The Difference Between Encryption and Cryptography

The Difference Between Encryption and Cryptography

The difference between encryption and cryptography can be distinguished by understanding the purpose of each. Cryptography is the science of disguising your writing, or simply “secret writing”. This form has evolved over many years, as far back as stenography, which is the science of hiding a secret message inside another.

Encryption, which is an essential part of cryptography, is mainly concerned with masking secret messages by obscuring them. To put it simply, encryption converts plain text data into another form called ciphertext. The conversion that takes place is done by a cryptographic algorithm, in which there are many to chose from. Some examples of these algorithms include AES, Twofish, Blowfish, RSA, and Triple DES. The ciphertext can’t be decrypted to its original state without owning a decryption key. Encryption helps to ensure confidentiality of the data stored on servers when at rest or when communicated through public networks, such as the Internet.

Although cryptography and encryption is used interchangeably, this is not completely correct. We can more precisely define this as the following, which is Cryptography being the study of secret writing, and encryption being a component of this science. Similar to saying that Biology is the study of life, and botany being a component of biology.

What are the functions of Cryptography?

In Information Security, cryptography provides four essential services which are authentication, nonrepudiation,confidentiality, and integrity.

We will take a look at each and define how cryptography services each.


Authentication works by using a cryptographic system to ensure that a user (or system) is who they say they are. The process works technically by comparing the credentials provided by the remote entity against a list of authorized entities stored in a file system or database.


The concept of nonrepudiation is important in the e-commerce world. To repudiate means to deny, and this concept is simple: when a user performs an action, he or she cannot later deny it.


In simple terms, confidentiality ensures that data is not made available or disclosed to unauthorized parties. This has always been the main purpose of creating cryptographic systems. When the data is confidential, no one should be allowed access to it except the authorized people who possess the decryption key. Confidentiality can be achieved by using a strong encryption algorithm combined with a strong and complex passphrase.


Integrity means that data is not viewed or manipulated by an unauthorized, or even an authorized, user during storage or transit. Technically, users can assure data integrity in transit by using hashing, which provides a mechanism to ensure that data has not been tempered with or changed during transmission. While the data is at rest, integrity can be achieved by physically controlling access to server/network device rooms, restricting access to data, and implementing strict authentication procedures in addition to storing sensitive data encrypted on company servers.

The differences are subtle, but we must recognize that cryptography and encryption are related, yet they do not mean the same thing. If you’re interested in the field of cybersecurity, one of the most important sciences you will study is Cryptography.



Hijazi, Rami. “Cryptography and Secure Communication.” Digital Privacy and Security Using Windows: A Practical Guide. New York: Apress, 2017