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Encryption 101: A Broad Overview

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When it comes to the subject of data encryption, it is not particularly uncommon for most people to shy away from the topic due to the perceived notion that only tech wizards and mathematicians understand it. While some aspects of encryption are quite complicated, the basic premise that it is built on is quite simple for even the layman to understand. In fact, some encryption mechanisms are so simple that even a young child could understand the core principles behind them.

In the article below we'll walk you through the ins and out of data encryption, allowing you to broaden your understanding on a subject that is somewhat shrouded in a patchwork of misconceptions.

Sometimes Data Encryption is Extraordinarily Simple

Without parents even realizing it, many small children play with toys that are basic encryption tools unto themselves. For example, secret decoder rings that are often packaged into children's cereal brands are encryption tools. The most basic encryption mechanism that is usually behind these small toys is referred to as a rotational cipher or shift cipher. By rotating the core mechanism of the toy an encrypted letter is shown in order to fully spell out a hidden word. This, in a nutshell, is encryption in one of its most basic forms.

When is Encryption Necessary to Use?

All of us use encryption technologies every single day without even realizing it. For example, each time that you log in to your bank account, initiate an online purchase, send a text or email, or participate in a forum chat, your data is being run through encryption technologies. While these technologies do not encrypt all of the data that you use during these activities, at least some aspects of the data, such as login details, credit card numbers, and other bits of data are run through encryption applications. These applications prevent third parties from attaching malware or spyware onto servers that scrape and collect such sensitive data in order to use it for malicious or nefarious activities.

When is it Not Necessary to Use Encryption?

Any time you are conducting activities online that do not identify you in any way or reveal any of your personal or sensitive financial information, it is generally not necessary to encrypt such activities. For example, if you post your thoughts about a new video game release on a message board and are not using your real name or photo as an avatar, then that would be considered a time when encryption really isn't necessary. If, however, you need to login into the platform where you are posting such comments, then you will need to be sure that the actual login process is encrypted, however, the data that you are posting doesn't possess the same security priority.

What is SSL?

SSL decryption, also known as secure sockets layer decryption, is an advanced data encryption protocol used by financial institutions and other highly secure online service providers. SSL allows users to see the information in a non-encrypted way, however, any third party accessing the data stream or attempting to piggyback on the data stream will not be able to see any of the real information. Essentially it is a data masking utility, usually driven by an application that is housed on a server connected to the website being used.

The Future of Encryption Technology

Experts within the data encryption industry believe that the near future of most encryption technologies will feature at least some artificial intelligence-driven modules. While it isn't always necessary to have this with near ironclad encryption technologies, it is thought that AI will allow encryption to become more dynamic and less rigid in how it safeguards data. For example, AI could act as a network security administrator, opting between different layers of encryption protocols as each situation dictates. In some case, the encryption technology could be AI itself, rather than operating in coordination with it.

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