Types of Encryption

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Data encryption exists on several levels. You can encrypt writing using a single or double key or an algorithm. You can encrypt hard drives, folders and files; operating systems can be set to encrypt data as well. You can also use images to hide files and even other images. Even wireless systems apply different forms of encryption to conceal data from unauthorized access.

Basic Encryption

  • Data file encryption can use any one, or a combination of three, common methods to conceal a document. An algorithm can encode a message; it can be anything from a simple mathematical formula, such as replacing every fourth letter with the letter that appears before it in the alphabet, to multi-page integrated Calculus formats. A second encryption format, the private key or symmetric method, has been used for centuries. The two parties at either end of the encrypted message share a unique key that decrypts the code. The third method is public-private key, also known as asymmetric encryption. This requires both a public or universal key held by many users, including the sender and receiver, and a private key known only to the particular sender and receiver.

Hardware Encryption

  • Although the cloud is rapidly becoming the more popular storage medium, computer hard drives still contain the vast majority of sensitive data for both personal and enterprise-level users. To protect the data software, security companies have devised a number of solutions. One of the most popular among this broad field is PGP (Pretty Good Protection), deployed by Symantec. PGP uses a cryptographic algorithm to create a unique session key after compressing the data as it is written to the drive. When the message is sent, the receiver uses the common key to download the data and then accesses the file using the unique key sent with the data. Most other hardware encryption software employs similar techniques.

Wi-Fi Security

  • Your wireless router uses the airways to send and receive data on your network, which can make it visible to unauthorized abusers. To prevent illicit access, encryption systems came into use in the 1990s. The first popular wireless encryption, WEP, proved to be of little defense against prying eyes. Next came WPA and later WPA2, which used either a single network-wide encryption key or, in the enterprise version, a new key created with each user access of the network. Enterprise versions of WPA2 using a separate server called RADIUS are considered nearly impervious to hacking.

Operating System Encryption

  • Beyond simple password recognition protocols, computer operating systems can have built-in encryption programs of their own. Both Microsoft and Apple have such options available in their latest operating systems. In addition, several software vendors offer third party OS encryption software. Although, on a nuts and bolts level, all such programs possess similar functionality, some offer more features than others. In addition to making file text look like gibberish, some programs allow you to ghost your operating system altogether and create a decoy operating system that would appear innocuous to a thief or hacker. Such programs include TrueCrypt, BitLocker, AES Crypt and Cloudfogger, any one of which will help keep your data out of the hands of the wrong people.

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