Why do we need encryption?Posted on 23 August 2017 by Beaming Support
Encryption on various platforms has been discussed in the media with increasing frequency lately.
So, why do we need encryption and how does it work?
Encryption is a way of keeping your data safe and confidential as it is sent over the internet. Whenever you send personal information across the internet, be it passwords, credit card information or personal contact details, encryption stops others from seeing what you are doing.
Data is jumbled up in a manner so that when it travels through the internet it is completely unreadable, this stops hackers who may intercept the data from seeing what you’re doing, as all they’d receive is a random bunch of letters, numbers & symbols.
But how does the receiving host, i.e. a website, understand this mumbo jumbo it’s been sent?
Before data is encrypted both hosts exchange information on how the information will be transformed, and this is done via ‘Keys’ in a 3-way handshake. Two types of keys are involved, the private key and the public key.
Private keys are a secret way of encrypting a message so only the ’encrypter’ can decrypt it. And public keys are shared between two hosts as a way of encrypting data in a way they both can understand.
First when data is being sent to a website, e.g. entering in a password, your computer will encrypt it with a private key, then after getting the public key from the host (website) it can encrypt it with that, too (so far two levels of encrypting). After this the server encrypts it with its own key (3 levels now) and sends the data back to the host (website).
At this point the host removes its private key, so now we’re back to 2 levels of encryption. Finally it gets sent back to the server which removes the public key and its own personal private key. The data can now be processed to log you in.
Types of Encryption
There are many ways of encrypting data, some more complicated than others. However the more complicated it gets, the longer it takes to process the data, making general internet usage a lot slower.
Look out for the ‘s’
When you are on a website that uses encryption, it’s URL will start with https:// the ‘s’ means that data sent using this website is secure. This doesn’t use the most complex algorithm because it doesn’t want to slow your browsing down, but don’t let that scare you because it would still take years for someone to crack it!