Encryption, why it is Important

Posted on: 28 March 2017
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Following on from last month’s blog, about how cyber criminals can use your compromised device to further their own ends, this month our Information and IT Security Officer, Graeme Wolfe, looks at encryption and how it is used to keep your online data and information safe and secure.

enigma machine

Encryption, in some form, has been around for many years. Julius Caesar used a simple form of encryption in his messages to his armies, to try to prevent enemies discovering his plans. The German enigma machine of WWII was a huge leap forwards in secure communications and drove the development of the modern computer age.

50 Years ago, two graduates at Stanford University, Whitfield Diffie and Martin Hellman produced detailed studies on how you could easily send a secure message to a person, so only they (the recipient) could decode it, without having to exchange any details that could be intercepted by a third party. This involved complex mathematics, based on prime numbers and the work they published went on to provide a secure foundation for the digital world we all now live in.

Within our everyday online activities, every time you put your password or credit card details into a web site, open a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to connect to work securely, or send some personal or sensitive information in a secure email, encryption means you can be sure that the only person who can read any data contained in the secure connection, is the recipient.

It also enables web sites to certify they are who they say they are, and not some scammers or a phishing site.

It is fair to say that without this mathematical encryption technology, the internet as we know it, and e-commerce in particular, just wouldn’t work.

If you send or receive personal, sensitive information for your work and don’t currently have an encrypted email option, or regularly work away from the office and could use a secure VPN to connect up to work, please contact the Service Desk, who can advise you how these may be obtained. Or if you would just like to know more about encryption, then feel free to contact me.

Graeme Wolfe

Information and IT Security Officer

28/03/2017

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