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.
- University of Iowa – Encryption: Resource from the ITS Help Desk on hard disk encryption for multiple platforms.
- University of Notre Dame – Encrypting Files with WinZip: Step-by-step instructions and screen-prints of how to encrypt individual files using WinZip for secure storage on your computer.
- University of Illinois – Encryption: Article discussing various issues concerning encryption and privacy.
- University of Kansas – Encryption Options: Information on why we encrypt files and how or what we encrypt, such as email.
- University of Minnesota – Encrypting Stored Data: Tips on choosing the right encryption software for your operating system.
- Gary C. Kessler – An Overview of Cryptography: Paper dealing with various aspects of cryptography from the Handbook on Local Area Networks.
- University of Colorado – Types of Encryption: Descriptions of the different types of encryption, including whole disk, single-user and multi-user file/folder level, database, application level, email and network traffic.
- Oracle Think Quest – Introduction and History of Encryption: Brief history on encryption and how it is used today for business and home use.
- John Michael Pierobon – How Encryption Works on the Internet: Definitions of common terms referring to encryption and information on how encryption works on the web.
- Texas Tech University - Guide to Using Encryption Software: Features of encryption software, restrictions and security information and vulnerabilities.
- Ohio State University – What is Encryption, and Why Use It?: Article discussing why we use encryption and different types of encryption applications.
- Johns Hopkins University – Functional Encryption: Background on public key cryptography and an introduction to functional encryption and its applications.
- East Carolina University – Data Encryption: Examples of sensitive data used in encryption and recommended data encryption tools.
- University of Louisville: Encryption: Instructions on how to set-up full disk encryption and frequently asked questions on the topic.
- Fordham University - History of Computer Cryptography and Security Systems: Overview of cryptography and a background on its security techniques.
- Michigan State University – Encryption/Decryption: Interactive activity that allows users to encrypt and decrypt text that they enter.
- Rice University – Mobile Encryption Strategies: Article on encryption on mobile devices, such as laptops, Smartphones, PDAs and USB-based storage.
- University of Rochester – FAQ: Frequently asked questions about desktop encryption, such as the time it takes to encrypt files and requirements prior to the encryption process.
- American University – FAQ about Workstation Encryption: Comparison of whole-disk and file/folder level encryption and information on PGPs and encryption software.
- University of Georgia – Encrypting and Storing Files: Tips on the type of program needed for various types of encryption.