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What Is Encryption?

What Is Encryption?

August 19, 2020

Privacy is important to most of us, whether it be privacy in our homes, at work, on our phones, or on our computers. Encryption is one of the security features that helps us keep our information safe. Here’s how it works:

Encryption is the algorithmic process of scrambling data so that it’s indecipherable as it travels through the internet, making the information unreadable to unauthorized users. Encryption ensures the trusted delivery of information to the right people. It can get a bit more technical than that, but for now, that’s the basics of it. Your message, be it an email or text, is jumbled into strings of letters, numbers, and symbols to prevent others from intercepting it after you send it to someone.

Here’s an example of a phrase of text that’s been encrypted:

Plain text: This is a blog about encryption.
Encrypted text: RemPZvHe7GBwrp+FOyf5l6ietLeWLFi146mgU3JZ064=

Encryption is pretty handy to protect private information. It keeps your emails, attachments, messages, and most other communications and data secure as they leave your computer, travel the web, and meet their recipient or are stored somewhere on a device or cloud storage. Most of the time, you don’t have to actively initiate this process. Most devices have a program installed that protects this information, and services employ a layer of protection too. You can download extra encryption software, but nowadays, devices like your smartphone have encryption features turned on by default.

Why Is Encryption Important?

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Since it’s not a process you have to do consciously, it can be hard to understand why it’s important. You may even feel that if you’re not an avid internet user, you may not have a lot of information floating around on the internet. However, you likely still have some personal information that has traveled through or is stored on the internet through another party.

This could be information saved from your online banking account, your healthcare portals, your credit card services, your home security company, or any other company with access to customer details. Anything considered to be personally identifiable information can—and should be—protected by encryption.

Now, if you’re a hands-on type of person who wants to add another layer of security, there is something you can do to your Microsoft Office files. In Word, PowerPoint, and Excel, you can encrypt your files so that they require a password to be opened. Go to: File > Info > Protect Document (Presentation or Workbook) > Encrypt with Password.

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This protects your file when you save it locally on your computer’s hard drive. This is a good option if you tend to keep track of your finances on your computer in an Excel spreadsheet or log your account usernames and passwords in Word. So, consider encryption before you upload documents to the cloud, respond to a text, or send an email. Your privacy off the internet is just as important as your privacy on the internet.

Learn about end-to-end encryption in my next blog, and don’t forget to explore the Library’s resources about this topic!

Brityni S.
Consumer Technology Specialist

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