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What is Encryption and How it works? Encryption explained.
2019-08-28 | by Mary Smith

What is Encryption and How it works? Encryption explained.

Have you ever noticed when you visit a website that have that little green padlock in the corner of your browser? You can trust it to keep your private data safe, whether it's your credit card number or sensitive documents or any sort of personal pictures and videos. 

We all send and receive our personal information over shared connections.  But even though it's an open system, we still exchange a lot of private data.  Things like credit card numbers, bank information, passwords, and emails. 

You probably use encryption every single day, but don’t know how encryption works, if you have a broadband device or any smart TV etc.

Various types of encryption standards ensure that they are kept out of the prying hands of cyber criminals (intruders/hacker/sniffers) or whatever. 

So, the first question of course is

What is encryption? 

Encryption is a process of taking normal information and turning it into a version that can't be read by other people now to do that encryption and decryption you will need a key.

 

What is decryption? 

Now decryption is the process of un-scrambling that encrypted message to make it readable. This is a very simple idea and people have been using it for centuries. 

So, while my today's topic focuses on encryption on the websites specifically and the procedures used for encrypting data can be massively complex the fundamental idea behind all encryption is really quite simple. 

Whenever you transfer data online your computer turns that data into an unintelligible mess or cipher text a mathematical algorithm that can only be put back into a readable form by unlocking it with a key of some sort that tells the receiving computer how to decode the incoming data. 

This basic concept has actually been used to send secret messages since long before the invention of computer ciphers are various kinds have been used for thousands of years and machines that could encode and decode secret messages were in use way before the modern PC came along.


Ancient encryption methods & techniques.

Thomas Jefferson invented a wheel cipher that was nothing more than wooden disks around an axle and then the Germans famously used a typewriter like device called the Enigma machine to encrypt military messages during World War two although the Allies were able to crack that code.

Julius Caesar, he wanted to write some secret messages and to do so he used this thing we call today the Caesar cipher. Caesar Cipher is an algorithm that substitutes each letter in the original message with a letter a certain number of steps down the alphabet.

But there is a big problem with Caesar Cipher, anybody can easily crack the encrypted message, by trying every possible key, and in the English alphabet there are only 26 letters, which means you would only need to try at most 26 keys to decrypt the message. These were the few examples of how ancient encryption methods and techniques works.  

 

Public and Private Keys 

Now back to the web era modern electronics often use a widespread encryption scheme called public key encryption suppose you want to send an email when you click send the receiving computer will provide your computer a public key. 

An encrypted email or message can only be decrypted by a computer with access to the private key.

A public key is generated by the computer just randomly choosing a very large number and running it through some mathematical algorithms or functions once your computer receives this public key it uses the key to lock the email using a special algorithm then sends it on its way. 

Now, since anyone can request a public key from a computer the public key can't be used to unlock a message, otherwise anyway could intercept and read your encrypted email.

Instead, computers a private key that is not shared. The Public Key is used to encrypt data and anybody can use it to create an encrypted message, but the encrypted message can only be decrypted by a computer with access to the private key. 

I would defeat the purpose instead the recipient’s computer unlocks the message with a private key that is stored on that system alone making it mercifully impossible for anyone else to view the personal data you are sharing with your friends and family.

Public key encryption isn't just used for email it's actually being used by tons of other purposes, for example websites that require you to sign in securely. If you click on that little padlock you will see mention of SSL or TLS these are two implementations of public key encryption that are widely used by websites for example Google Facebook Microsoft and many more.

To make sure that only you can access your personal data or change your private settings now once the sensitive data actually arrives at its destination, there are a number of other encryption methods used to make sure it can apply on the computer or web server safely. 

For example, you might have a password and credit card credentials stored on Amazon or any other online store.

 

How do they keep those things safe? 

Often websites will hash your passwords it means that they're converted into encrypted strings of text through a process that is extremely difficult to reverse and can't be unlocked without a key.

Now with all that said, it is important to remember that there is no encryption method is perfect and experts in the field are constantly searching for weaknesses and encryption algorithms and devising new ones to outsmart hacker.

There are many encryption algorithms & procedures are being used today. Each encryption standards have its own pros and cons. We can choose encryption software and tool according to our need.