Technical Terms and Definitions

Triple DES - Software

Triple DES, or 3DES, is an encryption algorithm based on the popular DES system. 3DES uses the DES algorithm three times in succession to create a key that is up to 112 bits in length, which is significantly more secure than the 56 bit key that DES uses. It takes three 64-bit keys, for an overall key length of 192 bits. In Stealth, you simply type in the entire 192-bit (24 character) key rather than entering each of the three keys individually. The Triple DES DLL then breaks the user provided key into three subkeys, padding the keys if necessary so they are each 64 bits long. The procedure for encryption is exactly the same as regular DES, but it is repeated three times. Hence the name Triple DES. The data is encrypted with the first key, decrypted with the second key, and finally encrypted again with the third key.

Consequently, Triple DES runs three times slower than standard DES, but is much more secure if used properly. The procedure for decrypting something is the same as the procedure for encryption, except it is executed in reverse. Like DES, data is encrypted and decrypted in 64-bit chunks. Unfortunately, there are some weak keys that one should be aware of: if all three keys, the first and second keys, or the second and third keys are the same, then the encryption procedure is essentially the same as standard DES. This situation is to be avoided because it is the same as using a really slow version of regular DES.

Note that although the input key for DES is 64 bits long, the actual key used by DES is only 56 bits in length. The least significant (right-most) bit in each byte is a parity bit, and should be set so that there are always an odd number of 1s in every byte. These parity bits are ignored, so only the seven most significant bits of each byte are used, resulting in a key length of 56 bits. This means that the effective key strength for Triple DES is actually 168 bits because each of the three keys contains 8 parity bits that are not used during the encryption process.