Web applications and apps in general have always been the preferred target for hackers since they are comparatively easier to break into and steal valuable information. To stop these applications from being hacked they need to be encrypted.
Encryption is needed for browsers and web applications in general, but the security has to be further enhanced. This is where white-box cryptography comes.
Now before we jump on to white-box, first let’s talk about the standard cryptography.
What is Cryptography?
To put it simply, cryptography is a method used to secure valuable information from falling into the wrong hands.
Cryptography scrambles plain texts into ciphertext and back again to plain text. This is known as decryption and encryption.
Proper encryption can save your data both on browsers and on apps. For encryption to work the keys used for encryption have to be kept secured because if the keys are found then the whole thing can easily be decrypted.
Keys are very sensitive, and that is why the codes are vulnerable to be targeted by malware.
Many different methods like reverse engineering and untangling software are used to figure out these keys. To further secure your encryptions you will need white-box cryptography.
What is White-Box Cryptography?
White-box cryptography makes the encryption almost impossible to reverse engineer. This helps in stopping side-channel attacks and also memory examination. White-box cryptography is very different from standard encryption.
White-box cryptography combines methods of encryption with obfuscation to embed the keys or secret codes within the application. This combination makes it extremely hard for the attacker to distinguish the key and that is why the new white-box program can even be kept in an unsecured environment.
White box encryption uses a series of obfuscation techniques to hide the cipher keys from hackers. It provides key storage for the cipher keys to be kept secured and makes it extremely difficult to decrypt.
How does White-box Cryptography work?
The reason why white-box cryptography is so trusted is that while securing the program using white-box, it is assumed that the attacker/hacker has access to execution memory, call intercepts of the CPU and the executable binary.
The name white-box also opposes the methods of black-box techniques. In the black-box methods, it is assumed that the attacker has only a few accesses such as the input, output, and a few algorithms related to the cryptography. Whereas in the white box cryptography it is assumed that the attacker has full access.
After considering that the attacker has all access to the system, steps are taken to white-box the program. This includes partial evaluation, tabularization, randomization, and decentralization.
White box cryptography applies a software-based key storage system and mathematical transformations to mix the cipher keys and app codes. For the entire process to work, a compiler is used.
The compiler uses various algorithms and data to create a binary program. In this created binary program the secret keys are embedded. On top of the binary program, obfuscation techniques are applied to make it more secure.
White box cryptography prevents the blended keys from being extracted. This makes reverse engineering difficult. White-box also uses methods in which the keys are never stored or exposed in the memory. This is done to prevent any form of memory examination.
White-box cryptography also provides various other protection against:
White-box ultimately excels in key management and keeps it safe from any type of vulnerability that may arise from poor management of such keys. All in all, white-box cryptography appears to be the future of data safety and security.
Is White-box Cryptography the safest way?
As we mentioned before, the white-box cryptography enables safety and security at the highest level. The methods are still being tested and developed every day to make it more secure.
The security levels are still evolving and they depend on the key size and strength of the algorithm.
Aside from keeping your apps and your data secured, there are some other advantages as well for the users.
White-box cryptography can easily be upgraded by using patches. It also supports various platforms such as macOS, Linux, and Windows. Monitoring the entire process is also very easy since it has no restrictions when it comes to monitoring from remote. The accessibility and multi-functionality can even remove the need for hardware security for various applications and programs – which essentially reduces a lot of the costs associated too.
There are some minor issues with the white-box encryption method since it is still in development. Currently, there are no known methods to analyze the actual strength of the security it provides.
There are also no available solutions for white-box encryption to be used on asymmetric encryption. Lastly, the white-box encryption methods should not be used on platforms that are constrained by resources.
Concerns regarding White-box Cryptography
As we mentioned before, the white box cryptography is still being developed. That is why there are concerns associated with this encryption security level and size penalties. It is still not ideal to be used in mobile systems.
Although specially programmed white-box encryption can be used – that will be a comparatively expensive approach. The white box is best used for multimedia where the security for the endpoints can not be accurately measured. Hardware approach is still the best option when it comes to safeguarding mission-critical data and financial information.
White-box cryptography seems to be the solution to create resistance against all sorts of app vulnerabilities. There is still room for improvement but, as of now, it has shown great potential in safeguarding various applications.
While there is no absolute security system, white-box cryptography aims to achieve that level of perfection. As of this writing, it has so far proven very capable of safeguarding apps and protecting our precious data from any malicious attacks.