XOR cipher is very easy to implement and offers a strong protection against brute force attacks. Keep reading to learn more!
In today’s world, we use internet and communication technologies on a daily basis for pleasure and business. We send e-mails and files, chat with friends and co-workers, share content on social media, do shopping and so forth. As a result, we send and receive a significant amount of sensitive data every day. Our devices, the platforms we use, mail servers, messenger software and browsers employ various encryption techniques in order to ensure secure communication.
Encryption aims to convert information from a legible, coherent state to an unintelligible state. This way, an eavesdropper cannot understand the message even if they manage to acquire it.
A wide range of algorithms are used for encryption and XOR is one of them. In this article, we will explain what XOR is in detail and discuss the reasons why XOR is important in cryptography.
What is XOR cipher?
Simply put, XOR (pronounced “exclusive or”) cipher is an additive cypher. It is based on the XOR operation (also known as the exclusive disjunction) in logic.
As a logical operation, XOR is also called modulus 2 addition. In XOR operation, the output is true when the inputs differ. In other words, XOR operation means “either one but not both or none.”
Below you can find the principles of XOR (⩛ denotes the XOR operation):
A ⩛ 0 = A
A ⩛ A = 0
( A ⩛ B ) ⩛ C = A ( B ⩛ C )
( B ⩛ A ) ⩛ A = B ⩛ 0 = B
XOR cipher employs the XOR logical operation in order to encrypt data. First, a random key is generated. Then, XOR operation is performed using the key so that an encrypted data is created. In order to decrypt, the same key should be used and XOR operation should be run again.
XOR operation uses the same key for both encryption and decryption. That is why it is known as a symmetric encryption.
Why is XOR cipher important?
XOR cipher is famous for being very resistant to brute force attacks where the attacker generates random keys and try them until the correct one is found.
In addition, the implementation of XOR is very easy. That is why XOR is used inside most encryption algorithms or used with various other encryption methods. Yet the most important feature of the XOR cipher is that it can be “the perfect cipher” with one time pad.
One time pad refers to an encryption technique where the key is:
As long as (or longer than) the plaintext,
Never reused in part or in whole.
When XOR cipher has a random key that is as long as the message itself, it is impossible to crack it. In other words, it offers the highest level of security.
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