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Showing posts from March, 2011

Base64 Encoding is NOT Cryptography

I have once again come across an IT department who were/are firmly convinced that the commercial web application that they use is secure and has encrypted user details. What it actually does is Base64 encode the password. This is not encryption and must be treated as plaintext.

So what is Base64 encoding and why do we have it? Well, a large number of popular application layer protocols are ASCII text based, i.e. they transfer plain text over the network. A good example of this is HTTP - the protocol used to transfer HTML (or Web) pages around. Originally, only text pages were sent with markup embedded to style it. However, soon other resources were added to the web including pictures, documents, etc. HTTP is designed to transfer plain ASCII text, so how do you transfer a JPEG photograph? Answer: You convert it into plain ASCII text.

The basic principle of converting a file into text is to use the data to represent an index to the ASCII character, e.g. 'A' is 63, 'B' is…