Ever been bugged by your IT department or computer geeks to keep your device encrypted? There is a good reason for that. For a lot of people, “encryption” would sound very complicated but its purpose is to protect you from getting your private information stolen. But really, how does it work?
What is Encryption?
Encryption is used to hide information based on the science of cryptography. On an everyday basis, we’re not aware about the extent of the amount of personal information we keep and exchange, and encryption plays a big part on making sure that all of these data will remain a secret. It is a complex algorithm transforming a plain text into complicated codes where a key is needed to decrypt it to make sense of the information. Of course, this key is only possessed by the authorized person where he or she is able to decipher the complex characters by decrypting it and viewing it. Cryptography has long been present in the world even before the digital age and utilized for military purposes.
There are two-types of computer encryption. One is Symmetric-key encryption (Private) and the other one is Asymmetric-Key encryption (Public).
Symmetric-key encryption can be less complicated in such a way that information sent over two computers must have the same key in order to decode it. Each device can talk to each other in a way that they know which computers are talking to each other so you can set up the key on both. Then use the same secret key on both computers to decrypt the information.
Asymmetric on the other hand, can give you better protection because it uses the public key and at the same time, a private key. In order to decode an information, the device must use the public key of the originating device and also its own private key. Popular application of asymmetric encryption includes the use of SSL or the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) created by Netscape. Considered a quite expensive investment for websites, it’s a security protocol implemented by Internet browsers such as google to send sensitive information, as part of TLS or Transport Layer Security. How is this helpful? A secure protocol should have https on the address line versus an “http” only, with “s” that stands for secured. The padlock on the URL bar should also appear on the browser window which indicates that the website is secured and is safe for transfering sensitive information like credit card details.
With the use of modern technology, your data should technically be safe. With the effort, time, energy and money that will be spent in attempting to break these codes, we can say that encryption is one of the safest ways to navigate around the digital world. However, we cannot say that all encryptions are created the same way because this is still prone to human error.
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