What is Encryption Technology?

M. McGee

Encryption technology, regardless of its medium, is a method of securing information. In computer systems, data is converted into an unreadable format using a mathematical algorithm. The only way to convert this information back into a readable format is through the use of a second algorithm and a special key. Often, systems use automatic encryption methods that are invisible to the user. As a result, encryption technology is common across all levels of computer use.

A page of encrypted data.
A page of encrypted data.

The basic method of encryption, whether on a computer system or not, hasn’t changed much over the years. Original messages are altered in form to look like different messages or random text. These encoded messages may be sent to another party or stored without fear that they may be compromised. The only people that may decode the messages are those who have a key for the code. This key will translate the message back into its original form.

A common way of deciding the pattern in encryption that uses substitution is to follow a given mathematical function or algorithm.
A common way of deciding the pattern in encryption that uses substitution is to follow a given mathematical function or algorithm.

Computer encryption technology is important for safeguarding data. Computers can copy data very quickly and even send it out over a network. As a result, sensitive information can be stolen in just a few seconds. With encryption technology, a computer can keep its data safe from anyone that may try to take it.

Computer-based encryption methods are often more complex than those methods used outside. Since computers can process data very quickly, it is possible to encode information repeatedly, making a nearly unbreakable code. Computer encryption often has several layers of encoding, so even if the top layer is broken, the information is still random text.

Generally, computer encryption is done completely automatically. An encryption program may keep anything from a drive to a folder or document encrypted. When a user wants to access the encrypted information, he will enter a password, and the information comes up. The decryptions was done automatically by the computer. When the user closes the information, the program automatically re-encrypts.

There are two main types of computer encryption technology; data at rest and data in transit. With data at rest encryption, information is stored as in the example above. A single location is encrypted whenever the information is not specifically in use. This type of encryption is common in government and business systems, but less so in the average home.

Data in transit encryption technology protects information as it moves over a network or through the air. This style of encryption takes non-encrypted information, such as credit card information entered into the fields of a website, and encrypts it. To continue the example, the now encrypted credit information goes across the Internet to its destination. The proper receiver of the information possesses the key for the information and decodes it automatically. This type of encryption is common on nearly every network, so it may be found anywhere there is an Internet connection.

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