Encryption is one of those technologies that we make use of everyday, but are often completely unaware of. Whenever we send a text message or any online communication, encryption is used in order to ensure that these communications are secure and protected from would be snoopers. There is now a much greater awareness among the general population of the importance of encryption, and of cyber security more generally. This is undoubtedly a good thing and raising awareness of the importance of good security among the average computer user has been one of the biggest challenges the security industry has faced.
The great thing about encryption is that it happens automatically and doesn’t require any action on the part of the user, although there are things you can do to strengthen it. Therefore, understanding the underlying mechanisms isn’t required in order to take advantage of the security benefits that it offers. However, there are benefits to understanding the fundamental principles that are at work when information is encrypted, not least of all that such an understanding helps us to identify situations where our data might not be as secure as we would hope or like.
In this article we take a look at the basic principles of encryption and how they are applied by the technology which we use every day.
What is Encryption?
Encryption refers to a number of methods which are commonly used to ensure that information can only be read and understood by its intended recipient. The goal of encryption is to ensure security and make any data indecipherable to anyone other than the intended recipient.
For example, when you send a text message from your phone to a friend’s, you want your friend to be able to read it, but anyone else who might intercept it on the way to be prevented from doing so.
Where is it Used?
In short, everywhere! Encryption is at the heart of all modern communications systems, although this has not always been the case. Even the ancient Romans employed various encryption methods, the most basic of these is known as a cipher. In a cipher, each letter is represented by a different letter. A very simple cipher would involve shifting every character up one in the alphabet. So that ‘hello’ would become ‘ifmmp’.
Of course the encryption used in your mobile phone and for online transactions is far more sophisticated. Even the humble pager employs more sophisticated techniques these days. Given that pagers are still widely used in hospitals, secure paging is important.
Is My Information Secure?
This is an important question which many of us do not ask nearly enough. Really, whenever we sign up to a new website or service, or hand any personal information over to a third party, we should be asking ourselves whether we are confident that our information will be kept secure. You would be surprised how even seemingly innocuous pieces of personal information can be exploited by criminals for their own gain and our loss.
Also See: How Do Solar Power Panels Work
Fortunately, good encryption is now the standard on many of the devices that we use every day, however, cybersecurity researchers are regularly unearthing new and alarming areas where security is not being given the appropriate consideration, sometimes with potentially serious consequences.