In Cyber Safety, The Digital World

Understanding Data Encryption

Data encryption involves converting forms of data and text into what is known as ciphertext. When data is encrypted, it cannot be read by anyone except experts or those who have authorization to read it. Encryption is used to protect various forms of data, as well as to secure it as it travels along different internet connections. Secure servers encrypt data as it leaves its original starting place and protects it from detection until it reaches its destination, where it is read and deciphered.

Different Forms of Data Encryption

Secure Email Service and Servers

Secure servers protect emails, financial transactions and important documents from being hacked or broken into as they are sent from one location to another. Public internet servers such as those found at public libraries, fast food restaurants and coffee houses provide little protection from hackers or thieves who try and steal people’s financial information. Private servers are the most secure. To gain access to the network, the user must have a specific passcode that is chosen by the owner. In some cases, the serial number of the modem is used. Either way, without the passcode, the server cannot be accessed by outsiders.

File Encryption

File encryption uses specific codes as ways of protecting data and numeric information as it travels along various internet connections or pathways. Encrypting files is done automatically by servers as files travel from one place to another. Hackers can access encrypted files if they have the right software needed to break the codes used to protect the information. Database encryption keys are used in the encryption and decryption process. Both happen automatically and most users do not even know it is going on.

When a secure file transfer is necessary, data encryption and a secure server are extremely important. Email security is important, as well, especially when it deals with sensitive information related to banking, business and government transactions. In most cases, businesses and government agencies use highly elaborate systems to encrypt files and protect the information as it travels along various paths.

Email encryption is more important to businesses and financial institutions than it is to people who use their email for personal use. While personal emails are encrypted to some extent, companies that are constantly sending emails that contain sensitive information may have several encryption programs operating at one time in an attempt to protect the data from any type of hacker or breach.

Password Encryption

Password encryption is used to secure mail as well as protect individual systems from being breached. Encoded passwords can be used to protect emails, financial accounts, social media accounts, business files and internet connections used in both business and home environments. Encryption techniques use various tools to protect sensitive information. Special codes, as well as firewalls, are used to secure information.

Transparent data encryption is used to protect files and accounts within a system, but does not offer protection against breaches if the information must cross communication channels or internet connections. The encryption is considered to be transparent because it is not necessarily used to protect information from hackers outside of the system. Instead, it is used to secure information between parties, preventing individuals who share the same system from being allowed to access another person’s files.

Files that are sent across several different communication or internet channels must be encrypted at a different level to prevent hackers and other outsiders from snagging the information. Encryption codes can range from very simple to extremely complicated depending on the level of protection that is required. For example, a home based internet connection may have the simplest form of encryption, providing only the basic forms of protection.

A financial institution or government agency that deals with highly sensitive and confidential information may use firewalls, dividers, pass codes and information locks to protect information and prevent it from being retrieved by unauthorized personnel. On both a personal and commercial level, several types of information should be protected at all times. This includes:

  • Legal information
  • Credit/debit card information
  • Credit reports
  • Asset inventory
  • Bank account information, such as numbers, statements and money transfers
  • Patient/medical records
  • Student information, such as grades, transcripts and financial aid information
  • Driver’s license numbers and insurance policies
  • Personal information, such as date of birth, social security numbers and military records

Personal information that is retrieved from personal computers or unprotected servers can be used to steal another person’s identity or transfer assets from one person to another without the owner’s knowledge. It is extremely important for people to only access this type of information only the most secure internet servers.

Devices are available that allow hackers to gain access to a computer’s hard drive if it is connected to an unprotected server. Within a few minutes (in some cases, it can take only a few seconds), information can be transferred from one device to another without anyone even knowing the transfer is taking place. Data encryption can protect important pieces of information if the right steps are taken and the right encryption systems are used.

Why Data Encryption Is Vital to Privacy

There are several ways you can encrypt your own data.

  • Use passwords that are at least 10 to 15 characters long. Make sure they contain both upper and lower case letters as well as a number or symbol.
  • Encrypt your entire hard drive. The easiest way to accomplish this is to put an administrative password on your computer. This means that as soon as the screen opens up a password will be required before you can even access the start menu. This protects the entire system and prevents hackers from getting into your information if your computer is left connected to an internet server for long periods of time.
  • Encrypt thumb drives and discs. Using a program like BitLocker allows you to protect external devices as well. When you plug in the drive or insert the disc, you will immediately be asked for a passcode. Without it, the information will be inaccessible.
  • Encrypt your internet server by adding a VPN. This is a personally chosen password or the serial number of the modem being used to access the internet channel.
  • Encrypt any cloud storage resources you may use. Dropbox, Google and other third party cloud storage systems should also be password protected. This prevents others from accessing any information or photographs you may have stored in an offsite storage cloud or system.

Identity theft is a global problem. Individuals from across the world can hack into an individual’s account, no matter where they are located. Data encryption is the easiest way to protect information and keep it secure and out of the hands of online predators. Billions of dollars are lost each year because of hacked accounts and stolen financial information.

Individuals have had their credit stolen because they did not properly protect their financial information. Many have even gone to jail or spent time in prison for fraud because they could not prove they were not involved. Hackers have the skills and talents to make it look like the actual person is committing the fraud even when they are innocent.

The easiest and most efficient way to protect yourself from this becoming a victim of identity theft and fraud is to encrypt all of your data. Protecting yourself and your information can keep you from having to prove your own innocence if your identity is ever stolen or jeopardized in any way. All computers and electronic devices come equipped with modest encryption programs. It is important to understand how they work and to use them at all times, especially if your personal computer, laptop or tablets contain your sensitive and confidential information. Taking a few minutes to encrypt your devices and protect your data can mean the difference between financial security and major financial loss.

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