Cryptography has been around for thousands of years, with ancient civilisations such as the Greeks developing ingenious ways to hide messages. In modern times, information is everywhere and it’s more important than ever for businesses to protect sensitive data from falling into the wrong hands.
In simple terms, data encryption is the process of translating data into a secret code. This might be information stored on a computer system or accessible by the internet. It remains the most effective way to keep digital data safe and secure. In order to access the data once it’s been encrypted, a password or key is required so it can be decrypted.
Before it is encrypted, data is called plain text and after it’s known as cipher text. With many companies having sensitive information in their possession, encryption is a great way to ensure confidentiality for companies, their employees and their clients.
How is information encrypted?
At first, encryption software was developed for use within government and military operations to protect sensitive information. Now it’s commonly available and used by many businesses across a range of sectors. With the internet being a primary information-sharing platform, its necessity is greater than ever. There are many types of software designed to encrypt information. What they essentially do is use an algorithm or mathematical formula to transform data from its original form into a code. When it has been encrypted, the information becomes scrambled so it can only be accessed by someone who has the key or password.
Decryption is the reversal of encryption so the coded data or cipher text is converted back to plain text so the person with the key can read it. Symmetric-key ciphers treat every piece of the data the same and use the same key to encrypt as decrypt. Asymmetric encryption requires a pair of keys to encrypt and decrypt a message. This method makes the authentication of the user more secure.
What sort of data can be encrypted?
Any information stored digitally can be encrypted whether it’s stored on a computer system or transmitted via the internet. It might include sensitive information such as health records or financial information including credit card details in a web browser. Websites use encryption so credit cards cannot be spoofed by an outside party.
Secure emails can be useful within a company so communication about sensitive matters can be contained and kept at management level. Encryption can be used as a way to verify who sent an email and to protect its contents. It’s important for companies to assess what sensitive information they keep on file and how they can protect it. If a breach was to occur, the reputation of a company could come into question and they may find themselves in a legal dispute with those concerned.
How safe and easy is encryption?
Encryption is safe and straightforward once the encryption software is installed. This usually needs to be done by a technical professional. There are various different types of encryption software available. This can be selected based on specific needs and how secure the data needs to be.
Generally, modern encryption is safe and prevents data from being leaked. However, different types of encryption software give different levels of protection. The level of protection is measured in bits so 128-bit would give better protection than 64-bit. Banks generally use 256-bit encryption due to the severity of consequences if they were to have a breach.
The reason there are different levels of encryption is because of the varying degrees of safety required. The higher the bit level, the more complicated the encryption, so computer systems deal with the information at a much slower pace. Also higher bit rate software costs more money. As a business it’s important to assess the level of security needed so costs can be kept to a minimum, and information can be safely encrypted yet does not slow the computer system down.
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