Encryption is the reason you're able to do everything on the internet safely and securely. Without encryption, every time you shopped on the internet or checked your bank account you'd be putting all of your information at risk. It would be like everything you ever typed on the internet was spoken through a loudspeaker.
What is encryption?
Encryption is a way of hiding information from others. It is the way that computers scramble up the messages and the data that you send so they remain secret, and unscramble them when they need to be read. It is used by the majority of sites you come across to protect your personal data.
Why do we need encryption?
Communication on the internet is a lot like sending postcards. Any information you relay, whether it be a google search, a web address or your credit card details can be intercepted and read - unless the information is encrypted.
You can always tell if the website you're using has established a secure connection with your computer, by checking the web address bar. In the top left hand corner the web address should start with "https://" (the "s" at the end is the important part) and you should see a padlock. If it's green, the site has been verified. If it's red, then there's a problem. If it's not there at all, you're sending postcards.
How does encryption work?
Take Facebook as an example. To create a secure connection between your computer and the server providing you with Facebook, Facebook needs to send you a public encryption key. Think of this as an open padlock.
First of all, Facebook and your computer say hello to each other. The different levels of encryption are like different languages, so the computer and the Facebook need to find one they have in common. They will talk to each other using the highest level of encryption they share, so that your data is as secure as it can be.
Once that's done, Facebook sends your computer the open padlock. Once you've received it, your computer generates a new random encryption key of its own. Think of this as a secret code which your computer invents to talk to Facebook privately, in a way nobody else could understand.
Your computer pops the secret code in a box, and locks it with Facebook's open padlock. The padlock 'clicks' shut, and now nobody can unlock it apart from Facebook. Your computer gives sends the box back, and Facebook unlocks it with their private key to receive your 'secret code'.
Your computer and Facebook now have a way to talk to each other in code. The secret code cannot have been stolen by anyone, because at every stage in the conversation it was protected.
So is my information safe? And what about my clients?
For personal use, all you need to do to check the website you're using is secure is look for that little green padlock. That way you know any information you put in is encrypted.
If your business stores information about your clients, then you must make sure their data is sufficiently protected. Make sure you're using https, and have an Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate.
If you aren't sure what those are or if you have them, get in touch with us at 0191 482 0444 to have a chat with our team.
Want to know more? Get next level encryption know-how: http://robertheaton.com/2014/03/27/how-does-https-actually-work/