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Everything You Need to Know About Encryption

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You likely use encryption every day, whether you know it or not. Banking apps, WhatsApp, credit card payment terminals, ATMs, and more rely on encryption to transmit information securely. Encryption scrambles normal data (numbers, letters, images, and sounds) and reformats it into a secure code. Encryption tools today use complex mathematical equations to encrypt and decrypt messages, so that it is less likely for a message to be intercepted and easily ciphered.

As the BBC explains, encryption was heavily relied upon during World War I and World War II, but became much more sophisticated as either the Allies or the Germans managed to decrypt the other’s codes. “Rigorous mathematical analysis by Allied code crackers laid bare patterns hidden within the messages and used them to recreate the machine used to encrypt them,” said Mark Ward of the BBC. “Those codes revolved around the use of secret keys that were shared among those who needed to communicate securely. These are known as symmetric encryption systems and have a weakness in that everyone involved has to possess the same set of secret keys.”

Nowadays, we use Public Key Cryptography or Asymmetrical Cryptography. This is a cryptographic system that uses pairs of keys: (1) public keys, and (2) private keys. Public keys are widely disseminated and easily ciphered. Private Keys, on the other hand, are only known to the owner. As shown in the image below, the recipient’s public key (which is publicly known) encrypts a message so that the recipient’s private key can later decrypt it.

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How to Encrypt Your Smartphone

For iPhone users, you will be prompted to create a passcode during setup; otherwise, you can go to the Passwords and Security section of the Settings app. For Android users, encryption can be done either at the time of setup or by navigating to Settings, selecting Security, and selecting Encrypt Device. If you do not see this option (depending on which phone you use, search for “Encryption” under Settings.

Consumer Reports recommends encrypting messages for an added layer of security: “you may want to take an extra step by using an encrypted messaging service to prevent your text messages from being read in transit.” Apple’s iMessage is encrypted, as long as you’re texting someone else who is also using iMessage; texts sent between iMessage and another messaging app are not encrypted. WhatsApp also uses encryption.

How to Encrypt Your Laptop

MacOS’ latest version – High Sierra – supports full disk encryption (encryption for data storage). On Macs, it’s as easy as opening your Mac’s System Preferences, then navigating to the Security & Privacy section. From there you can enable FileVault (the encryption app), which requires you to choose a passcode.

On the other hand, PC users can still enable full disk encryption, but the process may differ depending on your version of Windows – Windows 10 Pro supports full disk encryption, but Windows 10 Home does not. If you are using the latter, you can either upgrade to the Pro version or use a third-party solution, such as the open-source tool VeraCrypt.

How to Encrypt Your Router

Consumer Reports outlines the following instructions for encrypting routers:

“You can get to the router settings through any web browser on your computer. You’ll need the router’s IP address, which you can find by looking at the network connection information under your computer’s settings, whether you have a Windows machine or a Mac. (You’ll also need your router user name and password.)

Basically, once you’re in the router settings, there are two important tasks on the encryption to-do list.

First, you should turn on WPA2-AES encryption—you’ll have choices of other flavors of encryption, but this is the latest and best.

Second, you’ll need to create a password to set up the encryption, and you should pick a good one. (No using the name of your WiFi network, for instance). You’ll need that password to connect your laptop and other wireless devices, from streaming devices to smartphones, to the network.

Having a strong password will help lock out hackers and any neighbors looking for a free ride on your network.”

Encryption is not foolproof nor is it a standalone feature. It is a great security feature which protects your information at rest and in transit, but unfortunately, can still be hacked. To find out where your systems might also be vulnerable, contact Uzado for a vulnerability scan or even remediation management through our Managed Services or Consulting Services.

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