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What is Envelope Encryption?


What is envelope encryption, and what role should it be playing in your organization’s cybersecurity?

The data encryption market is growing at an unprecedented rate. According to the Market Research Future report, the market size will increase to an estimated $38.5 billion by 2030

This emphasizes just how significant of a role both general cryptography and encryption algorithms play in cybersecurity–with envelope encryption at the forefront. Read on to get your answers about envelope encryption and why it’s already become a buzzword regarding security posture.

What is the Definition of Envelope Encryption?

Envelope encryption is a technique that uses two layers of encryption. One layer secures the data through a blend of asymmetric and symmetric encryption algorithms. It encrypts data using a unique key called the data key. 

The envelope encryption process involves encrypting your data with a Data Encryption Key, then encrypting the Data Encryption Key (DEK) with a Customer Master Key (CMK).

From there, encrypted data and the encrypted DEK is stored in the database. 

How Envelope Encryption Works

How exactly does envelope encryption work?

Here’s a step-by-step of the steps involved: 

  1. The envelope encryption algorithm generates a random symmetric key to encrypt the data. It is called the data encryption key (DEK)

  2. The entire data ready for transmission through the insecure/secure network gets encrypted through this symmetric key

  3. The symmetric key is then encrypted using the recipient's public key (asymmetric encryption), otherwise called the root key

  4. The algorithm then sends the encrypted symmetric key and the data to the recipient

  5. The recipient utilizes their private key to decrypt the symmetric key encryption

  6. After decrypting the symmetric key, that key helps the recipient to decrypt the data. Hence, security professionals call it two-layer encryption

What Are the Benefits of Envelope Encryption?

There are numerous benefits of envelope encryption. Some are:

  • Multiple Layers of Security: Envelope encryption is a secure technique that follows the practice of encrypting data with a Data Encryption Key. Then the DEK gets encrypted using a root key managed carefully. Hence, it becomes difficult for cybercriminals to decrypt this dual-layer encryption technique.

  • Enhanced Speed and General Performance: Other than security, envelope encryption also delivers good performance in encrypting data. Public-key algorithms are slow compared to symmetric algorithms. Large messages get encrypted fast with a symmetric algorithm. Envelope encryption gives the benefits of a public-key strategy (for better security) with the performance of symmetric encryption (for better performance.)

  • Ease of Security Management: When using envelope encryption, enterprises can encrypt multiple Data Encryption Keys (DEKs) under a single root key. Hence, it makes encryption key management with complete security seamless. Cloud services often use it for managing multiple symmetric keys under one public key (root key.)

  • The Promotion of Scalable Security: We all know that the cloud stores vast amounts of data. Dynamically securing them requires a fast encryption technique. Envelope encryption is fast and provides high scalability to secure large amounts of data across distributed systems. It offers an ideal solution for organizations that must store and transmit sensitive data across multiple locations (for example, redundant data backup in different cloud servers.)

  • Regulatory Compliance: Enterprises often use envelope encryption to comply with regulatory requirements for data security and privacy, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA.)

Envelope Encryption Applications

There are numerous applications of envelope encryption. Some are:

  • Cloud storage. It secures the data stored in the cloud, such as in cloud-based file storage and sharing services like Dropbox and Google Drive.

  • Financial transactions, such as credit card payments or online banking transactions

  • Securing the data in transit between data centers. When data centers transmit large amounts of sensitive data across multiple locations, it maintains the confidentiality and integrity of data

Moreover, when it comes to data, there are three stages where it would be beneficial to encrypt it:

  • When it’s at rest, such as on hardware storage devices like a disk or in your devices

  • In transit, like while data is being moved between different locations like server to server

  • In use, wherein it’s being used by a server 

To learn more about how to successfully pair envelope encryption with penetration testing, download our buyer's guide today.


Envelope encryption has become a must-have security mechanism for protecting data sanctity. It is one of the most trusted application security design patterns in 2023 and is the default encryption method for services like AWS S3, and GCP.

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