What is Encryption? Definition, Types & Benefits | Fortinet

Encryption is a form of data security in which information is converted to ciphertext. Only authorized people who have the key can decipher the code and access the original plaintext information.

In even simpler terms, encryption is a way to render data unreadable to an unauthorized party. This serves to thwart cybercriminals, who may have used quite sophisticated means to gain access to a corporate networkonly to find out that the data is unreadable and therefore useless.

Encryption not only ensures the confidentiality of data or messages but it also provides authentication and integrity, proving that the underlying data or messages have not been altered in any way from their original state.

Original information, or plain text, might be something as simple as "Hello, world!" As cipher text, this might appear as something confusing like 7*#0+gvU2xsomething seemingly random or unrelated to the original plaintext.

Encryption, however, is a logical process, whereby the party receiving the encrypted databut also in possession of the keycan simply decrypt the data and turn it back into plaintext.

For decades, attackers have tried by brute forceessentially, by trying over and over againto figure out such keys. Cybercriminals increasingly have access to stronger computing power such that sometimes, when vulnerabilities exist, they are able to gain access.

Data needs to be encrypted when it is in two different states: "at rest," when it is stored, such as in a database; or "in transit," while it is being accessed or transmitted between parties.

An encryption algorithm is a mathematical formula used to transform plaintext (data) into ciphertext. An algorithm will use the key to alter the data in a predictable way. Even though the encrypted data appears to be random, it can actually be turned back into plaintext by using the key again. Some commonly used encryption algorithms includeBlowfish, Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), Rivest Cipher 4 (RC4), RC5, RC6, Data Encryption Standard (DES), and Twofish.

Encryption has evolved over time, from a protocol that was used only by governments for top-secret operations to an everyday must-have for organizations to ensure the security and privacy of their data.

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What is Encryption? Definition, Types & Benefits | Fortinet

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