Crypto ECB vs CBC Block Cipher Modes

What are the differences between crypto ECB and CBC block cipher modes? It is risky to deal with cryptocurrencies because everything here is digital and done online right from buying and selling the crypto coins to maintaining the transaction records.

Security is the key and therefore everything needs to be properly encrypted so that it is safe and no one can access the account and steal your money.

Therefore, it is required to follow the Advanced Encryption Standard, commonly referred to as AES.

This is actually a block cipher encryption standard according to the government of the United States and is typically used for government and military purposes.

AES has two specific modes namely ECB or Electronic Codebook which belongs to the first generation of it and the most basic type of block cipher encryption mode.

The other is CBC or Cipher Block Chaining which is an advanced type of block cipher encryption.

In this process, each ciphertext block depends on all plaintext blocks that are processed up to that particular point.

The main purpose of Cipher Block Chaining is to add an additional layer of complexity to the data which needs to be encrypted.

There are lots of differences between Electronic Codebook and Cipher Blocker Chaining block cipher modes.

These operations are specifically designed to encrypt data that is too long to fit in one single block of the block cipher.

Though there are several other varieties of block ciphers available, this article will let you know more about Electronic Codebook and Cipher Block Chaining along with the differences between the two modes.

Crypto ECB vs CBC Block Cipher Modes – The Differences

Crypto ECB vs CBC Block Cipher Modes 

It is very important to keep the private and public keys safe to prevent loss of funds from the crypto wallets and both symmetric and asymmetric cryptography needs to be used for that matter.

Such cryptographic algorithms may come in several forms that encrypt the data in the block and stream ciphers in blocks of fixed size.

Here are the main differences between two such block cipher modes namely Electronic Codebook and Cipher Block Chaining that the senders and recipients of messages must agree on to ensure that they both operate in the same way that is required and at the same time ensure that the data is decrypted correctly.

Working Process

As said earlier Electronic Codebook is the simplest form of block cipher mode of operation available and therefore its working process is also pretty straightforward.

While dealing with multi-block plaintexts, the main objective of ECB is to treat each of the plaintext blocks separately. This means that while encrypting or decrypting one block, there is no effect on the encryption or decryption of other blocks.

On the other hand, the working process of the Cipher Block Chaining mode is more complex. An IV is generated while encrypting the initial block. This IV is an unpredictable and unique value.

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The IV is XORed with plaintext before it is passed on to the encryption algorithm. This results in a ciphertext which is further used to carry on any necessary information while encrypting the following block and so on.

This IV is not a secret and is transmitted openly to the recipient of the message.

Issues and Limitations

While using the Electronic Codebook block cipher mode, there can be some issues experienced due to the resulting ciphertext. A few things can be still visible even if the color and text are distorted.

The main reason behind it is that while the encryption of the identical plaintext blocks, by using the ECB mode it produces the same ciphertext blocks.

In such a situation, each pixel acts as an independent plaintext block and therefore encrypts to the same ciphertext blocks.

Apart from this particular limitation of ECB mode for data encryption, it is also known to leak data related to the underlying message that is being encrypted.

Now, ciphertext being public information can be observed by any bad actors easily to identify the similar blocks and make a guess about what the original plaintext could be.

These issues and limitations are eliminated by Cipher Block Chaining block cipher mode since it does not encrypt each block of the plaintext separately.

It is therefore easy for the CBC mode to carry on the necessary info from the encrypted and decrypted data from one block to the one that follows.

Advantages

The main advantage of the Cipher Block Chaining mode is that it creates a relationship between blocks. This relationship helps in protecting the similar plaintext blocks against producing the same ciphertext blocks.

Instead, it produces a unique ciphertext simply because every block of the plaintext is XORed using different sets of IV before it is encrypted.

This will prevent a hacker from observing the set of ciphertexts and learning anything from it since these are not identical.

Another significant advantage of the Cipher Block Chaining mode is that decryption of data can be parallelized while the encryption process is carried on sequentially.

And, since the first IV and the other blocks that use ciphertext are public, the decryption process is carried on much faster in comparison to other block cipher modes of operation.

On the other hand, the advantages of the Electronic Codebook are also many. One of the most significant advantages of this mode is that it will allow you to manage a fractional decryption.

