David has over 40 years of industry experience in software development and information technology and a bachelor of computer science
The Need for Security
We often hear about information being compromised in the news. The Heartland Payment Systems breach where credit card information was captured by spyware, the Epsilon data breach where names and emails were exposed, and the RSA cyber-attack where employee records were stolen, all come to mind. The RSA cyber-attack is particularly troubling because RSA is a security company! So if companies that specialize in this area aren't safe, how can anyone else be? Well, the truth is that maybe they can't, not completely. Regardless, steps must be taken to improve the odds as much as possible. One technology that can help is encryption.
What is Encryption?
Encryption is a process that changes the nature of information so it can't easily be employed by a third party. It uses a mathematical transformation, and a key (an external piece of information), to perform the intended change. This introduces a random element that increases its ability to resist attacks. Sometimes, the calculations transforming the information are complex, at others, they are not. It is also reversible, meaning that it can be undone. Encryption is an integral part of many operations including, banking transactions, Internet purchases, and password protection. Most of the time, you won't even know it is there.
What is End-to-End Encryption?
End-to-end encryption is a class of encryption techniques, rather than a specific form or type of encryption, used in the transmission of information from one place to another. Types in the class share a common characteristic, only the sender and receiver can read the information. This means it is not decrypted at any point during transmission (unlike other forms like Link encryption). It is commonly in situations like military communications, sensitive political correspondence, and business messaging that involves intellectual property.
What are Some Examples of End-to-End Encryption Software?
End-to-end encryption software falls into two distinct categories; software that only performs end-to-end encryption, and software that contains end-to-end encryption as a feature. Software packages that only perform end-to-end encryption include:
- SafeGuard - A paid package that supports both full drive encryption, and file encryption. It is designed to be seamless, integrating with your current infrastructure, and working silently behind the scenes.
- Crypho - a paid, enterprise-level application that provides encryption for file sharing and chat. It uses your web browser as the client.
- 7-Zip - An open-source package similar to WinZip. It provides compression and encryption capabilities, the results from which you would then forward through some sort of communications package.
With these packages, you run your information through the package, and then send the results using whatever transport software you wish. Software that has end-to-end encryption as a feature include:
- WhatsApp - an instant messaging application that uses the encryption for all message traffic by default.
- Facebook Messenger - the messaging application for the social media website Facebook. The encryption is opt-in only at present, meaning that you have to manually select it for use.
- Stackfield - a team collaboration package that uses the encryption to secure discussions that can span geographic locations.
To recap, encryption is a process that hides information those that would use it without permission. End-to-end encryption is a class of encryption techniques that is used to transmit information from one place to another. End-to-end encryption software falls into two distinct categories; those that only perform end-to-end encryption, and those that contain end-to-end encryption as a feature.
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