Data encryption has been around for much longer than we have been using computers. But today, encryption is a part of our daily lives, whether we realize it or not. Every time we send email, purchase something online or basically do anything on the internet, encryption is an integral part of our activity.
There are several different types and methods of encryption at work, and below, you will find the most common.
Asymmetric encryption can be found most commonly in email transmissions. The way this type of encryption works is that a key is either published for a large number of people to see, or given only to those whom you wish to use it. Using this key, anyone wanting to send encrypted email to you need only use the key before sending the message. While many may have the key to send you encrypted messages, the private key is held by a single person and used to read the messages sent to them.
Symmetric encryption is that which is done by the individual. If you think back to your school days where you would send secret messages back and forth, this was a form of symmetric encryption. A system of letters and corresponding numbers – the secret ‘code’ – would be held by a limited number of individuals and used to encrypt and decrypt messages.
Manual encryption involves the use of software. Many computer programs are created solely for this purpose. Their job is to digitally encrypt bits of information. Manual encryption is powered by the user, who chooses those files they wish to encrypt, and then selects a level of encryption from a list.
Transparent encryption is also offered via software. This encryption method is downloaded by a user onto their system. Once installed, the software automatically creates an encrypted copy of every file and application. Transparent encryption is considered to be one of the most secure encryption types, because it encrypts everything, eliminating the missed files that manual encryption can sometimes cause.
Three of the most common encryption types are VPNs, SSL and file encryption. The VPN, or virtual private network offers a secure connection over the internet. Normal surfing simply involves going online and requesting desired information directly from web sites. But when using a VPN, any desired information first passes through this digital ‘middle man’, and then to the server. The information also passes through the VPN on its return trip. Those looking to find your IP information or browsing habits will only see a connection to the VPN server, and no browsing activity.
SSL or secure socket layer encryption protects our email messages, online banking information and internet shopping activities. This additional layer of security encrypts messages sent to banking and shopping servers, making it unreadable by ‘sniffers’ looking for unsecured transactions.
File encryption is done by those looking to make parts of their computer’s hard drive unreadable. A virtual partition is a type of file encryption where a portion of a hard drive is encrypted so that all files placed on it are protected. This virtual partition can be transferred from one computer to another very easily, as it exists as one file that requires a password to be opened.
Encryption Technology of the Future Is Here Today
Secret information leaks in recent news have caused many more people to be aware of the security measures they take, as well as how well their current security scheme is working. In fact, many experts are calling this the ‘year of encryption’, where much focus will be placed on the effectiveness of internal network security. Biometric encryption – such as facial recognition, iris scanning and fingerprint reading – is predicted to gain more acceptance as it appears on popular devices like the iPhone.
They also predict that the BYOD (bring your own device) programs will quickly morph into ‘bring your own security’, with employees placing their own security measures on the personal devices they use at work, unbeknownst to their employers.
Is Bring Your Own Security A Slippery Slope?
While many experts consider the advent of the computer security age to be a good thing, others wonder whether it will go too far. The fact that many employees will apply their own security measures on their devices for work may force employers to enforce their own type of security on the personal devices of their employees to prevent confidential company information from being communicated and transferred.
One method being considered is the installation of geographical tracking software on personal devices so that they can be monitored when an employee attempts to access company servers at unusual times of day, or attempt to access portions of the company server they don’t normally enter.
Guest author Rachel Means writes on a variety of topics related to technology. She recommends HostingAndBackup.com as a resource for small business owners looking for help in understanding how to establish an online presence.