Online Encryption Information Guide

Encryption is the act of converting plain text or raw data (ex. Binary files) into “ciphertext,” or encoded text. This is primarily done to prevent other individuals from viewing or modifying user files. Encryption is commonly used in conjunction with various online resources, such as ecommerce sites, wireless networking security and with remote access to prevent spoofing and to establish privacy. Encryption uses algorithmic schemes to encode the text into a non-readable form. The receiver of the encrypted text must use a “key” to decrypt the message and convert it back to its original form.

Cryptography is one of the oldest fields of technical study aging back to ancient times. Spartan generals in ancient Greece used a written type of cryptography to exchange private messages. The secret notes were written on parchment and spirally wound around a cylinder known as a scytale. Once the parchment had been unwound, the message could be read only by the individual with the matching size cylinder. In modern day, the use of cryptography has played a primary role in securing electronic messaging. After the introduction of the telegraph by Samuel Morse in 1845, people worried about the privacy of the messages being transmitted. Users who trapped the telegraph line could compromise the privacy of messages. The solution was to encode the messages so that only the intended recipient of the messages could decrypt them. Cryptography became increasingly useful during the times of war with the invention of the radio. Without the use of cryptography, messages transmitted to and from the front lines could potentially be intercepted by the enemy.

To secure data or information, encryption uses mathematic functions known as cryptography algorithms. An algorithm key length is measured in bits, or binary units composed of zeros and ones. The more mathematical strength of the algorithm, the more difficult the encryption will be to crack without access to the key. The key or ‘passphrase’ is sent to the recipient by a secured phone call or by a separate email. When choosing a key, it’s important to choose keys large enough to be considered secure but small enough to ensure a speedy application. Keys are stored in encrypted form, such as in the hard drive as files (keyrings) in the case of Pretty Good Privacy (PGP). Public keys that are sent to the recipient should be kept in the public keyring while private keys used by the sender should be kept in the private keyring. When a private keyring a lost, it poses a problem in the decryption of messages that have been encrypted using those specific keys.