Encryption: What It Is and How It Is Used

Encryption is the method of encoding information using a password, in order to hide the real information from others. The technique is used for various tasks, including secure storage and transferring data between computers and wireless networks.

Encryption occurs through mathematical algorithms, which interpret the information to be hidden and create the encrypted data. Encryption is very common in both the computer security field and some everyday technologies. It plays an important role in assuring that data remains confidential.

Numerous methods of encryption exist for different purposes, and some of the more common algorithms include RSA, DES and AES. The strength of encryption is based on the size of the key used in the algorithm. Most algorithms rely on a 128-bit key, which is the standard for most algorithms approved by the Government. The use of longer keys, such as a 256-bit key, creates a stronger security level for encryption.

Virtual Private Network (VPN)
VPNs are used to create secure connections between a remote host and a network. These are typically used when telecommuters working from home connect to an office network to do work. VPNs use secure channels to transfer data, which is encrypted between the remote computer and network to protect private information.

Wireless Networks
One of the most common uses of encryption in home and work environments is the use of wireless security. Wireless network protocols like WPA and WEP use encryption to secure communication between the router and computer. This ensures that no one can packet sniff any data during wireless transmission.

File Storage:

    Encrypted Files - Individual files and folders can easily be encrypted by using free compression software like WinZip. Other free or inexpensive software, such as PGP, provide secure encryption of files and email.

    Encrypted Hard drives -- Encryption can be used to hide the contents of a computer. Entire hard drives can be encrypted using encryption software to ensure that no one can access a computer's files without a password. Software like PGP and TrueCrypt are good for hard drive encryption.

Secure Socket Layer (SSL)
SSL is an encryption method used for secure Internet communication. SSL is used for shopping websites, online banking, and any other secure login or credit card processing websites. The use of SSL on websites ensures that the transferred information cannot be captured by packet sniffers.

About the Author

Thomas Donchez

Thomas Donchez

Contributing Writer

Thomas Donchez is a graduate of East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania, where he earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Computer Security and Computer Science. Tom is currently working toward his Masters Degree in Computer Science and resides near Allentown, PA.

With a strong background in computer security and great interest in current trends, Tom enjoys writing on security related topics. His recent research includes rootkit detection and advanced steganography methods, and his thesis work relates to network traffic analysis and reporting. Tom also spent three years as an ASP.NET web developer.

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