Keeping others from being able to see the content on your computer is your right. No justification is needed—only appropriate action. In today’s political climate, computer security is one of the most common questions we are asked here at Tech Sentries. These questions often deal with protecting your data, keeping the government out of your affairs, and even encryption. If you don’t know what encryption means, much less how it’s used, this article is for you!
So Just What Does Computer Encryption Mean?
Basically, encryption involves scrambling text into a unique code using mathematics. Special encryption software uses algorithms to generate these codes from your text. Unless you are a person who knows how to unlock this code, it will look like unrecognizable nonsense.
The key to unlock encryption is referred to as a cipher. They have been used in many ways for the last 2000 years. Due to their complexity, it can take many years for any person or computer to successfully decode or unlock the cipher.
The truth is we all use computer encryption everyday but might not be aware of it. Did you know that each time you log into your bank account, join a Wi-Fi network or shop on an HTTPS site you are using encryption? These types of transactions use encryption called “in transit,” which deals with information transferred over the internet. If a file or disk gets encrypted on a computer, it’s referred to as “in place or at rest” encryption.
To put it simply, think of encryption as bits. The standard encryption key uses 256 bits, which literally has billions of possible cipher combos. The math is downright overwhelming! The two most common encryption types are symmetrical and asymmetrical. This simply means that with symmetrical, the same key is used to both lock and unlock the encrypted files. The opposite is true of asymmetrical—one key locks it and another unlocks it. The latter is the more commonly used method.
How Does Computer Encryption Work?
Certain software is used that creates ciphers which are highly complicated. This is what will scramble the data in your folders and files. Often, the encryption is so complicated that it can only be read once unless properly decrypted or “unlocked.” While a supercomputer or superhuman might be able to decode the encryption, it would likely take many years. Instead, encryption software can be installed like other programs and you will need a strong password to protect the files it encrypts. The password is your cipher to unlock everything so it is crucial to choose wisely when creating this password. Here are some tips:
- Don’t use words from the dictionary
- Try creating a phrase rather than just a word
- The more characters, the stronger the password
- If possible, use combinations of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters such as (#$%&!).
You might have a file with one or more lines of text in it that could be dangerous. If you enter that line into your encryption software, it would take the line of text and convert it to a long combination of letters, numbers and characters that would make no sense to anyone unless decoded. It may end up looking far longer than your original line of text, which makes it even harder for a hacker to get to it.
Should I Encrypt My Data?
For the most part, we strongly encourage everyone to encrypt their data. Even more so if you use tablets and/or laptops. Encryption goes a long way in protecting you from spying eyes of thieves, hackers, and even government. It also prevents malware and other viruses from getting into your data. The simple fact that it takes your carefully chosen password to unlock your files makes encryption worth it—everyone who values their privacy and security should use it!
There are a few options depending on what device you’re using.
Each of these options works in much the same way. Enable or install the encryption program, set a drive or folder, give it a secure password and encrypt. Just do not forget that password!
What About Backdoors?
The term “backdoors” has come up when certain officials aren’t happy with security companies not providing them a “backdoor” way to access encrypted files. Government seems to always want to put more surveillance in place and they don’t take too kindly to companies refusing to provide them with a hidden key that would allow them access to the data they want whenever they choose. Fortunately, no backdoor access is currently being enforced and we have no reason to believe that these security companies are building any backdoor access to their encrypted data files.
The bottom line is encrypting your files is legal, free and easy to do. If you run a business or just have personal files you don’t ever want anyone gaining access to, computer encryption is the safest thing to do!
For more information about computer encryption and computer security, call Tech Sentries today! (843) 282-2222.