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How does online encryption technology work?

22nd September 2019 Print

Many news stories have highlighted the fact that cases of personal data theft are on the rise. As a growing number of individuals turn towards the Internet to obtain vital information such as email addresses and bank account statements, it is now more important than ever before to appreciate the benefits associated with encryption. It is actually a bit ironic that the majority of users deal with encrypted services on a daily basis and few are actually aware of how this type of technology functions. This is not intended to be an overly complicated article; instead a quick overview providing insight into the principle behind these systems as well as their benefits. 

A Quick Look at Modern Encryption Techniques

Online encryption has been around in one form or another since the first days of the Internet. As you may have imagined, it has needed to evolve as threats emerged over time. There are several major risks associated with virtual communications and transactions. These include:

- Phishing for personal information

- The unintended installation of malware.

- Ransomware that renders an operating system completely useless.

- Trojan viruses that lay dormant for weeks or even months at a time before activating and causing harm.

While some of these can be caught by visiting infected websites, others are sent during communications between two or more parties (such as when dealing with a faulty POS system). So, how does modern encryption work?

The most common form is known as 256-bit AES encryption. In essence, this method involves each user having a digital "key" that needs to match exactly with the other. If one digit or character is missing or out of place, the transmission cannot be accessed by a third party. This is the very same technology which major banks and financial institutions employ, so it is indeed quite secure. 

Its Use in Relation to E-Commerce

The main concern in regards to the average consumer is how he or she can keep sensitive information out of the public eye. One of the best ways to mitigate the risks of data theft is to employ trusted e-commerce solutions including those engineered by firms such as Shopify. Buyers and sellers who interact with these platforms can rest assured that hacking and similar breaches will not occur. 

Still, we need to remember that technology on both sides of the digital "coin" is continuing to evolve. There may very well come a day when 256-bit encryption is no longer valid or it has become compromised. This is why everyone who accesses the Internet (even from a mobile device) should employ a powerful antivirus software bundle. These systems will act as an additional firewall; helping to safeguard important information that might otherwise be placed at risk. 

There is no doubt that the notion of data theft needs to be taken very seriously by businesses as well as consumers. This is why appreciating the basic principles of modern encryption methods is always important.