Why encryption matters and how it can keep your data safe

Encryption is a widely used term that is used to secure online data. Here, we look into how encryption works and where it can be used online.


Understanding encryption

Based on the principle of cryptography, encryption is a security method used to secure data. Mathematical algorithms are used to scramble text in order to make them indecipherable to unauthorised individuals. Only those persons who hold the decryption key are able to decipher the contents and read the material. If a hacker gets hold of encrypted data, they would not be able to access it unless they had the decryption key, which is critical to access the secured content. Furthermore, even the company that stores information for a user is unable to view the material in the absence of the decryption key.

Since encryption is a form of securing data, it is used to make targeted data unreadable for unauthorised users, thus making it a vital part of safe web browsing. And because it works in the background, it goes unnoticed by most people.


Importance of encryption

Encryption can safeguard individual documents, PDF files or folders, as well as large volumes of data and entire hard drives. These days a number of third-party tools are available that provide encryption for users or employ technology based on sophisticated encryption techniques. The security options provide flexibility and offer peace of mind to users on the Internet. Encryption is crucial as it can protect material that could contain copyrighted information, confidential data, business secrets and login credentials.  Encryption ensures that only authorised parties can view the secured content.


How encryption is used online

Encryption is employed in a number of years online. These include:

Shopping: every reputed e-commerce site relies on encryption offered by SSL technology. People browsing such websites click on the padlock icon in the browser bar to see what encryption is being used and who is the authorized company.  You can see if SSL is being used when connecting to a web site since the HTTPS prefix is displayed indicating safe online transmission. Encryption employed here involves security for data that is in transfer.

Accessing emails: one of many implementers of encryption is Google who provide SSL encryption and have made it their default option. A few years ago, Google began to encrypt all the emails across their data centres and servers. Among the many email providers that offer various types of encryption, Google has set an example for numerous other organisations to follow suit. Thus, today, almost every reputable web-based email provider encrypts emails by default.

Online banking services: given the confidential nature of the data transmitted in the process of online banking, it is imperative that the financial industry strictly abides by encryption standards and requirements. One can observe encryption technology in action when checking their bank accounts, transmitting money, or conducting bill payment activities. However, financial institutions are also mandated to encrypt all material including online forms when users have to fill them in for various purposes such as applying for loans. The financial industry must encrypt data containing personally recognisable information or financial particulars including income or credit score data.

Communication platforms: Today technology-containing encryption is also a vital part of messaging tools. Popular messaging platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook messenger use encryption technology extensively to protect their users messages. To ensure that your messaging platform is encrypted, you may want to check into the applications settings before sending information to others that must be kept private.


Importance of encryption for passwords

Encryption is critically essential for passwords in addition to the role it plays in individuals’ online activities. Encrypting documents or files dramatically cuts the risk of data theft.  Almost all data containing information that could be potentially important to hackers is nowadays mainly password protected.  Some examples that require password protection include Social Security numbers, credit card details, banking accounts and others.

Here are simple rules you can follow to make your encrypted files more effective with password protection.

  • Ensure that your password is long, complicated and difficult to guess.
  • When creating a password or a pin, construct it with random numbers and letters.
  • Make a note of your password and other security details and store them in a safe place.

Encrypting data is part of a holistic security plan that can help protect your documents and confidential information. It is a critical security control for individuals and organisations that handle sensitive information and should be used where ever possible to prevent sensitive data from falling into the wrong hands.