Most of us know that when we say “data encryption,” it’s a data security measure used to protect sensitive information, and it verifies that the accessed data can only be read by the person who is authorized to have access.
How does it work?
It is a way to send a message in code. Only the authorized person has a key to allow the encrypted message, also known as “ciphertext,” to be decoded back to readable form. To anyone else, the message will appear as a random series of letters, numbers, and characters.
It is a useful cybersecurity measure often taken for emailed messages, as they are sent over the internet making such information susceptible to an attack if the internet is infiltrated by a hacker.
By sending a message through code, the message can be kept confidential. Often in business interactions, when encrypting and sending a message, a “public key” is used for the receiver, and the receiver uses both the “public key” paired by a “private key” to decrypt the message. PGP key rings are often used.
What is a PGP key ring?
PGP stands for “Pretty Good Privacy.” PGP is reputed to be a strong encryption software program to encrypt both email and files. The software provides a system to connect “public keys” to user identities. The sender uses the “public key” and the receiver uses the “public” and “private” key pair to access the confidential message. For example, when you receive an encrypted email message, you would be provided with a session key with the message. To access the session key, you would use a private key.
Here are the steps involved:
- Obtain a public key. The person you want the confidential message sent to needs this. You may get a key from a public key ring. You can contact the message receiver directly to confirm that the series of letters and numbers is correct.
- Encrypt the email message. With the public key, you can encrypt the message. Clients who use data encryption will likely have a feature to allow you to perform this task.
- The receiver decrypts the message. The person who receives the message will receive the encrypted message and will be able to decrypt it with their private decryption key. To ensure that the “private key” is indeed private, it should be kept confidential through password protection.
There are two types of encryption – Symmetric and Asymmetric.
Data encryption is frequently applied in a “symmetric” and “asymmetric” form. There is a “symmetric key,” which is considered the secret key to both encode and decode the message. The symmetric form is useful for small data sets and one-on-one sharing. Then there is the “asymmetric key” form, which is the “public key” system described earlier. The asymmetry comes in where the encryption uses two linked keys – one public and one private. The public key is “public” in the sense that anyone can use the key to encrypt the message. The opposite, paired key, which is with the receiver, has a private key to decrypt it.
Data encryption is both an easy and useful line of cybersecurity defense against malicious actors. This data protection measure can be applied to a wide range of areas. It is used to classify government intel as well as personal credit transactions. Hardly any business today with a reasonable security program functions without the use of data encryption. If you are just beginning to build a basic, strong security program, it is certainly worthwhile to include data encryption as one of your cybersecurity lines of defense.
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