Encryption Learning Center

Encryption

Throughout time, people have had reasons to keep information secret and secure. Centuries ago when information had to be trusted to messengers traveling by foot or on horseback, the security of the information was a high priority. To prevent the details from falling into the wrong hands, many people turned to ciphers and other types of manual encryption. For example, certain letters of the alphabet were substituted in complex ways, requiring a cipher key to decode it. In this way, if an enemy managed to obtain the message, it would only appear as garbled text or an innocent note to them. Cryptography is essentially the study of these coding and deciphering techniques. During the 20th century, World War II created an even greater need for encrypted messages, and accordingly various devices and methods were created.

In today’s world where massive amounts of highly sensitive data are transferred online, encryption is even more important for safeguarding the information. On a daily basis personal details, private company information and even government intelligence are all passed around online. What happens if an unauthorized person intercepts any of this information? Indeed, there are many cases where hackers have been able to break into unsecure systems to steal data. Consequently they may commit identity theft, publicize a business’ trade secrets, or unveil government plans to another country. The modern version of encryption can be traced directly to the automatic encryption devices developed during WWII. Highly trained and experienced teams put their minds together to create Colossus, which was the very first digital and electronic computer device. At the time it was used to decipher encrypted transmissions from the Germans. During the 1970s, interest in digital encryption increased with the birth of major computer companies.

Unlike earlier times where cryptography was largely based on language, today’s digital encryption tends to primarily numbers instead. The original piece of text is put through a complex series of algorithms and mathematical procedures to convert it into a long string of seemingly random numbers. It can only be decoded with the correct key or password. In the past decade, digital encryption has progressed mainly due to the boom in Internet and computer usage worldwide. Even so, hackers and others who carry out brute force attacks on secure systems spurred a further boost in the progress of digital encryption. Today people use encryption technology from everything from email passwords to ATM cards, e-commerce stores, and much more. A somewhat newer field of encryption is known as biometric encryption. Instead of relying on letters and numbers for coding, it uses unique features of a person’s body that cannot normally be duplicated. Common examples include voice recognition, retina scans, fingerprints, and even facial structure.

Although it sounds quite futuristic, there are already several laptops in the market that allow the owner to scan a finger in order to log in, as well as other systems that require eye scans or voice samples to gain access to a system. Biometric encryption has been hailed as an excellent alternative to numeric encryption since it ensures that the key (or body parts in this case) cannot be duplicated or stolen. Explore the following digital encryption resources to learn more about how it works, where it is used, and how it is implemented.

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