What is Encryption, and How It Works?

Abeerah Hashim  - Security Expert
Last updated: May 22, 2023
Read time: 19 minutes Disclosure

Many of you might have heard the word ‘encryption’ a lot of times. Especially today, when data leaks and breaches have become a commonplace thing, you would have read how various services claim to apply encryption to protect your data.

Many cybersecurity companies have adopted an incredible technology for protecting users’ online data called “encryption.” In this process, the sender’s data pass through specific codes and algorithms, which change the normal information into a coded ciphertext that requires a specific secret key to convert into readable form again. This way, the information remains secured and private until it reaches the destination or receiver. So how the encryption technique actually works? Let’s dig out more about it in this guide.

While everything looks okay when it’s about the word ‘encryption’ only, you may get confused when things become somewhat technical.

The kinds of encryption, how hackers break encryption, and why one should worry about encryption are so confusing.

Obviously, unless you are a computer expert or a hacker, you may have no idea what this is all about. But don’t worry, I have got you covered here.

In this ultimate encryption guide, you will get the answers to most questions popping up in your mind. We will discuss what encryption isencryption types and examplesuse casesand more!

Let’s start.

What is encryption anyway?

To put the encryption definition simply, it is a process that transforms anything from readable into an unreadable form.

That way, the process aims at keeping the information secured from prying eyes.

Whereas, in technical terms, encryption is the method of encoding certain information so that only certain people can decode it. This information includes everything from a message or email to data files or massive databases.

The desired information passes through an algorithm that scrambles the data to achieve this goal.

Plus, the algorithm also generates a unique decryption key.

The scrambled data can then only be transformed back to a readable state using this key.

While exchanging information, the sender usually encrypts the data and shares the decryption key with the receiver.

In that way, the information remains unreadable from when it leaves the sender until it reaches the receiver. In this phase, the scrambled information is called ‘ciphertext.’

As the information reaches the receiver, the receiver can ‘decrypt’ the information to read it using the decryption key. Now the information returns to its original readable state called the ‘plaintext.’

Brief history and evolution of encryption

Though, the term ‘encryption’ is more frequently used in today’s world of information technology.

However, the process, in actuality, isn’t a new thing.

In fact, encryption has been in practice since ancient times when there were no sophisticated means of communication.

Still, people managed to keep sensitive information secret from unnecessary people.