Tokenization Vs Encryption

  • September 28, 2017
  • Blog

Tokenization Vs Encryption

Owing to the ever-rising cyber thefts, it’s imperative to properly secure any data that is being transmitted over the internet or stored on digital devices for later use. Recently encryption and Tokenization are the most used methods that met all the regulatory requirements accepted by GLBA,PCI DSS, ITAR, HIPAA-HITECH, and the EU GDPR as a way of securing confidential information whenever there’s need to transmit such on the Internet. Interestingly, tokenization and encryption are not the same, though they are unarguably a dynamic data securing technologies, they are not interchangeable in every sense of it. The technological makeup of each obfuscation technologies has its strength and weakness, where various situations at hand could dictate the one that should be the best choice. However, both encryption and tokenization are used to secure the end-to-end process in a transaction such as electronic payment.

Encryption Tokenization
An encryption algorithm and a key is used to mathematically transforms plaintext  into ciphertext The token value is randomly generated  for plain text, and the mapping is stored in a database
a small encryption key is needed to  decrypt data that would scale to large data volumes  The database size is directly proportional to the difficulty in secure scaling and general performance
It works well with  unstructured data such as entire files and structured data fields Used for structured data fields such as Social Security numbers or payment card
Sensitive data can be exchanged easily with third parties who have the encryption key cumbersome to exchange data since it requires direct access to a token vault mapping token values
Format-preserving encryption schemes come with a  lower tradeoff strength Strength of the security cannot be compromised even when the  Format is retained
Original data are sent out from the organization in encrypted form Original data remains with the organization, authenticating certain compliance requirements


Encryption is the process of transforming plain text information into a non-readable form – ciphertext- with the use of an algorithm, in such a way that only an authorized person equipped with the right algorithm and an encryption key can decrypt the information and return it to its original plain text format. Recently, millions of people harness the encryption capabilities of their gadgets to encrypt data on such gadget to protect confidential data against the accidental lost to the wrong hands in case of device theft. Encryption also protects individuals against cyber theft of vital organizational documents.

There are two primary methods implore in data encryption which is symmetric key and asymmetric key encryption. The symmetric key encryption can be likened to the conventional post office box where one key is required to either lock or open the box. The symmetric key encryption is designed to use one key which can encrypt and decrypt the data therein. As such,   once the key is compromised, every data therein can be easily decrypted or encrypt with one single key. Subsequently, as the efficacy of the symmetric key encryption diminished, the need for a more reliable option of encryption became necessary.  Asymmetric key encryption was developed to make up for the flaws of the symmetric key encryption,

In asymmetric key encryption implores a more advanced method of encryption, such that both the encryption and decryption processes have two distinct keys respectively. The encryption key can be called the public key since it can be distributed or shared between clients even before any payment is made in the course of a transaction. However, the second key- the decryption key- is kept private, and its only release after a confirmed payment has been made. This type of encryption is also used as a means of identity validation on the Internet using SSL certificates.

As a way of mitigating against having a compromised encryption, the encryption key is routinely rotated as a proactive measure, which means if one key is compromised, only data encrypted with such key will be at risk.

The major downside of encryption is that it affects sorting process of data encrypted in the application, and also disturb application functionality. Since encrypted data are in ciphertext format, which is structurally different from the original data, field validation may be broken if the application requires some certain formats that are not integrated. Methods like format-preserving, new order-preserving, and searchable encryption schemes are used to achieve end user-friendly data with optimized application functionality.


Tokenization is the process of intentionally converting sensitive data, into a collection of characters called a token that has no conspicuous meaning or value. Since these tokens are not mathematically derived from the original data, they cannot be used as clues to the values they are encoding. The relationship between the sensitive value and the token are stored in a database called a token vault where the main data are stored and protection using encryption.

The token can serve as a form of passcode that is to be tendered to retrieve the original data. This is applicable in financial transaction processing. The token submitted fetches data with the corresponding token value from the cloud token vault which translates into a hitch-free transaction.

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