internet gateway, telecommunications applications and environments with large data transfer requirements.

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    Multiplexing in the Bulk Encryption Process

    Multiplexing allows numerous separate analog signals or data streams to be sent simultaneously over a single shared channel or line. As an economy of scale, multiplexing is most appropriate in an arrangement where transmission costs are reduced for each user as a resultcircuit board  of shared expenses.

    There are several different multiplexing processes including frequency division multiplexing, time division multiplexing, and sense wavelength division multiplexing. These formats are used in various applications to provide simultaneous transmission of different signals. At the heart of the system is a device called a multiplexer that divides and assigns logical channels for each stream, and a demultiplexer that reassembles the combined transmission into separate streams.

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    Bulk Encryption

    What does bulk encryption mean? Bulk encryption technology provides a method to encrypt the combined transmission from a multiplexer in its entirety. An encryptor, also called an encipher, is placed between the multiplexer and the transmitter while a decryptor is positioned after the receiver. This arrangement provides a high degree of security masking and makes it difficult for a system intruder to detect legitimate activity with any degree of accuracy. The encryptor protocols will often facilitate continued transmission of random output long after the original message is completed. This makes deciphering transmissions without the appropriate decryption algorithm and key nearly impossible.

    In an environment that uses a bulk encryption framework, system attributes dictate the kind of encryptor that will be used. This includes channel types, data rates, electrical characteristics such as voltages/currents, cabling pins, and usage considerations. It is worth noting that bulk encryptors actually encrypt every bit of data including framing bits, embedded addressing bits, and start/stop bits. As a result, they are considered to be protocol transparent.

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    Is Bulk Encryption Necessary?

    It is important to recognize that an attack on a data system is relatively simple and inexpensive to initiate. Unauthorized access to intercepted transmissions can result in the compromise of sensitive and vital information. Bulk encryption is an effective and cost effective solution for protecting valuable data assets.

    As with any investment, the cost of bulk encryption technology should be weighed against the potential loss of the unprotected data that may be vulnerable to theft or unexpected intrusion.

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