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What is Encryption? May 21, 2018

With data breaches and security concerns constantly in the news, the word ‘encryption’ gets thrown around a lot, but what is encryption?

Encryption is essentially the process of encoding data in a way that makes it scrambled and, in many cases, nearly impossible to decipher.

Encryption data is generally paired with a key, or a collection of algorithms designed to be unique. This key allows data to be scrambled or unscrambled, depending on the algorithms put in place.

Imagine someone writing a note in a secret code – without a key to help crack the code, the message is jumbled and useless. However, they also had to have a key in mind when writing the note otherwise they’d be writing gibberish – not an encoded message.

There are two major types of encryption: Symmetric and asymmetric. In symmetric encryption, the information is encoded using two identical keys which can both encrypt and decrypt the data.

With asymmetric encryption, one key encrypts the data while another decrypts it. Often, there is a public key that allows information to be sent and a private key that allows the receiver to read the information.

End-to-end encryption is also becoming more popular, especially with messaging apps such as WhatsApp. With end-to-end encryption, the process involves scrambling information so that only the sender and receiver can view it. Messages are passed through a server, but because only the sender and receiver have the keys, the server is unable to read the messages.

According to Techworld, machine cryptography, a form of encryption, became significant during World War II as forces tried to crack Germany’s Enigma code.

Now, it’s encryption is employed in several different ways, from protecting personal data like credit card numbers to helping businesses protect formulas or processes that give them an edge in their industry.

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