How useful Base64 encoding is?

You may knew some basics about Base64 as I explained last post. But where do we use Base64?

How Base64 encoder works?

A Base64 encoder is, basically, a way of encoding arbitrary binary data in ASCII text. It takes 4 characters per 3 bytes of data, plus potentially a bit of padding at the end.

Essentially each 6 bits of the input is encoded in a 64-character alphabet. The “standard” alphabet uses A-Z, a-z, 0-9 and + and /, with = as a padding character. There are URL-safe variants.

Why Base64?

When you have some binary data that you want to ship across a network, you generally don’t do it by just streaming the bits and bytes over the wire in a raw format. Why? Because some media are made for streaming text. You never know – some protocols may interpret your binary data as control characters (like a modem), or your binary data could be screwed up because the underlying protocol might think that you’ve entered a special character combination (like how FTP translates line endings).

So to get around this, people encode the binary data into characters. Base64 is one of these types of encodings.

Base64 applications

Base64 can be used in a variety of contexts:

  • Evolution and Thunderbird use Base64 to obfuscate e-mail passwords[1]
  • Base64 can be used to transmit and store text that might otherwise cause delimiter collision
  • Base64 is often used as a quick but insecure shortcut to obscure secrets without incurring the overhead of cryptographic key management
  • Spammers use Base64 to evade basic anti-spamming tools, which often do not decode Base64 and therefore cannot detect keywords in encoded messages.
  • Base64 is used to encode character strings in LDIF files
  • Base64 is sometimes used to embed binary data in an XML file, using a syntax similar to …… e.g. Firefox’s bookmarks.html.
  • Base64 is also used when communicating with government Fiscal Signature printing devices (usually, over serial or parallel ports) to minimize the delay when transferring receipt characters for signing.
  • Base64 is used to encode binary files such as images within scripts, to avoid depending on external files.
  • Can be used to embed raw image data into a CSS property such as background-image.