In addition to that, it will also help you to fill in the blanks very easily by extracting data from a hard disk that is encrypted.

Which is Better – Crypto ECB or CBC Block Cipher Modes?

In order to determine which is better among Electronic Codebook and Cipher Blocker Chaining block cipher modes and which one should you choose to encrypt or decrypt your data to protect it, you will need to know a bit more than the major differences between them as mentioned above.

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Each of these two block cipher modes of operation comes with their respective pros and cons and therefore you should select the one that will satisfy the needs of the particular project.

Any one of these two modes is good enough to choose because both Electronic Codebook and Cipher Block Chaining modes provide confidentiality.

However, if you really have to choose one among the two, you will be better off if you choose the CBC mode.

This is because, as stated earlier, the Electronic Codebook mode leaks information about the underlying messages and the plaintext due to the similar ciphertext blocks produced in the process.

Therefore, it is quite unsafe to use the ECB mode and preferably should be avoided.

In comparison, one good reason to use the Cipher Block Chaining instead of the Electronic Codebook mode is that it is one of the most widely used and popular block cipher modes of operation.

It is primarily because it is easy to implement and also supports parallelized decryption.

However, if you choose to use the CBC mode, it is very important that you implement it properly.

Otherwise, your system will be left vulnerable to cyber attacks and hacks if the padding of the ciphertext is implemented improperly.

In plain and simple terms, the differences between Electronic Codebook and Cipher Block Chaining and encryption operating modes can be explained in the following way:

Cipher Block Chaining typically uses an initialization vector.

It is this that you XOR against the first block of plaintext. After that the block of plaintext is encrypted and the next block of plaintext is XORed against the preceding encrypted plaintext block before this block is encrypted. This process continues.

On the other hand, the ECB mode resembles a raw cipher basically and therefore every block of input is encrypted and the block produces the desired output.

However, the key issue with this mode and the transformation of data is that the properties residing in the plaintext may show up, though not very clearly, in the ciphertext.

It is quite easy for others to analyze a particular pattern and deduce the properties residing in the plaintext that you thought to be hidden all the while.

This is the main drawback because this is what key schedules and blocks need to protect against mainly.

In addition to that, there are a few other drawbacks to the ECB mode which you should know as well.

For example, this mode utilizes simple substitution instead of chaining or an initialization vector.

Though this makes this mode very easy to implement, this is also one of its most significant disadvantages.

This in simple words means that two similar plaintext blocks will result in two similar ciphertext blocks in the same way.

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This will make them very weak, crypto-logically.

The ECB mode is not a good option to choose and use with blocks of small sizes, for example, those that are smaller than 40 bits.

This is because a few words and phrases in the block may be reused frequently in the plaintext. In other words, the ciphertext will carry and work against the patterns from the similar plaintext.

This will once again result in the emergence of recurring partial blocks of the ciphertext.

This will make the patterns of the plaintext more obvious and thereby provide the bad actors with an opportunity to presume the pattern of the plaintext and carry out a codebook attack.

The ECB mode is also not good to use for the same encryption modes. This is because the security of this mode is pretty weak.

However, if you really have to use it, make sure that you improve the security of this mode by adding up pad bits at random to each of the blocks in the series.

If the block is a large one, preferably more than 64 bits, it is highly possible that it will come with a lot of unique characteristics or entropy.

This will prevent the bad actors from performing a codebook attack.

On the other hand, if you consider using the CBC mode, encryption will be nearly impossible if, in case, you miss out on a few blocks in the series.

Also, there is another point of concern in using this mode which is that it does not support parallel operation as easily and naturally as it is supported by the ECB mode.

This is because each of the blocks in the sequence is encrypted separately before moving on to the next one.

This means that even if you can parallelize decryption while using CBC mode in block cipher operation, you will have to wait considerably on each block.

Therefore, since ‘Better’ being a subjective term, it is pretty hard to deduce.

Ideally, when you need to make a choice between Electronic Codebook and Cipher Block Chaining mode of block cipher operation, it should be the latter rather than the former in most of the situations.

Conclusion

If you only know the differences between Electronic Codebook and Cipher Block Chaining you will know why CBC is preferred more than ECB. If you do not then after reading this article you will surely be aware of the reasons.