What is Encryption? Part 3 of 3
In this 3-part blog series, we’ve learned the definition of encryption and how call centers use it to protect data. Now we’ll learn a bit about the history of encryption and how it's commonly used today.
Encryption Through the Ages
One of the most famous examples of encryption was the use of a military Enigma machine by Nazi Germany before and during World War II. Recently the story of breaking the Enigma code was featured in the 2014 film “The Imitation Game” and British television series “The Bletchley Circle.”
The use of encryption dates back much earlier, however, and was used all over the world by ancient scribes. A well-documented cuneiform tablet from Mesopotamia around 1500 BCE contained an encrypted recipe for an important and highly valuable pottery glaze. In 700 BCE the Spartan military wrote in a secret code, or cipher, by writing on pieces of parchment or leather while wound around a wooden stick called a scytale. The messages were sent unraveled and would be decoded by wrapping it around another stick that served as the key.
In our current digital world, encryption is incredibly complex. The ciphers we use today are better known as algorithms. This highly sophisticated code rearranges words and messages we communicate electronically into something unintelligible. Algorithms are specifically designed to be unique for a highly secure encryption scheme. Only the intended recipient(s) can access the message and not unauthorized users.
People may not think about it often, but encryption is being used in our daily lives to assist in protecting our private information and communications. Most electronic transactions use encryption to ensure a secure transaction. Sensitive electronic data is protected when someone makes an in-store purchase using a credit card, makes a payment that is processed using an Automated Clearing House (ACH) including debit cards and checks, sends an email, uses a cell phone, or even when data is just being stored on a computer drive.
When surfing the internet, oftentimes a lock icon appears next to the URL and the address will begin with “HTTPS” instead of “HTTP”. The “S” stands for “Secure”, meaning, the website is using the secure version of Hyper Text Transfer Protocol (HTTP) so that all of the communication between their visitors and the website is being encrypted.
In today’s society, it’s almost impossible to function or do business of any kind without personal data being shared on a computer system. Encryption is still the best tool we have to keep private information secure and make certain our communications are only seen by the intended recipient.