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What is Encryption?

29th May 2020

The term encryption refers to a method of scrambling data to ensure that only parties who are granted access are able to understand it, making readable data appear completely random. Technically speaking, it is the way in which plaintext is converted into ciphertext. The process requires an encryption key, which is a set of mathematical values that all authorized parties know. Successful encryption relies upon a very complex code to ensure that it is not at risk of being decrypted by brute force. 

 

What is a Cryptographic Key? 

 

This refers to the process by which plaintext is converted into ciphertext. Acting like a physical key, it can lock or encrypt data so that only those who also possess the key are able to unlock or decrypt it. 

 

Different Forms of Encryption

 

To begin the encryption process, the sender decides the most appropriate method of scrambling plaintext. The two most widely used processes are symmetric and asymmetric encryption. 

 

Symmetric encryption, sometimes called secret key encryption, uses one single key that is shared by the sender with the parties they authorise to view the data. This is the fastest form of encryption. 

 

Asymmetric or public-key encryption uses two different keys. The code for this style of encryption often uses prime numbers to create keys, as decrypting very large prime numbers is technically very complex. 

 

Why is Data Encryption Necessary? 

 

Fundamentally, encryption is the best way of protecting the confidentiality of digital data, whether it is stored on a computer or transmitted online or through any other method. The benefits of data encryption are numerous, offering privacy, security and authentication. 

 

Encryption helps to ensure only the intended readers and data owners are able to access the encoded information. This makes it impossible for the data to be read by anyone from internet service providers, cybercriminals or business competitors. 

 

It also helps to eradicate data breaches, no matter if the data is at rest or in transit, making it possible to share sensitive information without concern or leaking. It also means that data on a lost device is unreadable. 

 

What About Brute Force Attacks? 

 

The term brute force attacking refers to the process by which ciphertext is converted into plaintext without the use of the encryption key. Brute force attacks are made through a process of making thousands or even millions of random guesses. Brute force attacks are becoming increasingly more common through sophisticated modern bots, which is why more complex encryption like Proofpoint encryption can make all the difference.  

 

What are Encryption Backdoors?

 

Encryption backdoors refer to a method of accessing encrypted data as plaintext without the use of a key. Many governments and law enforcement agencies around the world are pushing for encryption back doors, as they claim it is in the national interest to combat a rise in criminals and terrorists using encryption. 

 

Those opposed to these enforced backdoors claim that it would leave privacy and security at risk since backdoors are likely to be a target of hackers and corporate espionage. The question that many corporations are asking is whether they trust a government with the data of all their users, as well as their best-kept trade secrets. 

Posted by Mark at 1:59pm

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