Encryption explained

In terms of web hosting, data is an essential component in the transfer of information across the World Wide Web. When we think of data in the context of the internet it comes in the form of digital data, this data can be manipulated to produce secure ways of viewing and transferring the data from one client to the next. In the current climate, this is an essential process as so much information that exists online today relates to private financial information, online accounts and other extremely sensitive personal details about users that must be kept secure. 

A good example of encryption is a login for an online account with your bank – It’s vital that the flow of information between yourself and the bank is only seen by you and the bank only. How is this possible? Something must be done to the data so the data is transferred in a way to only make it visible to a target person (or audience)? The method applied to manipulate data in this way is called encryption.

Encryption can be defined as “the process of converting information or data into a code, especially to prevent unauthorised access” and there are a few different ways in which given data can be encrypted: – 

  1. Hashing: – Hashing creates a unique, fixed-length signature for a message or data set. Each “hash” is unique to a specific message, so minor changes to that message would be easy to track. Once data is encrypted using hashing, it cannot be reversed or deciphered. Hashing  isn’t encryption in the strictest sense but does provide a manipulation of the data that does in fact prove that the data is secure and hasn’t been interfered with.
  2. Symmetric Encryption: – Symmetric encryption is also known as private-key cryptography (same key for both stages of the encryption), and is called so because the key used to encrypt and decrypt the message must remain secure, because anyone with access to it can decrypt the data. Using this method, a sender encrypts the data with one key, sends the data (the ciphertext) and then the receiver uses the key to decrypt the data. Its worth noting that this method of encryption is susceptible to attack as the same key is used for both the encryption and decryption stages.
  3. Asymmetric Encryption: – Asymmetric encryption, or public-key cryptography, is different than the previous method because it uses two keys for encryption or decryption (it has the potential to be more secure as such). With this method, a public key is freely available to everyone and is used to encrypt messages, and a different, private key is used by the recipient to decrypt messages. Asymmetric encryption offers more security than a symmetric encryption process as the encryption key and decryption key differ.

This is just a short piece that by no means covers everything around the process of encryption, there is much more to the subject should you wish to delve deeper!

Please feel free to get in touch if you have any questions (open a ticket) with our hosting department – we will try to get back to you as soon as we can!

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