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What Is Encryption?
Unencrypted data, often referred to as plaintext, is encrypted using an encryption algorithm and an encryption key. This process generates ciphertext that can only be viewed in its original form if decrypted with the correct key. Encryption can be used for more elaborate purposes, for example to verify the author of messages or to browse the Web anonymously with Tor.
Encryption is one of the most important methods for providing data security, especially for end-to-end protection of data transmitted across networks.
Encryption is generally utilized on the web to protect client data being sent between a browser and a server, including passwords, payment information and other individual data that ought to be viewed as private. Organizations and people additionally normally utilize encryption to secure touchy information put away on PCs, servers and cell phones like mobile phones or tablets.
Under a few conditions, encryption can be fairly automatic and basic. In any case, there are ways encryption can turn out badly, and the more you comprehend it, the more secure you will be against such circumstances.
Today's most widely used encryption algorithms fall into two categories: symmetric and asymmetric.
Symmetric-key ciphers, also referred to as "secret key," use a single key, sometimes referred to as a shared secret because the system doing the encryption must share it with any entity it intends to be able to decrypt the encrypted data. The most widely used symmetric-key cipher is the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), which was designed to protect government classified information.
Symmetric-key encryption is usually much faster than asymmetric encryption, but the sender must exchange the key used to encrypt the data with the recipient before the recipient can perform decryption on the ciphertext. The need to securely distribute and manage large numbers of keys means most cryptographic processes use a symmetric algorithm to efficiently encrypt data, but use an asymmetric algorithm to securely exchange the secret key.
Symmetric-key encryption uses two secret, often identical keys or codes for computers involved in message transmission. Each secret key's data packet is self-encrypted. The first symmetric encryption algorithm is the Data Encryption Standard (DES), which uses a 56-bit key and is not considered attack-proof. The Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) is considered more reliable because it uses a 128-bit, a 192-bit or a 256-bit key.
Asymmetric cryptography, also known as public key cryptography, uses two different but mathematically linked keys, one public and one private. The public key can be shared with everyone, whereas the private key must be kept secret. The RSA encryption algorithm is the most widely used public key algorithm, partly because both the public and the private keys can encrypt a message; the opposite key from the one used to encrypt a message is used to decrypt it. This attribute provides a method of assuring not only confidentiality, but also the integrity, authenticity and nonreputability of electronic communications and data at rest through the use of digital signatures. Pretty good privacy (PGP) is a commonly used public-key encryption system.
Private and Public Keys
One of the most important concepts to understand in encryption is a key. Common types of encryption include a private key, which is kept secret on your computer and lets you read messages that are intended only for you. A private key also lets you place unforgeable digital signatures on messages you send to other people. A public key is a file that you can give to others or publish that allows people to communicate with you in secret, and check signatures from you. Private and public keys come in matched pairs, like the halves of a rock that has been split into two perfectly matching pieces, but they are not the same.
Another extremely valuable concept to understand is a security certificate. The Web browser on your computer can make encrypted connections to sites using HTTPS. When they do that, they examine certificates to check the public keys of domain names—(like www.google.com, www.amazon.com, or ssd.eff.org). Certificates are one way of trying to determine if you know the right public key for a person or website, so that you can communicate securely with them.
From time to time, you will see certificate-related error messages on the Web. Most commonly, this is because a hotel or cafe network is trying to break your secret communications with the website. It is also common to see an error because of a bureaucratic mistake in the system of certificates. But occasionally, it is because a hacker, thief, police agency, or spy agency is breaking the encrypted connection.
Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult to tell the difference between these cases. This means you should never click past a certificate warning if it relates to a site where you have an account, or are reading any sensitive information.
Benefits of encryption
The primary purpose of encryption is to protect the confidentiality of digital data stored on computer systems or transmitted via the internet or any other computer network. A number of organizations and standards bodies either recommend or require sensitive data to be encrypted in order to prevent unauthorized third parties or threat actors from accessing the data.
Some applications tout the use of end-to-end encryption (E2EE) to guarantee data being sent between two parties cannot be viewed by an attacker that intercepts the communication channel. Use of an encrypted communication circuit, as provided by Transport Layer Security (TLS) between web client and web server software, is not always enough to insure E2EE; typically, the actual content being transmitted is encrypted by client software before being passed to a web client, and decrypted only by the recipient.
Messaging apps that provide E2EE include Facebook's, WhatsApp and Open Whisper Systems' Signal. Facebook Messenger users may also get E2EE messaging with the "Secret Conversations" option.
Encryption is now an important part of many products and services, used in the commercial and consumer realms to protect data both while it is in transit and while it is stored, such as on a hard drive, smartphone or flash drive (data at rest).
How Secure is Encryption?
Encrypt Your Local Files, Folders, and Drives
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