Home > Publications > Technical > Encryption


Encryption is used to protect information (stored/transferred) by scrambling the information into an unreadable format. This unreadable format deters criminals/hackers from accessing/reading information; but allows users with the correct key to decrypt and read the information. The benefits of utilizing encryption are: criminals/hackers are unable to read any information captured during the transfer of information between computers; since a specific key is required to decrypt and read the information, encrypted information cannot be easily compromised. Encryption is typically used on devices/networks that contain or transfer sensitive/classified/secret information (wired/wireless networks, digital media [CD’s/DVD’s, USB, etc], and e-commerce transactions on the Internet.)

The process of scrambling information into an unreadable format is determined by a complex mathematical formula or “encryption algorithm” and a set of keys. This formula encrypts the information before it is sent, and the receiver, using a specific key, decrypts the information. The key can be anywhere between 40- to 128-bits in length, without which, the information cannot be read. The larger the key, the more difficult it is to break the encryption. Decryption is just as important as encryption because it returns the encrypted information back to a readable format. The receiving device must have the correct decryption key to interpret the message, if not, the message will remain encrypted. Encryption and decryption go hand in hand; one cannot exist without the other.

Employing encryption provides a sense of security to those involved. It allows a user or company to feel that their information is protected from criminals or hackers trying to intercept and snoop for information, and also know that their information cannot be accessed with the correct decryption key.
Encryption can be used in e-commerce transactions (banking, https websites, etc.), encrypting sensitive, classified, or secret data, as well as travel devices such as laptops, cell phones, MP3 players, etc. Any device that requests or stores account numbers, personal information, (address, phone number, social security numbers), and sensitive, classified, or secret data, should be encrypted. Encryption is frequently utilized on wireless devices and networks because they are more prone to hacking attempts then wired networks. Wired devices and networks that have encryption probably do so because they contain some form of sensitive, classified, or secret information. Additional devices that can be encrypted include CD/DVD, USB, hard drives, software programs, etc.
Utilizing encryption allows a sense of protection from criminals or hackers for a user or company. Encrypted information requires a decryption key to access or read the information. It is commonly used for transactions (credit card, banking, http websites, etc) on the internet to protect a user or company’s data. Encryption is one of many methods to protect information from criminals/hackers.