What is Data Encryption and Why is it Important?

What is Data Encryption and Why is it Important?
data breach / Data Encryption / email security / Onetech360

What is Data Encryption and Why is it Important?

Data encryption is the process of converting computer data into a code that can only be read by someone with the right decryption key. This acts as an added layer of security, ensuring that even if someone gets unauthorized access to the data (like during a data breach), they won’t be able to use it. Encryption also offers benefits like confirming that a message hasn’t been changed.

Data Encryption; explained in plain terms.

In simple terms, encryption changes readable data into a set of characters that don’t make sense to someone just looking at them. The key used for encrypting or decrypting the data is also a set of characters that the computer uses to either scramble or unscramble information.

Encryption Methods

Older encryption methods used a symmetric approach, where the same key would encrypt and decrypt the data. This is straightforward but risky; if someone else gets the key, they can read all messages that were encrypted with it.

Many newer encryption methods use asymmetric cryptography. This involves two keys: one used by the person sending the data and another by the person receiving it. This method is practical and secure. The sender uses the same encryption key for all messages, but only the intended recipient can decode them.

Historically, older encryption keys were short and simple, making them vulnerable to brute-force attacks. These attacks involve trying every possible key until finding the right one. As computers got more powerful, these attacks became easier to execute.

Modern encryption methods use longer, more complex keys. These provide much better security. For example, adding just one letter to a key multiplies the number of possible keys by 26. Some keys today are up to 256 characters long, making them nearly impossible to crack, even with the fastest computers.

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How is Data Encryption used?

Encryption is used in many ways, such as on secure websites (those starting with HTTPS://), where it protects data sent between your computer and the website. Most modern email services also encrypt messages.

You can use encryption to protect files on your computer or mobile device, too, reducing the risk of data theft if your device is stolen or accessed by someone else.

Unfortunately, encryption can also be misused. In ransomware attacks, criminals use malware to encrypt data on a computer or network and then demand payment to unlock it. Without good backups, some victims feel they have no choice but to pay the ransom.