What is IDEA Encryption?

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  • Written By: Troy Holmes
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 14 July 2017
  • Copyright Protected:
    Conjecture Corporation
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Data encryption has been used for centuries as a method of protecting sensitive data. In late 1970s, the data encryption standards (DES) were created by the United States federal government. This standard is managed by the National Institute for Standards and Technology. The international data encryption algorithm (IDEA™) is an encryption function that was created in 1991 by James Massey and Xuejia Lai from ETH Zurich. The IDEA™ encryption algorithm is based on a 128-bit encryption key, which is the key that ciphers and deciphers messages.

Cryptography is a science that focuses on standards for data encryption. This process converts plain-text data into an unrecognizable string of characters. Cryptography is typically used by most governments for military and sensitive data sharing between organizations. Most cryptographic algorithms use secret keys to cipher and decipher plain-text data.

Public-key cryptography is a type of encryption in which two keys are necessary to decrypt the information. One key is used for ciphering and another key is used for deciphering messages. This form of encryption is known as asymmetric encryption because a public key is shared with trusted parties.

IDEA™ encryption algorithms use a private-key symmetric approach. This form of encryption only uses one key. With this approach, a single key is used for encryption and decryption of plain-text data. The symmetric approach is typically faster because it is easier for the computer to interpret a single key.


The IDEA™ encryption algorithm has a patent that expires in 2011, which makes it unavailable for commercial use. This algorithm is used by multiple international governments as a form of data encryption. This encryption algorithm is included as an optional algorithm for the well-known pretty good privacy (PGP) encryption standard.

The IDEA™ encryption algorithm uses a 128-bit encryption key and is considered a complex ciphering algorithm. This is because IDEA™ uses mathematical functions that manipulate the string of characters in addition to the 128-bit key. These functions include simple multiplication merged with advanced algebraic manipulation.

Data encryption is widely used in many applications throughout the world. These applications include emails, video conferencing, cable TV, and secure Internet protocols. The IDEA™ encryption algorithm will work with encryption protocols that require moderate encryption rates.

With cryptography used in everything from smart cards to cell phones, encryption performance is critical. An automated teller machine is a good example of online encryption on a high-speed network. Currently the IDEA™ encryption algorithm cannot process at sufficient speeds for many high-speed transactions.



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