(+) How to Encrypt Your Files for Security

Subtitle: Everything you wanted to know about encryption but didn’t know who to ask

The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

I have written several times about the need to encrypt all computerized information that you wish to keep private. This week, I will tell you how to encrypt information stored on your computer, stored on a jump drive in your pocket, or being sent across a network connection.

Encryption is the one thing that allows computer users, financial services, and even governments to securely move information around the Internet and to store that information safely, away from prying eyes.

Wikipedia provides the following definition:

“In cryptography, encryption is the process of encoding a message or information in such a way that only authorized parties can access it and those who are not authorized cannot. Encryption does not itself prevent interference but denies the intelligible content to a would-be interceptor. In an encryption scheme, the intended information or message, referred to as plaintext, is encrypted using an encryption algorithm–a cipher–generating ciphertext that can be read only if decrypted. For technical reasons, an encryption scheme usually uses a pseudo-random encryption key generated by an algorithm. It is in principle possible to decrypt the message without possessing the key, but, for a well-designed encryption scheme, considerable computational resources and skills are required. An authorized recipient can easily decrypt the message with the key provided by the originator to recipients but not to unauthorized users.”

A bit later, Wikipedia also states:

“Encryption has long been used by militaries and governments to facilitate secret communication. It is now commonly used in protecting information within many kinds of civilian systems. For example, the Computer Security Institute reported that in 2007, 71% of companies surveyed utilized encryption for some of their data in transit, and 53% utilized encryption for some of their data in storage.

“Encryption can be used to protect data ‘at rest’, such as information stored on computers and storage devices (e.g. USB flash drives). In recent years, there have been numerous reports of confidential data, such as customers’ personal records, being exposed through loss or theft of laptops or backup drives; encrypting such files at rest helps protect them if physical security measures fail.”

Also:

“Encryption is also used to protect data in transit, for example data being transferred via networks (e.g. the Internet, e-commerce), mobile telephones, wireless microphones, wireless intercom systems, Bluetooth devices and bank automatic teller machines. There have been numerous reports of data in transit being intercepted in recent years. Data should also be encrypted when transmitted across networks in order to protect against eavesdropping of network traffic by unauthorized users.”

In short, encryption is a way of converting information into a form that is unreadable to anyone who does not have the special key.

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