Simply put, encryption is the be-all and end-all security precaution. When implemented properly, encrypted files cannot be accessed through any method except through a password (called the encryption key) that unlocks the data. Think of encryption as an unbreakable box with a lock on it. Anything you put in that box will be completely secure and inaccessible to anyone except those who have the key to the lock. You can encrypt virtually whatever data you want, including your emails, your files and even the entire contents of your computer hard disk. There are a few reasons why more people don’t use encryption. One of the largest reasons is that it’s somewhat inconvenient and uncomfortable to implement and deal with on a daily basis. I keep my computers encrypted at the disk-level, which means that I can’t even get my operating system to boot up until the proper password is entered.
What is Encryption
This ensures that everything on my computer is protected and kept safe from anyone who might, for example, break in and steal my computer’s hard drive. Without the password, all of the data on the drive will stay locked up forever and be inaccessible to the thief. Another reason people don’t use encryption is because there are some groups who strongly dislike encryption and what it represents. There are strong political lobbies in various regions (including the USA, UK and beyond) that are fighting strongly against allowing encryption to continue to be available to the general public. The reason for this is simple: if everyone encrypted their data, then it would be much more difficult for governments to spy on that data. Encryption is also potentially dangerous, due to the fact that the encryption key is the only way to access the data.
If you forget the encryption’s key for something you’ve encrypted, there’s no way to access that data. In fact, until huge advances are made in computing technology, it would take longer than the life of the universe to break encryption that is implemented today. If you decide to implement encryption at any level, be aware of this fact, and know that if you forget your encryption’s key, there’s nothing that anyone can do to break the encryption. Note that this discussion about ‘unbreakable’ encryption assumes that when you encrypt something, you choose a complex password, like we discussed in an earlier chapter when talking about password managers. If you use a simple password, such as your name, a variation of the word ‘password’ or something similar, then it’s possible to quickly brute force the password.
This involves using a piece of software to quickly try millions of combinations of different letters, words and numbers to guess what weak passwords are being used to secure the encrypted data.
Note: this brute force method is also how many online accounts are compromised, which is another great reason for why you should always choose a strong password for your online accounts.
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