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Difference between Software Encryption and Hardware Encryption

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  • Last Updated : 16 Jun, 2022
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1. Software Encryption: Software Encryption, as the name suggests, is a process of keeping data safe using the software. In this, the software is generally installed in the host computer that encrypts and decrypts data. It is more cost-effective for smaller companies. In this, the password is the key that one needs to have access to data. It usually shares processing resources with all other programs or processes on the system that might have an impact on the performance of all other functions of the system.

Examples: LastPass, BitLocker, VeraCrypt, DiskCryptor, etc., are some software encryption tools that are best to use to keep valuable data safe and secure.

2. Hardware Encryption: Hardware Encryption, as the name suggests, is a process of keeping data safe using a dedicated and separate processor. It is more cost-effective for larger companies because it does not require any additional software installation. In this, password, biometrics such as fingerprints can be used to have access to data. It provides much greater throughput capacity and speed in a large-scale environment. It also includes faster algorithm processing, tamper-proof or tamper-resistant key storage, and protection against unauthorized code.

Examples: Wireless access point or wireless base station, Credit card point-of-sale-device, network bulk encrypts, etc.

Difference between Software Encryption and Hardware Encryption:

S. No.

Software Encryption 

Hardware Encryption

1.It simply uses symmetric cryptography where the same key is used for encryption and decryption.  It simply uses the onboard security of devices to perform encryption and decryption. 
2.It generally allows to encrypt data during the backup job, data replication job, or auxiliary copy job.It generally allows to encrypt data on tape drives that have built-in encryption capabilities.
3.It is cost-effective and cheap to implement as compared to hardware encryption.  It is costly to implement as compared to software encryption.  
4.It is less secure as compared to hardware encryption. It is more secure and safer as compared to software encryption because the encryption process is separate from the rest of the machine making it much hardware to break or intercept.  
5.Software encryption systems usually have built-in recovery mechanisms but should set up their recovery options in advance.  Hardware encryption systems do not include additional recovery options. 
6.Its encrypted storage is less expensive than a hardware tool.  Its encrypted storage is more expensive than a software tool. 
7.It uses computer resources to encrypt data and perform cryptographic operations. It uses a dedicated processor that is physically located on an encrypted drive instead of the computer processor.  
8.It needs to be reinstalled if OS is changed because software encryption exists in the software of the machine.  It will remain in place no matter what happens to the computer system because hardware encryption exists outside of the computer’s software. 
9.It can be copied to different drives or computers if one wants to expand security to other machines. One has to purchase an additional drive with hardware encryption if one wants to expand security because it only covers one drive at a time.  
10.It uses computer processor to handle data encryption and therefore slows down overall system performance.  It runs on its hardware i.e.; encryption happens within the separate processor and therefore has no effect on overall system performance.  
11.It does not require any additional hardware.It usually requires a separate dedicated processor.  
12.Software-based encryption encrypts data and performs other cryptographic operations using the computer’s resources. The user’s password is frequently used as the encryption key that scrambles the data in software encryption.Instead of the computer’s processor, hardware-based encryption employs a specialized processor that is physically located on the encrypted drive. This encryption processor may additionally include a random number generator, which generates an encryption key that is unlocked by the user’s password.
13.It uses secret key generated from encryption software that runs on PC.  It uses secret key generated from physical attribute of storage device.
14.Brute force attack involves repeatedly guessing a password or encryption key. Although software-based encryption techniques impose a constraint on the number of decryption or login tries, hackers can still access the computer’s memory and reset the attempt counter, due to which they get an endless amount of time to guess the password or key. This technique of brute force attack will not work since hardware-based encryption is processed on a specialized chip that cannot be accessed by the computer.
15.Examples of such encryption tools include BitLocker, etc. Hardware encryption can be present on external hard drives or solid-state drives called as Self-Encrypting Drives (SEDs), as well as in cellphones; examples are Apple’s Touch ID and ace ID.
16.Some software encryption systems, such as BitLocker, include built-in recovery techniques, but you must set them up ahead of time.Hardware-encrypted data is also more difficult to retrieve in the event of theft, as hardware encrypted devices are designed to hinder data recovery in the event of theft.
17.Some encryption software is difficult to operate, and users may choose to disable it, destroying all protection. Because usage of encryption software tools can slow down your computer as data is continually encrypted and decrypted.Because the encryption is constantly on, neither end-users nor malware can disable it.
18.Cost-effective in small application environmentsCost-effective in medium and larger application environments.


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