What is Encryption? How it’s Used and Why it Matters

By November 29, 2018 Security Tips No Comments
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You’ve probably heard the term “encryption” and know it helps to keep you safe online. But do you know how encryption works and where it’s used across the web?

What Is Encryption?

Encryption is a security method based on cryptography. It involves scrambling text with mathematical algorithms. Only the people who have the encryption key can read the material. If a hacker were to get hold of this random string of text, they wouldn’t be able to log into your account unless they also had the key, which they could then use to decrypt it. Even the company that stores the data for a user cannot view the content.

Because encryption is a method of keeping information secure and unreadable by unauthorized users, it’s an essential part of safe web browsing. But, it works in the background, meaning many individuals may not notice it.

Why Is It Important?

Encryption can secure individual files or folders, as well as volumes and entire hard drives. There are also third-party tools that offer encryption for users or use technology based on encryption. These options give flexibility and peace of mind as people use the internet, whether for work or pleasure.

Depending on encryption is essential when protecting material that could contain trade secrets, confidential information and login details. It ensures that only the authorized parties see the content.

Common Ways People Use Encryption Online

You can use encryption online in several ways:

1. Shopping

Any reputable e-commerce site should rely on encryption provided by SSL technology. When websites use SSL measures or similar kinds of encryption, people see padlock icons in their browser bars.

The “https” prefix is another designator of secure online transmissions. That kind of encryption involves security for messages that are in transit.

2. Accessing Emails

Google has always offered SSL encryption, and made it their default option in 2010. However in 2014, Google began to encrypt all emails as they moved through the company’s data centers and servers.

The company is among many other email providers that use various forms of encryption, including numerous options people depend on at work. Then, showing evidence that Google encourages other companies to follow its lead, Yahoo! began encrypting emails by default around the same time as Google’s 2014 enhancement.

3. Utilizing Online Banking Services

Due to the sensitive nature of the information transmitted during online banking, it’s probably not surprising to most people that the financial industry must abide by strict encryption requirements.

People most often see encryption technology in action when checking their accounts, transferring money or doing other everyday activities. But, financial institutions must also encrypt material submitted through online forms people may use when giving details about unauthorized transactions or applying for loans.

If the information transmitted contains personally identifiable information or financial details including income or credit score information, it must be encrypted.

4. Using Certain Messaging Platforms

Encryption technology is also available in some messaging tools. WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger are two of the most popular platforms offering it. But, people should not assume that encryption is enabled by default. Check to be sure by going into the app’s settings and verifying before sending information to others that should be kept private.

Why Encryption Is Particularly Important for Passwords

Aside from the role encryption plays in people’s online activities, encryption is especially important for passwords. After all, most of the sites containing information that’s potentially valuable to hackers are protected by passwords. Password-protected information may include driver’s license numbers, social security numbers and credit card details, to name a few.

Fortunately, people can feel comfortable about the security of their passwords when using LastPass to manage all of them. The keys used to encrypt, and decrypt user data are never sent to LastPass’ servers, and never accessible by LastPass.

The first step in getting started with LastPass involves picking a master password. Doing that creates both the encryption key and an authentication hash. When you store passwords in your LastPass vault, it’s encrypted with that master password key that’s never sent to us. Think of it like a box with a big old padlock. When you’re ready to store it, you lock up that box, and send it to us. You still have the key in your hand (your master password) and we just hold the box for you, all locked up.

We even add more locks and more boxes (encryption), so it’s even harder to get to the things in your box. If someone were to smash through all those layers and open your box, the pieces would all be mashed up and totally unreadable. Only with your original key (your master password) would all those pieces fit together again to reveal your passwords and the other data in your vault.

This process keeps the data safe from anyone but the authorized user.

Encryption: The Technology That Keeps Online Users Secure Every Day

When people go online, they don’t think about online security or encryption unless things go wrong. But, without encryption, it’d be impossible for individuals to take part in their favorite online activities without worrying about outside parties seeing their data.

With the help of encryption technology — and related tools like LastPass — you can feel confident transmitting information online.