Difference Between Symmetric and Asymmetric Key Encryption

By Mohit Uniyal|Updated : June 10th, 2022

Difference Between Symmetric and Asymmetric Key Encryption: Encryption is a very confidential process of converting messages into specific codes in order to save them from being read by any reader. The main difference between symmetric and asymmetric key encryption is that in symmetric key encryption same key is used to encrypt and decrypt the message whereas, for asymmetric key encryption, different keys are used to encrypt and decrypt the message.

The encryption can be done in various ways where symmetric and asymmetric key encryption is the major type of it. Here, we will first explore the symmetric and asymmetric key encryption in brief thereafter we will see the difference between symmetric and asymmetric key encryption in detail based on the various aspects. 

Table of Content

Difference Between Symmetric and Asymmetric Key Encryption

Although both the methods are used for message encryption there exist various differences between the two methods. All the differences between symmetric and asymmetric key encryption are explained in the table provided below:

Key Differences Between Symmetric and Asymmetric Key Encryption

Symmetric Key EncryptionAsymmetric Key Encryption
It is a simple form of encryption.It is complicated from of encryption.
A single key is required for encryption and decryption.Two separate keys are used to encrypt and decrypt.
Cypher text will carry smaller or the same size as of original text.The size of cypher text can be large or the same.
Quicker process.Slower process.
Preferred for large quantity encryption.Preferred for small quantity encryption.
Confidentiality is the only benefit of this method.Other than confidentiality, it provides authenticity and non-repudiation.
Resources are moderately utilised.Resources and highly utilised.
Example: RC4, DES, 3DES, etc.Example: Diffie-zhellman, El Gamal, ECC, RS, etc.

What is Symmetric Key Encryption?

Symmetric key encryption is a method of message encryption. In this method of encryption, the message is encrypted and decrypted with the use of a single key. The same key is used to decrypt which was used for encryption. It is one of the most used and simplest methods of encryption.

The name symmetric key encryption is derived from the use of the same key for the complete process. This single key will convert the simple text into ciphertext and again the ciphertext into plain text while decrypting. This process is safe and faster to execute and hence preferred very often.

What is Asymmetric Key Encryption?

Asymmetric key encryption is another method of message encryption. In this method, unlike symmetric key encryption, a different key is used for encryption and decryption. It uses the public and private key technique. A public key can be used by various users for encryption but the private key is not exchanged with others while decrypting. 

The asymmetric key encryption generally takes more time than the symmetric key encryption process. In this method, an encrypted message by a public key can be decrypted by the private key and vice versa is also true. 

As we have seen both the methods of encryption, let us now see the difference between symmetric and asymmetric key encryption in the next sections.

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FAQs on Difference Between Symmetric and Asymmetric Key Encryption

  • The major difference between symmetric and asymmetric key encryption is that in symmetric key encryption only a single key is required for encryption and decryption whereas, for asymmetric encryption, two separate keys are required for encryption and decryption.

  • As per the security purpose, both symmetric and asymmetric key encryptions are secure but since two separate keys are used in the asymmetric key encryption method hence it is more secure than the symmetric one. Along with extra secure encryption, asymmetric key encryption also provides authenticity.

  • In the symmetric key encryption method of encrypting a message, a single key is used for encryption and decryption. In this method the key which was used for encryption, the same key is used for decryption of the ciphertext.

  • The asymmetric key encryption method is another method used for the encryption of the plain text into ciphertext. In this method, two separate keys, public and private keys are used for encryption and decryption respectively. This method is an authentic and secure method of encryption.

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