# Understanding stream ciphers in cryptography

Stream ciphers fall under the symmetric encryption category. Thus, using stream ciphers the sender and the recipient of the data use the same key to encrypt and decrypt the data.

A stream cipher is different from a block cipher. In a stream cipher one byte (8 bit) of data is encrypted at a time while in block cipher, a block of data is encrypted at a time (usually 128 bits).

**What is a keystream?**

Stream ciphers make use of something called keystream. A keystream is a random 8-bit output that is generated by supplying a key to a pseudorandom bit generator. The 8-bit output generated is called keystream and is used in the encryption and decryption of data in a given stream cipher algorithm.

**Encryption**

**Steps**

- For encryption, plain text and keystream are required.
- The plain text and keystream produce ciphertext using XOR Operation.
- Plain text is XOR’ed with keystream bit by bit to produce CipherText.

**Example**

**Plain Text: 10011001**

**Keystream: 11000011**

**———————**

**Ciphertext: 01011010**

**Decryption**

**Steps**

- For decryption, ciphertext and the same keystream are required which was used for encryption.
- The ciphertext and the keystream produce plain text using XOR Operation.
- The ciphertext is XOR’ed with keystream bit by bit to produce PlainText.

**Example**

**Ciphertext: 01011010**

**Keystream: 11000011**

**———————- **

**Plain Text: 10011001**

**Popular stream ciphers**

Following are the popular stream ciphers used for encrypting the data.

- RC4
- SALSA
- SOSEMANUK
- PANAMA

**Block cipher and stream cipher differences**

Following are the differences between block cipher and stream cipher in tabulated form.

Block Ciphers |
Stream Ciphers |

Block Ciphers converts plain text to cipher text by taking a block at a time | Stream Ciphers converts plain text to cipher text by taking 1 byte of plain text at a time |

Block Ciphers encrypt 64 bits or more at a time | Stream Ciphers encrypt 8 bits at a time. |

It is more simple than Stream Ciphers | It is more complex than Block Ciphers |

It uses confusion as well as diffusion. | It uses only confusion. |

Reverse Encryption is harder | Reverse Encryption is very simple |

Slower than stream cipher | Faster than block cipher |

It works on transposition techniques like Caesar cipher, polygram substitution cipher etc. | It works on substitution techniques like rail-fence technique, columnar transposition technique etc. |