What is data encryption?
The encryption of data is a method of altering electronic information into a form that allows only authorized users to read or understand what is being sent.
In theory, data encryption prevents anyone who sees the information from being able to understand it and use it for criminal purposes such as identify theft or some other form of fraud.
What’s the purpose of data encryption?
Data encryption is largely used to protect sensitive, confidential data from being stolen by unauthorized users, who are sometimes trying to commit crimes with that data.
Encryption is a common form of computer and network security because it not only offers verification and authentication, but also proof that the information contained in the data has not been altered since it was first sent.
And the person who sent the data cannot deny he or she did so because their signature is permanently attached.
How does encryption work?
Data encryption is really only a modern form of protecting information from the ears and eyes of others who shouldn’t have the information.
Centuries ago, secret messages were sent with special codes or symbols that required a particular key to decipher.
Encryption essentially relies on what is referred to as “ciphertext,” which is only viewable if it’s unscrambled – “decrypted” – with the proper key to do so.
Symmetric key algorithms rely on identical or related encryption keys for both the encryption and decryption process.
In essence, the sender uses a secret key to encrypt a secret message, and the intended recipient of the message uses an identical key to decrypt or decipher the information.
Asymmetric encryption, however, uses a different key to encrypt and decrypt.
It can also be referred to as “public-key cryptography.”
This process is meant to keep third-parties from spying on the data that is being sent between two points by relying on both private and public keys.
How do I encrypt something, and should I?
Encryption of your information is by and large a good idea.
Password protection is no longer the best way to keep sensitive information a secret, and encryption can keep your files or even your entire hard drive can help.
First, you’ll need to decide whether to encrypt single files or an entire drive.
Many experts suggest the average person only encrypt specific files that should be protected, but the decision is solely yours to make.
There are several open-source, cross-platform encryption programs that offer step-by-step guidance on encrypting your files and establishing a strong key.
Research your options and look for reviews before deciding which to use.
Is encryption fool-proof?
Hackers can focus their efforts on encrypted data by using brute force, trying all possible random key combinations in order to find the right key and unlock the encrypted data.
The difficulty of this process varies depending on how complicated the key is.
Unauthorized users could also try “side-channel attacks,” which target the implementation of the cipher rather than the secret message itself.
This method preys on any errors that might exist in the setup of the encryption process in order to exploit it.