Dwight Watt - Newspaper Article #357 11/9/2016

Question: What is encryption?


Encryption is where we put messages in a code so others cannot read them.

We do encryption at times in normal life, for instance the catcher in a ball game tells the pitcher which pitch to throw by signaling with his fingers. He does not say curve or fast ball but encrypts in his fingers so the other team does not know what pitch he or she is calling but the pitcher knows the code so he understands.

On the computer there are a number of coding methods used that use keys to them that by knowing the key you can decrypt the message and know what was said. The longer the keys they harder it is for someone (or computer) to be able to guess the message without the key or guess the key. Today the better security is with keys that are 256 or 512 bytes long where 128 was considered secure just a few years ago. The faster machines get the quicker they can break keys so they will keep getting longer.

You can use Virtual Private networks (VPN) to send messages between computers encrypted. Web pages can also use encryption an use the https protocol with the encryption methods so only the sender and receiver know what was sent.

If you are sending personal information across the network you want to use encryption. The web page should show https at the beginning of it instead of http and on many browsers it will also show a lock in the locked position. If the lock is not in the locked position or it does not start the page address with http do not send personal information such as social security numbers, bank account numbers, passwords, credit or debit card numbers etc on that page. If it is a known merchant call them and ask them why not a secure page. You may be on a spoofed page that looks like the merchant or bank but belong to someone else who is stealing the information.

You will find more and more general web pages also now using https instead of http.