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How Does Encryption Work?

Tech Talker digs into the world of encryption, expaining what exactly is it - and how it works to keep your data safe.

By
Eric Escobar,
May 14, 2015
Episode #172

Page 1 of 3

Hey, everyone! in last week’s episode, I talked about how to take your data with you on the go, and to keep it secure. As I mentioned then, one of the best ways to keep your data secure is to encrypt it.

I got a ton of emails asking how exactly encryption keeps data safe. So in this week’s episode, I’m going to dig into the world of encryption. Don’t worry, because I’m going to make it easy!.

The Basics

Let’s take a look at how at base encryption works. Basically, you are taking something that makes sense to people- such as a sentence - and manipulating it in such a way that only you know how to reverse what you did with it.

For example, say you had a secret message. You could substitute every letter for the next one in the alphabet. So every "A" would become a "B," and "B" would be a "C," and so on for every letter. The word ‘cat’ would then be ‘dbu.’ Everyone knows what a cat is, but it may not be obvious what "dbu" means - unless you know the trick to convert is back to "cat."

So at the base of it, that’s all encryption is. You’re taking something that is known, such as the word "cat," and transforming it into a ciphertext, which is just the fancy word for the encrypted form of the word or data.

Now, the substitution I made is a pretty easy one to break; it may take a person a little bit to figure out,s a lot of work to crack a password.

Without going to deep into the world of the math behind cryptography (trust me, there is a ton of high level abstract math that goes into the subject.), cryptography requires a lot of randomness to make guessing harder to do. Let's look at my earlier example of the word "cat."

If I wrote an entire letter using that type of encryption, it would most likely include a few 1 letter words, such as ‘I’ and ‘a." With a few guesses, a code buster could probably begin substituting ‘I’ and ‘a’ into the letter, and start to crack the formula pretty quickly. This is because the pattern used to scramble the letter isn’t very random.

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