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What The Heck is Encryption Anyway?

August 19, 2021

What does it mean that my device is encrypted, or that a website is, or that my email is, or that a connection is?


Remember those secret message games we played as kids that needed to be uncoded to figure out the message?

The internet is definitely not a safe place to work. Especially if you use public networks, have ineffective antivirus and anti-spyware on your devices, or you act as if everything you do can’t be discovered and stolen by unauthorized people – and sometimes malicious hackers. What was once almost solely used by governmental and military sources, encryption has become a normal part of keeping our data and information safe and secure.

What Is Encryption?

Encryption is the process of encoding the data we store on our devices (or even in the Cloud) to keep it from being accessed and read by unauthorized users. Well, actually, unauthorized could possibly access this data if they’re able to get through – but they won’t be able to understand any of it. Encryption creates a more secure connection, keeps private information private, and allows for the sharing of data and files with the right people who have permission to decode it.

Why Is Encryption Important?

If you lose your device, you can replace it. You can’t replace all the sensitive information that the person who now has possession of your phone can use maliciously. Having your information breached means a lot of stress, frustration, time, and possibly money that you’re going to lose. Not to mention if your identity is compromised, the heartache it will take to gain back sole ownership of your own private information.

A great example of encryption that you will likely see often is when online shopping or banking. Most of the time, what-the-heck-is-encryption-anyway.pngwhen you enter your credit card details, your browser and computer/device will automatically encrypt it using fairly intense encryption to keep it from being stolen or accessed illegally. We know that some encryptions in the past have not always protected our data and there have been “leaks,” however, more advanced encryption software and algorithms are being created often that makes it more secure than ever before. Just as safe even as putting your bank account password on a piece of paper and locking it in a pretty intense steel vault.

Remember though, that having an insecure password trumps any encryption as it means you’re leaving a door half unlocked while impenetrable walls attempt to protect your data on every other side.

How Does Data Become Encrypted?

Somewhat similar to those games we played as kids, encrypted data needs a key (made up of a specific algorithm) to translate the plaintext (the word used for readable text) into unreadable data. When authorized users are given the corresponding decryption key, they can use it to translate the ciphertext (the technical name for unreadable text) back into plaintext. Some encryption codes are fairly simple, yet still effective, but you can utilize some pretty intense encoding software to put up the biggest defense against the most sensitive of data.

There are two types of algorithms that can translate data from plaintext to ciphertext:

Symmetric: These algorithms use the same key to both encrypt and decrypt data. It’s the easiest of encryption algorithms and is most often used to encode large amounts of data such as an entire internet connection.

Asymmetric: These algorithms are a little more complex as the encryption requires two separate keys, one for encryption and the other for decryption. The encrypting key is likely kept public while the other is held privately for only those who have authorization. Asymmetric encryption takes a little more time to decrypt data, however, for the most sensitive of information, it is definitely worth it.

If you lose your device, you can replace it. You can’t replace all the sensitive information that the person who now has possession of your phone can use maliciously. Having your information breached means a lot of stress, frustration, time, and possibly money that you’re going to lose.

What Type of Encryption Is Used on Open Networks?

Most Wi-Fi networks use some form of encryption to protect the data transmitted within their connection. In 2018, most equipment used to connect devices to Wi-FI used WPA2 encryption. This key is more secure than most others used prior to recent years. If your internet connection is WPA2 (and you’re not someone who uses their apartment number or their last name as their password), then you can expect your internet connection to be fairly well secured.

Are My Devices Automatically Encrypted?

what-the-heck-is-encryption-anyway.pngDo you use a password to get into your device? This doesn’t necessarily mean it is encrypted. In fact, most Apple, Samsung, and Blackberry smartphones are NOT encrypted by default.

Only 4% of breached computers involve encrypted devices.

You can often request data encryption from the IT department your workplace uses. They can likely get it done in the same amount of time it takes to turn on and off your computer. A simple Google search asking “is my device encrypted” will provide multiple reputable sites (make sure it is) that will let you know.

Do you want to learn more about encryption for your business? Do you need an IT team to encrypt your team’s devices or connections to ensure your data is safe and secure? To learn more, you can visit here: www.optistartech.com/schedule-a-30-minute-consult-with-a-senior-it-consultant/ to request a telephone consultation, you can call us at 888-782-7003, or you can email us at ask@optistartech.com. We will be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Be sure to check our blog section here for more information, alerts and tips on cyber security and today’s technology!

Also, be sure to register for our upcoming monthly webinar here! If you missed last month’s webinar, you can access the recording here!

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