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What is Format-preserving Encryption?

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Format-preserving encryption is encryption that produces output in the same format as input. This is often used to describe algorithms for encrypting text that produce text with the same qualities. For example, an algorithm may encrypt 16-digit numbers as 16-digit numbers or English words as English words. Format-preserving encryption can also apply to binary formats such as images that encrypt as images.


One potential advantage of format-preserving encryption is that it can be difficult to detect that output is encrypted. Encrypted text also remains usable, for example an encrypted credit card number could be securely communicated to a customer. Format-preserving encryption can be used to create masked test data from production data that passes system validation tests.
Overview: Format-preserving Encryption
Definition (1)
Encryption that produces output in the same format as input.
Definition (2)
Encryption that produces ciphertext in the same format as the plaintext it encrypts.
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