What is Encryption?

Encryption is the process of scrambling or enciphering data so it can be read only by someone with the means to return it to its original state.

Encryption keeps criminals and spies from stealing information. Although you might not realize it, you rely on encryption every day. It protects you while you browse the web, shop online, use mobile banking, or use secure messaging apps.

So encryption scrambles data, but how?

Modern encryption scrambles data using a secret value or key. The data can then be decrypted, or made readable, by using the same or a corresponding key.

For data communicated over a network, the key is typically known by both the sender and receiver, while for stored data, only the owner knows the key.

What is end-to-end encryption?

End-to-end encryption is any form of encryption in which only the sender and intended recipient can read the message.

No third party, even the party providing the communication service, has knowledge of the encryption key.

End-to-end encryption is the most secure form of encryption that you can use. So where possible, always use end-to-end encryption to protect yourself and your data.

Examples of end-to-end encryption communication services include WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram, and Threema.

How else might encryption impact me?

Encryption helps protect your data from being exposed, it also helps you:

  • Protect your data (documents, files, etc.) from tampering;
  • Be sure who you are communicating with; and
  • Sign digital documents.

You don’t even have to use the Internet to feel the benefits of encryption! Encryption has a big impact on the global economy, and your daily life.

Companies use encryption to protect their sensitive information, like customer information, trade secrets, and financial records.

Critical infrastructure, like power plants, use encryption to protect their systems and keep your lights running. 

Automated teller machines, or ATMs, use encryption to protect your financial information from criminals. 

If you look closely, many parts of your life rely on the security that encryption brings.