What is Encryption?

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Holiday 2013 — Security News and Advice


Encryption began as cryptography, or the science of encoding and decoding secret messages. The ancient Greeks used it long before the digital age to protect sensitive information that might fall into the hands of their enemies. More recently, governments have used encryption for military purposes, but these days we mostly use the term in reference to Internet security.

Encryption is important because it allows technology providers such as website owners to convert sensitive information, such as your credit card number, passwords and other financial details, into a code that cannot be read by cybercriminals or other unauthorized third parties.

As an Internet user you should be aware of when encryption is being used, and when it is not, since it can help protect your personal information when doing sensitive transactions, and increase your Internet security.

So, when you’re doing online banking or online shopping, or registering with a site that requires your personal information, look to see that the website address begins with “https” instead of just “http” since this indicates that this site is using encryption. You can also look for the lock symbol, since this is another indication that the site offers improved Internet security.

In addition to online shopping and banking destinations, other kinds of websites have started offering the option of switching to a secure “https” page. Facebook, Twitter, and the professional networking site LinkedIn, for example, now offer encryption since their users are sharing so much of their personal information. Depending on how much you share, you should consider using these options.

Keep in mind, however, that not all websites need this kind of security. Don’t be alarmed if you are on a news site, for example, that doesn’t offer encryption since you generally read content on these sites but do not send or share personal details.

Knowing about encryption and how it can protect you is important, so remember to follow these tips to improve your Internet security:

  • Look for “https” and the lock symbol when doing sensitive transactions.
  • Always be careful about how much personal information you share online.
  • If you use social networks, check your privacy settings to make sure that your information stays private.
  • Consider using the “https” option on social networking sites when you’re entering your passwords or other sensitive information.
  • Use comprehensive security software and keep it up-to-date.

Encryption may sound complicated but it is just a high-tech way of creating a code to protect your information, just as the Greeks did long ago. Now that you know what encryption is, be on the lookout for secure sites that can increase your Internet security.


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