Data Key

What Does Data Key Mean?

A data key is a key which holds a variable value which can be applied to a string or a text block, in order for it to be encrypted or decrypted. It must be noted that a data key is used to encrypt and decrypt only data but not keys, as required in certain encryption formulas.


Techopedia Explains Data Key

The act of converting data into unreadable ciphers for security purposes is known as encryption. And likewise, converting ciphers back into the original data is known as decryption. In order to encrypt and decrypt, a data key is needed.

In the case that the data key is the same for both encryption and decryption, it is called a symmetric key. Examples of symmetric keys are in the Data Encryption Standard (DES) or Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). If the data key is different for encryption and decryption, it is called an asymmetric key. An example of this is RSA encryption. Asymmetric key encryption is more secure.


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Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.