What is encryption?

Encryption has become an essential part of our online lives and you probably use it every day without knowing it.

At the most basic level, encryption protects the text and data you send and receive online so it is protected. The idea is that no one can read your usernames, passwords, credit card details or anything else that is important to you. More technically, encryption uses a complex algorithm called a cipher in order to turn plain text into a series of seemingly random characters, or cipher text that is unreadable by those without a special key.

Your data is transferred as encrypted text and when it arrives at its destination a key is used to turn it back into readable text.

There are many places that you’ll see encryption online but two of the most common will be with your Wi-Fi connection and when you’re browsing online. Here’s a little more about both:

Currently the strongest security available on a Wi-Fi router is WPA2. WAP stands for Wi-Fi Protected Access, the 2 is the second version of this protocol. It uses 256 bit AES encryption. The 256 bits are literally a string of 256 ones and zeros that contain the key to unlock your data. It would take a very fast computer one billion billion years to crack 128 bit encryption, so the 256 version is considered beyond safe. By the way, AES stands for Advanced Encryption Standard, which is the algorithm that works out how to encrypt your data.

When you load a webpage, the start of the address bar might start “https:” The “s” stands for secure and means that all communications between your browser and the website are encrypted. So when you log into a website, you can rest assured that your details are secure. Websites also now often put a padlock icon in the address bar to give you a visual cue that all is safe.

As long as you are on a Wi-Fi connection which requires a password to log onto the network, and are careful about using websites that are secured by https, your details will be safe.

However, hackers will always target the weakest point in digital security, and that remains your password. That is why it is important to always choose a secure password that is very hard for a computer to crack.

If you have any other questions, do get in touch.