written by: N Nayab•edited by: Bill Fulks•updated: 9/30/2011
Encryption is a key process in network security, and very often indispensable when transmitting sensitive data. A good knowledge of encryption practices is part of keeping a home network safe.
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What is Encryption?
Encryption is the art of making plain text unreadable for anyone except the intended recipients. The process of encryption converts information into a code using algorithms, and provides the decoding key to the intended recipients.
Encryption techniques found its way to computing from the military, where the use of ciphers was an established practice to prevent messages from falling into the hands of the enemy. The open nature of the Internet and the potential for intercepted communications make encryption a useful and often mandatory tool when transmitting private, confidential and sensitive information.
Encryption works in many ways, from using a simple codebook to advanced ciphers and algorithms of various strengths. The encryption can also take place at various levels: data, file, or drive, for example.
Choosing how to encrypt depends on many considerations such as the operating system in use, the system configuration, costs, alternatives available, security needed, and more. Most web browsers and websites can automatically encrypt sensitive data, such as when exchanging a credit card number, and the user does not have to perform any separate encryption process in these cases.
The two broad types of computer encryption are symmetric key encryption and public key encryption, and various encryption standards have come up using both of these methods. Data Encryption Standard (DES) and Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) are two common standards using the symmetric key and public key respectively. Secure Socket Layer (SSL) is the now universal implementation of public key encryption for websites.
The adoption of the best method to encrypt depends on the nature of the data, the intended purpose, the level of security required, and cost considerations. At times, especially when transmitting private, health, and financial data, statutory requirements come into play.
The increasing level of cyberspace threats and concerns over data security have led to a proliferation of software and other resources that facilitate encryption. These utilities allow encrypting data, text, folders and whole drives or devices. Various products suit various operating systems and platforms. Encryption technology has also caught up with the wireless and mobile computing.
BrightHub articles delve into the plethora of options available, and sorts out the best software and other tools available.
The need for security has resulted in a market glutted with encryption software, proprietary and open-source, free and paid. Deciding what is right for you is based partly on your needs, and partly on cost vs security offered by the product. We explain how well software can meet the former and presents itself on the latter in the following reviews.
Bright Hub separates the wheat from the chaff. Read in-depth reviews where authors evaluate a product or compare the different options available with first hand experience.
The knowledge possessed or technology available becomes useless without proper implementation. Awareness of how others approach encryption, the best course of action under specific circumstances, common issues or problems and their resolution, are all critical to getting encryption right.
A listing of articles that offer useful tips and insights into time-tested best practices adopted by major players wraps up our guide.
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