Encryption: What it is and why it’s important
Authored by a Symantec employee
Encryption is the process of helping protect personal data by using a “secret code” to scramble it so that it cannot be read by anyone who doesn’t have the code key. Today, vast amounts of personal information are managed online and stored in the cloud or on servers with an ongoing connection to the web. It’s nearly impossible to do business of any kind without personal data ending up in a networked computer system, which is why it’s important to know how to help keep that data private.
Utilizing encryption via SSL
Most legitimate websites use what is called “Secure Sockets Layer” (SSL), which is a form of encrypting data when it is being sent to and from a website. This keeps attackers from accessing that data while it is in transit. Look for the green padlock icon in the URL bar, and the “S” in the “https://” to make sure you are conducting secure, encrypted transactions online.
It’s a good idea to access sites utilizing SSL when:
- You store or send sensitive data online. If you use the Internet to carry out tasks such as filing your taxes, make purchases, renew your driver’s license, or conduct any other personal business, visiting sites utilizing SSL is a wise idea.
- Your work requires it. Your workplace may have encryption protocols, or it may be subject to regulations that require encryption. In these cases, encryption is a must.
3 reasons why encryption matters
Why is encryption important? Here are three reasons:
1. Internet privacy concerns are real
Encryption helps protect privacy by turning personal information into “for your eyes only” messages intended only for the parties that need them — and no one else. You should make sure that your emails are being sent over an encrypted connection, or that you are encrypting each message. Most email clients come with the option for encryption in the settings menu, and if you check your email with a web browser, take a moment to ensure that SSL encryption is available.
2. Hacking is big business
Hackers aren’t just bored kids in a basement anymore. They’re big business, and in some cases, they’re multinational outfits. Large-scale data breaches that you may have heard about in the news demonstrate that people are out to steal personal information to fill their pockets.
3. Regulations demand it
Healthcare providers are required by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to implement security features that protect patients’ sensitive health information. Institutions of higher learning must take similar steps under the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), while retailers must contend with the Fair Credit Practices Act (FCPA) and similar laws. Encryption helps businesses stay compliant as well as helps protect the valuable data of their customers.
Editorial note: Our articles provide educational information for you. Norton LifeLock offerings may not cover or protect against every type of crime, fraud, or threat we write about. Our goal is to increase awareness about cyber safety. Please review complete Terms during enrollment or setup. Remember that no one can prevent all identity theft or cybercrime, and that LifeLock does not monitor all transactions at all businesses.
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