Encryption is the act of transforming readable information into an unreadable code that can only be deciphered by those with specific knowledge. There are several key terms that come into play when talking about encryption:
Plaintext – Used to refer to the original information used.
Cipher – An algorithm that turns the plaintext into unreadable code.
Key – The information that allows someone to decipher the code.
Encrypted Information - Information that's been ciphered. Also referred to as ciphertext.
Encrypting – The act of coding the plaintext.
Decryption – The act of deciphering the code using the key.
Encryption is usually used by people who are sending information that is private or that they don’t want others to see. Encryption has been used for decades by our military and our government to ensure that classified information doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. Due to the recent explosion of technology, much of the information that was once private is now threatened by exposure. Many people do not realize that nearly everything they do over the Internet can be viewed by someone with little ease. Also, it is becoming increasingly easy for hackers to break into our personal computers and gather information stored on our hard drives. Thus, it is very important to encrypt private information to prevent possible fraud.
Because of the increasing concern over the security of personal information, encryption has been a booming field and there have been many options made available to ordinary consumers to aid them in encrypting their information. However, encryption alone cannot guarantee the security of information. As encryption services have grown more advanced and complicated, hackers have evolved to bridge the gap. However, the use of encryption slows and sometimes prevents hackers from attaining private information. In essence, encryption becomes a deterrent for potential hackers who may decide that the obtainment of the encrypted information is not worth the time required to break the cipher. Utilizing encryption is exponentially important when dealing with wireless communication. Wireless transmissions are far easier to tap then wired transmissions. In the case of wired transmissions the hacker will need to be in the physical location. But with wireless transmissions the hacker need only be somewhere within the range of the wireless signal.
Recently, a new form of encryption has arisen called “strong encryption”. Strong encryption refers to ciphers that are essentially undecipherable without the encryption key. With strong encryptions becoming widely accepted among companies, our government views it as a threat citing that strong encryption can potentially be used by terrorists to send and receive illegal data. In an effort to control strong encryptions, the US government has proposed an idea that would require anyone using this form of encryption to provide the government with a key that will be kept in a secure location and only used under extreme circumstances. However, this idea has major flaws including the fact that someone could potentially hack into the government files and obtain, or change keys for various encryptions. To read more about strong encryption and what our government is doing about it, click here.