Encryption 101 | Protect Yourself
Data Encryption in 2022
This is an extensive guide on the massive world of encryption and keeping your files safe.
Disclaimer: I am by no means an expert on computer science or the inner workings of encryption. This guide is meant for those looking to gain a better understanding of what encryption is and how they can use it.
What is encryption? Why is it used?:
Encryption is the process of encoding information, converting it from its basic form, also known as plaintext, to a more advanced form, also known as ciphertext, not understood by humans. After the plaintext is turned into ciphertext, the ciphertext can then be reverted into plaintext once the recipient uses their key. Encryption is used for one reason - to enhance the security of a message or file. Encryption can be used for malicious and benevolent reasons. One can use it to keep their private banking info safe from hackers, or someone could use it to hide their illicit activities from the police.
This is the most basic form of encryption. Symmetric-key encryption or just symmetric encryption is a type of encryption that uses the same key to encrypt and to decrypt data - sort of like a physical key. You can unlock something with the same key that you locked it with. Both the sender and receiver have a copy of the key. The reason that symmetric encryption is less used online, is because it’s hard to share the key with the receiver safely. The entire purpose of encryption is bypassed by sending the key unencrypted through the internet. The only safe way to share a symmetric key is to share it in-person. That’s where asymmetric encryption comes in.
This form of encryption is a little more difficult to understand, but it’s used virtually everywhere on the internet. Everybody from your email provider to Amazon uses this form to keep things like your debit card information safe. How does it work? Well, this form of encryption uses two keys instead of one. There is a public key and a private key. Think of it like a mail dropbox. Anybody that wants to can use their public key and drop information in, but only one person can use their private key that they don’t have to share with anyone to unlock the dropbox and see what other information people dropped in. The public key has no access to opening the information that was dropped in by other people. In more advanced terms, the public key can only be used to encrypt data and the private key can only be used to decrypt data. This next scenario can help you to better understand how this form of encryption works. Sally wants to send a private message to Todd but doesn’t want anyone else seeing. So, Todd shares his public key that anyone can have access to, with Sally. Sally takes this key and encrypts her message. Sally then shares her encrypted message with Todd. Then Todd uses his private key to decrypt the message that Sally encrypted with her public key. Get it?
Strongest Data Encryption Types:
Whether you use encryption to secure your personal information or to avoid the police, here are a few of the very strongest encryption algorithms in existence.
Triple Data Encryption Standard (TripleDES) - This form of data encryption algorithm applies block cipher algorithms thrice to all the data blocks individually.
Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) - This form is by far the most used type of encryption in today. Compared with TripleDES, AES is more than six times faster. A single key is used for encryption and decryption. AES is made up of 3 block ciphers where each block cipher uses cryptographic keys to perform encryption and decryption in a 128-bit block.
Rivest, Shamir, and Adleman (RSA) Security - Named after it’s three creators, this form of data encryption offers protection against cyber-attacks by detecting and responding to threats, preventing online fraud, management identification, and more. It’s data encryption is separated into two keys, a private and a public key.