Encrypting data is a good way to protect sensitive information. It
ensures that the data can only be read by the person who is authorized
to have access to it.
What is encryption?
In very basic terms, encryption is a way to send a message in
code. The only person who can decode the message is the person with
the correct key; to anyone else, the message looks like a random
series of letters, numbers, and characters.
Encryption is especially important if you are trying to send
sensitive information that other people should not be able to
access. Because email messages are sent over the internet and might be
intercepted by an attacker, it is important to add an additional layer
of security to sensitive information.
How is it different from digital signatures?
Like digital signatures, public-key encryption utilizes software such
as PGP, converts information with mathematical algorithms, and relies
on public and private keys, but there are differences:
- The purpose of encryption is confidentialityconcealing the
content of the message by translating it into a code. The purpose of
digital signatures is integrity and authenticityverifying the sender of a message
and indicating that the content has not been changed. Although
encryption and digital signatures can be used independently, you can
also sign an encrypted message.
- When you sign a message, you use your private key, and anybody who has your public key can verify that the signature is valid
Digital Signatures for more information). When you encrypt a
message, you use the public key for the person you're sending it to,
and his or her private key is used to decrypt the message. Because
people should keep their private keys confidential and should protect
them with passwords, the intended recipient should be the only one who
is able to view the information.
How does encryption work?
- Obtain the public key for the person you want to be able to read
the information. If you get the key from a public key ring, contact
the person directly to confirm the fingerprint.
- Encrypt the email message using their public key. Most email clients have a feature to
easily perform this task.
- When the person receives the message, he or she will be able to
Authors: Mindi McDowell
October 06, 2004