# Stream Ciphers

**Encryption and Decryption**

Encryption is the process of converting plaintext to encrypted text. Since encrypted text cannot be read by anyone, encrypted text hides the original data from unauthorized users. Decryption is the process of converting encrypted data to plaintext. Basically, it is the reverse of encryption. It is used to decrypt the encrypted data so that only an authorized user can access and read the data. The process entailing encryption and decryption together is called cryptography.

**Private and Public Keys in Cryptography**

A key is a bit valued string which is used to convert the plaintext into cipher text and vice-versa. A key can be a word, number or phrase. Cryptography makes use of public and private keys. A public key is issued publicly by the organization and it is used by the end user to encrypt the data. The encrypted data, once received by the organization, is decrypted by using a private key and the data is converted to plaintext.

**Encryption Types**

Cryptography uses symmetric and asymmetric encryption for encryption and decryption of data. If the sender and the recipient of the data use the same key to encrypt and decrypt the data, it’s called symmetric encryption and if the keys are different for encryption and decryption then its asymmetric encryption.

Now the basics are clear, let’s focus on the Stream Ciphers algorithm in this post.

**Stream Ciphers**

Stream Ciphers falls under the Symmetric Encryption category. Thus, using Stream Ciphers the sender and the recipient of the data uses the same key to encrypt and decrypt the data.

Stream cipher is different from Block Cipher. In 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).

**Keystream**

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

**Encryption**

**Steps**

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

**Example**

**Plain Text : 10011001**

**Keystream : 11000011**

**———————**

**Cipher Text : 01011010**

**Decryption**

**Steps – **

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

**Example**

**Cipher Text : 01011010**

**Keystream : 11000011**

**———————- **

**Plain Text : 10011001**

**Popular Stream Ciphers**

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

**RC4 –**It stands for Rivest Cipher 4 and is the most widely used Stream Ciphers of all. It has been used in various protocols like WEP, WPA and TLS.

**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. |