We have discussed various threats to digital information we all share online. When we need to protect our digital information in cyberspace, this is where encryption comes into play. You may have heard of it, but we will explain some technical details in easy to understand manner. You will understand what the encryption is and why do you need it in 2021?
What is Encryption?
In most simple words, encryption is a process of converting simple text into a piece of code that cannot be understood by everyone. As we have mentioned earlier that encryption is used when we want to keep our data super secret. There are few key concepts that needs to be discusses before going into further details. First of all try to digest following points;
- Plain text: Plain text is a simple piece of text that is typed in a computer or written on a piece of paper. Such as the text you are reading now is known as plain text.
- Cipher text: Resulting code or string of characters obtained after applying encryption is known as the cipher text.
- The algorithm that converts plain text into a cipher text is known as encryption algorithm or simply the cipher.
As we now know the basic definitions, encryption can now be defined as the process of converting lain text into cipher text.
Why do we need encryption in first place?
The answer to this is simple. Encryption is crucial to data security. We do not want our critical information to be shared or accessible to the cyber criminals. For example, If your computer or some online storage of your personal information is hacked, the hackers will be able to misuse that information in any way. However, if you encrypt your information or data stored in either your computer or in cloud storage, Even if the hackers are able to breach other defences they will not be able to misuse the encrypted data. For an encrypted data, all a hacker will able to obtain is just a cipher text.
Enough of technical details. Want to see encryption in action? Stay with us.
Encryption in action:
There are a lot of encryption algorithms that are being used by tech giants to encrypt the data. They are divided into two basic categories of symmetric and asymmetric algorithms. We will discuss the most basic symmetric algorithms here.
ROT-3 Cipher is the most basic symmetric encryption algorithm. These type of algorithms are known as symmetric algorithms because same key is used to encrypt and decrypt the message. We will explain the key inn detail very soon. In ROT-3 algorithm each letter in an English plain text is replaced with the subsequent third alphabet of English. For Example the plain text "Hello Alice" will be converted into "Khoor Dolfh". You can see for yourself that each alphabet is replaced with the subsequent third alphabet of English.
Now, the most important thing is the Key in any encryption algorithm. What do you think the key is in above example of ROT-3 cipher? Yeah! you got it. The key to above encryption algorithm is the mechanism of replacing each letter with third subsequent alphabet. Only the person encrypting the text will know this key of 3 rotations. Any encryption algorithm is as secure as the encryption key associated with it. You have to communicate the key to the intended receiver of the message in some secure manner. So, that they can decode it into original message. The process of decoding cipher text into original plain text is known as the decryption. If you want to experiment with ROT-3 algorithm head to this link here and try yourself.
ROT-3 Cipher in action
Do you remember that we have explained that the security of encryption algorithm depends on the key. As the key of encryption was only the rotation to third alphabet. What if we change it to thirteen alphabets? The encryption will be more secure and more computing power will be required to crack the code. In ROT-13 cipher, each alphabet will be replaced with the thirteenth subsequent alphabet. Try it for yourself here.
ROT 13 in action
You can see in above figure that it is much more difficult now to decrypt the message without knowing the key. A process in which scientists tries to crack encryption codes without knowing the actual algorithm or the key is known as cryptanalysis. These are the most basic and obsolete encryption algorithms. The world is now using most sophisticated encryption algorithms to secure online data storage and processing. We will discuss only one of the modern encryption algorithm here.
Hash Functions and Hashing:
Hash function is a sophisticate encryption algorithm that creates a unique string of characters for a specific input. there are multiple hashing algorithms such as md2, md4, and md5 etc. Hashing functions are used to check the integrity of the message. For Example how will you know if the file you have downloaded form internet is not tempered with? Using hashing functions you can verify the integrity of any file or message. For example in the below figure you can see an md5 hash value for a simple message;
MD5 in action
You can see the message and calculated hash value in results box. Now, if I simple change the sign of exclamation at the end of the message with a dot, what do you think will happen to the hash of same message? See it for yourself in below figure;
MD5 in action
You can see that a simple change of ! into a dot has drastically changed the hash value of the same message. You can experience it yourself here. This is how you can use hash calculators to verify that the message you have received or the file you have downloaded from internet is from the original person and not from the hackers !!!
Encrypting Personal Files:
As we have established the importance of encryption in data security, you may be wondering that how to secure personal data in your computer and encrypt it. The answer to this is simple. You can use most of the file management tools to encrypt your local data and protect it from being stolen or damaged. You can use 7-Zip from here it provides basic encryption tools. If you need a professional and user friendly encryption solution you can find one here. Most of the security suites also include encryption such as Kaspersky Total Security or McAfee Total Protection. You can find a very good deal here.
Stay Secure and Encrypt your valuable data in 2021
- Data Security
- Data Encryption
- Encryption Algorithms
- Cipher Text