A way of coding the information in a file or e-mail message so that it can only be read by its intended recipient. If it is intercepted by a third party as it travels over a network, no one will not be able to view the contents of the file without the correct decryption key to unscramble the message.
The Internet, by its very nature, is open to anyone. While this is ideal for the dissemination of ideas and information, it also opens users up to a variety of threats from hackers and other cyber thieves. Encryptions allows Internet users to send and receive files and private information confidently, without worrying that every time they do so someone else may be viewing that information as well.
Also See: Cryptography
Frequently Asked Questions
When do I need to use encryption?
In most cases, when you need to use encryption online, it will be done automatically for you. For instance, anytime you log in to a secure website, such as your bank, an online store, or even your Facebook account, your communications are being encrypted to prevent anyone from stealing the confidential information you have stored on those sites or that you may have to provide during your interaction with the site, such as your credit card numbers or personal information. Secure sites can usually be identified either by the “https” in the start of their web address or by the small lock icon displayed beside the address bar in your browser. If you do not see these on a website, don’t provide any confidential information.
Are my e-mails automatically encrypted?
Most standard e-mail programs do not encrypt your messages when you send them. That’s why you should never send confidential information, such as your credit card information or a copy of your W2s over e-mail. If you do need to send secure information, there are a number of e-mail programs you can get, as well as add-ons for your existing e-mail client, that will allow you to encrypt confidential messages before sending them over the Net. Some of these programs are free to use, while others may require purchasing a security certificate. For more information, see How Private is E-mail.
Is there an easy way to send and receive encrypted files?
One of the easiest ways to send files to someone is to use an online storage and file-sharing service, such as Dropbox or Box. Both of these services use secure transfer protocols and encrypt the data stored on their sites. Rather than risking the security of your information by sending it over e-mail, send a link to the encrypted file stored on one of these sites. If you’re looking for a secure way to send business documents, check with your company’s IT team, as many organizations have strict security policies in place regarding which services you can use for storing and sending files, and they may also have an internal method for sending secure files.