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About Strong Encryption

Blowfish Algorithm

Of the hundreds of encryption algorithms available today, Blowfish stands out as the industry leader and has been selected by GotData? as its encryption algorithm.

Blowfish is a symmetric encryption algorithm designed in 1993 by Bruce Schneier as an alternative to existing encryption algorithms such as DES. Unlike DES, however, the Blowfish algorithm has a variable key length, which can be extended from 32 bits to 448 bits, making this a more secure alternative. Blowfish is a 64-bit cipher (i.e. a cryptographic key and algorithm are applied to a block of data rather than single bits).

Blowfish is a fast, free alternative to existing algorithms and has been analyzed considerably through years of peer review.

Length = Strength

Finding the plain text of an encrypted message without knowing the key is called "cracking" an algorithm. This brute-force attack consists of trying all possible values of keys until the right one is found.

It is easy to demonstrate that in the case of brute-force attack, the security increases together with the length of the key. If the key is 8 bits long, there are 2(to the power of 8), or 256 possible combinations. With a key of 40 bits this is increased to 2(to the power of 40), or one thousand billion combinations. The protection then resides on the time needed for a computer to perform its attack. Based on these premises as well as numerous industry trials, it is common opinion today that:

  • 40-bit key algorithms are useless as they can be "cracked" within a few hours by an average personal computer.
  • 64-bit algorithms are safe today but will become threatened as technology evolves.
  • 128-bit and over algorithms are almost unbreakable. In other words, it would take millions of years to try every possible combination of bits in a 128-bit key.

Based on calculations it can be said that a 128-bit encryption is not just three times stronger than a 40-bit encryption—it is 309,485,009,821,345,068,724,781,056 times stronger. Likewise, a 448-bit encryption key is 2.1 x 1096 stronger than a 128-bit key.

Speed

The speed of the blowfish algorithm is also impressive. The table below illustrates the effective throughput of the algorithm and shows how even large key lengths result in much faster performance than other encryption algorithms.

Speed Comparisons of Block Ciphers on a Pentium

Algorithm Clock cycles per round # of rounds # of clock cycles per byte encrypted
Blowfish 9 16 18
Khufu/Khafre 5 32 20
RC5 12 16 23
DES 18 16 45
IDEA 50 8 50
Triple-DES 18 48 108