Point-to-Point vs. End-to-End Encryption: What’s The Difference?

Ever wondered how your bank keeps your password and username secure whenever you send it through the internet? Ever wondered why cybersecurity experts tell you NOT to use public wifi? It all comes down to encryption

When it comes to encryption, there are two basic types: point-to-point and end-to-end. Understanding the difference between the two might feel like Code Breaking 101, but it isn’t. Let’s make it simple.

What is Encryption, Anyway?

Think of encryption like scrambling your data with a crazy-complex code, which only the right people have the key to unlock. It keeps prying eyes out so your info stays safe. Point-to-point and end-to-end encryption are two of the heavy hitters in this world – but they work a bit differently.

What is Encryption

Point-to-Point Encryption (P2PE)

  • The Lowdown: It’s like your info travels in a secure armored van from Point A to Point B. To understand it, think of using your credit card in the store. When you swipe your card, the card information is encrypted at the point-of-sale, and stays that way until it reaches the payment processor. People can intercept the data and see it (this is known as a data packet), but they can’t actually read it, because it is encrypted. 

    To go back to our armored van analogy, everyone can see the highway, and everyone can see the van as it travels down the highway, but no one  can actually see what’s in the van.
  • Why You’d Use It:  By nature of how the traffic flows on a network, P2PE is secure encryption that does not slow down the network traffic (we’ll discuss this a little bit more below). 
  • Real-World Example: Your favorite local coffee shop uses P2PE when you pay with your debit card (it’s also a required part of industry regulations).

End-to-End Encryption (E2EE)

  • The Lowdown: E2EE is like sending that van through a tunnel. Instead of encrypting just the data packet, the entirety of the network traffic is encrypted. So not only can you not decipher the contents of each data packet, but you can’t even decipher the individual packets – it’s all encrypted noise.  

    Again, using the van, it’s like looking down on the tunnel. You can’t even see the van anymore, let alone what’s in it. 
  • Why You’d Use It: E2EE is your go-to when you want ultimate privacy – think secure messaging apps, backing up sensitive files to the cloud, stuff like that. The downside to it is that, just like a tunnel on the highway, traffic can bottleneck and slow down on occasion, making E2EE slower than P2PE.
  • Real-World Example: Ever used a messaging app like Signal or WhatsApp? Those use E2EE. Even if the company itself gets hacked, your private chats should still be safe.

Which Encryption Method is Better?

FeaturePoint-to-Point (P2PE)End-to-End (E2EE)
FocusSecuring single transactionsOverall communication privacy
Best forPayment processing (compliance)Sensitive messaging, cloud backups
Service Provider’s VisibilityCan see data in transitNo access to message/file content

The Future: What’s Up With All This Fancy New Tech?

Encryption isn’t static, and is constantly growing and changing as code-breaking technology changes. Here are some advancements to keep an eye on:

  • Homomorphic Encryption: Historically, encryption only works when data is being moved (in transit) or being stored (at rest). Data in use cannot be encrypted because, well, encrypted data can’t be read. That might be changing, however, and the impact of using data while it’s still encrypted is huge.
  • Zero Trust: The phrase that drives this philosophy of Zero Trust is, “Never trust, always verify.” What that means is protecting data, not just from outside attackers, but from within a network, as well. Encryption is a vital part of that.
  • Quantum Computing: Those super-powered computers of the future could break even the most secure of today’s encryption methods. Scientists are scrambling to invent methods that’ll stay secure even then. The good news? Quantum capabilities can be just as useful for securing as they can for breaking.


Choosing the right encryption isn’t about who’s got the flashiest tech. It’s about what your data needs and where your potential risks are. Oh, and remember how we mentioned not using public wifi at the beginning? The reason for that is simple: your favorite local coffee shop typically does not encrypt public wifi. That means that anyone using that network can see everything you do, including your passwords.

Want to dive deeper? Got a question about how to keep your data secure?  Drop a comment – we’re happy to help decode this stuff!

Thomas Ward

Thomas Ward

Thomas Ward brings over a decade of cloud, infrastructure, and reliability engineering experience to the forefront of Spyrus’s mission. His time at leading tech innovators like Microsoft, Oracle, and MongoDB has shaped his deep understanding of how attackers exploit weaknesses in cloud systems and how to proactively defend them. Thomas witnessed the rapid shift to cloud environments alongside an explosion of cyber threats. He founded Spyrus out of a conviction to help businesses navigate this complex landscape. He leverages his expertise to build tailored, proactive cybersecurity solutions that protect clients’ sensitive assets and ensure their systems stay up and running – no matter what.