A Bit Of This And A Bit Of That - Understanding Data Encryption If you use a wireless network to send emails, surf the net or remotely access your bank accounts or work station, you have been benefitting from encrypted data, whether you have ever stopped to think about it or not. What you may not know, however, is what the quality of that encryption was like. Was it really robust enough to stop any attempt to view or alter your data? Was it up to date? What do you need to know to know if your data is really secure when you go online with a wireless connection? The good news is that you do not need to understand a whole lot of technical mumbo-jumbo! But you should know a little of the basics. One of those basics of encryption is key length. To explain it simply, this relates to the number of possible keys to decode the encrypted data. It is measured in bits. The more bits, the more possible ciphers to decode the data and the more attempts anyone trying to gain unauthorized access to your data would have to make to eventually succeed. In a nutshell, encryption is a mathematical formula to encode data by changing the letters. In a grossly oversimplified example, encryption could change all of the As to Bs, all of the Bs to Cs, all of the Cs to Ds, etc. In reality, computer data is protected by far more sophisticated mathematical formulas than that. What Is a Brute Force Attack? When you are reading about data encryption, you will come across the term 'brute force attack'. Mercifully, this does not refer to someone attacking you and stealing your laptop! In computer security terms, a brute force attack is when a hacker's computer tries to decode encrypted data by trying an exhaustive range of possible keys systemically. The more bits in a key, the more difficult this is to accomplish. In practical terms, you can think of key length as being similar to having a guard dog. If you have a large German Shepherd guarding your home, it is still possible that a burglar could break in, but it is unlikely. The burglar would much rather go to the house next door with a Yorkshire Terrier, unless he notices a house with no dog at all. Individuals and small businesses are highly unlikely to have really determined and focused attempts to access data by stealth. The Pentagon might, but your average retailer or restaurant almost certainly will not so an encryption system with a German Shepherd sized key length should provide very ample security. If you are looking for a company to provide a secure data platform for wireless services, it is important to talk about security, and data encryption is an integral part of sending anything securely online. You don't need to be an expert on cryptography to make an informed choice, but having a basic understanding of the main principles and terms helps.
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