What Exactly Is Data Encryption?

Do you engage in any of the following activities –

  • online shopping?
  • eBay?
  • other types of online buying or selling?
  • online banking?

If so, you are just like millions of other people across the internet today.

Whether you realise or understand it, or not, you are probably relying upon data encryption far more than you know. Data encryption is becoming far more widespread on the internet as the number of web-based transactions continues to soar. Such encryption is an essential part of safe and secure web commerce.

What Exactly Is Data Encryption?


Encryption can be applied to many processes from emails to web based forms, such as the ones you see on shopping sites and when you are conducting your online banking.

The encryption technique is used to hide the contents of your email, or the data that you are typing on the form, thereby preventing said data from being stolen by anyone else on the internet.

When you send your data it will pass through a secure socket layer (SSL) and will be disguised so that if anybody manages to intercept it then they will not be able to decipher anything meaningful from it, at least not without having to go to an awful lot of trouble.

When the data is received by the website at the other end of the communication process it will be decrypted, thus revealing your data only to the intended target.

Data encryption is performed by applying mathematical logic or algorithms to the data.

As with almost all aspects of internet security, algorithms can be broken by someone who has the time and determination.

Encryption will go a long way in keeping your data secure but a sufficiently motivated hacker could succeed in breaking that encryption if they were determined enough.


Behind every piece of data encryption is a key.

These keys are used in the coding and decoding of your data.

A key is in fact a long sequence of bits (1s and 0s) that are used by the encrypting algorithms.

During the encryption process the algorithm will apply that sequence of 1s and 0s to the original data in order to alter it so that it then appears in a form that would make no sense whatsoever to anybody else who were to capture the data and try reading it without the use of the decryption algorithm.

Obviously, when the encrypted data reaches its destination it will be decrypted using the same key (less secure), or another (more secure) designed for the task, thereby rendering the data useful again as it reverts back to it’s original form.

About Lee Munson

Lee's non-technical background allows him to write about internet security in a clear way that is understandable to both IT professionals and people just like you who need simple answers to your security questions.


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