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Encryption

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</p><p>Encryption in e-mail and other digital files can protect data from
prying eyes. The Internet has changed the way companies do business,
allowing a growing number of small and medium-sized firms to pay bills,
conduct financial transactions with partners and sell goods and services
to customers online. But the Internet has also made it more possible for
sensitive company information and private customer information to be
tracked and gathered and stolen online, including credit card numbers,
social security numbers, bank account data, and other sensitive
information that could be exploited if it ends up in the wrong hands. The
total cost of Internet-related fraud complaints from consumers rose from
$206 million in 2003 to $336 million in 2005, according to the U.S.
Federal Trade Commission. Internet-related complains accounted for 46
percent of all fraud complaints to the agency. For businesses with
Internet related transactions, or other forms of ecommerce, encrypting
sensitive data about a business or customers is essential these days.
"SMB systems may hold data that companies want to protect, such as
business critical or personal information," says Dave Cole, Internet
Security Expert at Symantec, the Cupertino, Calif. security software
maker. "Encryption increases the security of data transmissions, reducing
the risk of third-party observers being privy to content (for example,
the password to your online banking services). Encryption can also be
used for stored data. Encryption can help protect your Web site or e-
business information assets from unauthorized access." Basics of
Encryption To combat the threat from fraud and hackers, most major Web
sites use some form of digital encryption to protect sensitive data.
Encryption is the process of scrambling data in order to make it
unreadable without special knowledge of steps that can lead to
unscrambling the code. While in computer terms, encryption is performed
today with the use of algorithms, the concept of encryption has been
around for many centuries in the form of ciphers and codes. In fact, in
the decades following World War II, encryption in a digital form was
primarily used only by government agencies and major corporations. Until
the advent of the automatic teller machine, most banking customers didn't
even have a personal identification number (PIN), and a signature was all
that was required for most transactions when payment was made with a
check or credit card.</p>
<p>How Encryption is Used With increased online use, business is
conducted where the various parties have practically no contact either
face-to-face or even over the phone. Orders on a Web site can be
processed with a few clicks of the mouse. The buyer often never
communicates with a seller, except to enter a form, and the seller just
simply processes orders much as it was done in the past via mail order.
Likewise, credit card or banking information can be accessed via a Web
site, and businesses can transfer funds, make payments and even send
money electronically through services like PayPal. It is because of this
that encryption has become crucial, and for that reason, businesses
should operate Web sites that offer a secure (i.e., encrypted) order
forms in order to reassure customers that the business is a trustworthy
one. Layers of Encryption Sites such as PayPal use some of the industry's
leading encryption to keep customer information and company data highly
secure, says Amanda Pires, spokesperson for PayPal. "The PayPal system
was built by one of the most highly regarded cryptographers in the
industry, Max Levchin. Max built PayPal's financial system from the
ground up using high-level encryption." Historically, encryptions in the
form of ciphers were codes using transposition or substitution of
characters. This made deciphering the information slow and tedious. But
even that method could be defeated with enough time and resources. With
computers, encryption and decryption can be done extremely fast, and in
many ways, the encryption from most Web sites is far more advanced than
any used by governments only a few decades ago. Today, in fact, there are
symmetric key algorithms that are basically private-key cryptography,
where two users must share the same software to read each other's
messages or information. This is used by businesses and government
agencies to keep outsides from reading any of the data. Each party needs
to have the common key. But if the key is compromised, a new key can be
provided for future transmission of information. Asymmetric Keys The
other type of encryption, one that most small businesses will likely
deploy, is asymmetric key algorithm, which uses both public-key and
private-key cryptography. With this method, a user can send data via the
public-key that is then encrypted, while the receiver, who is only one
who can decrypt the information, uses the private-key. This is how credit
card information is protected when a customer orders online from your Web
site. The downside to this type of key is that if a site is successfully
hacked, then the user's information is compromised. Encryption Works When
we use the Internet, we're not always just clicking around and passively
taking in information, such as reading news articles or blog posts -- a
great deal of our time online involves sending others our own
information. Ordering something over the Internet, whether it's a book, a
C Dor anything else from an online vendor, or signing up for an online
account, requires entering in a good deal of sensitive personal
information. A typical transaction might include not only our names, e-
mail addresses and physical address and phone number, but also passwords
and personal identification numbers (PINs). The incredible growth of the
Internet has excited businesses and consumers alike with its promise of
changing the way we live and work. It's extremely easy to buy and sell
goods all over the world while sitting in front of a laptop. But security
is a major concern on the Internet, especially when you're using it to
send sensitive information between parties.</p>
<p>Let's face it, there's a whole lot of information that we don't want
other people to see, such as: • Credit-card information • Social
Security numbers • Private correspondence • Personal details •
Sensitive company information • Bank-account information ¬ ¬
Information security is provided on computers and over the Internet by a
variety of methods. A simple but straightforward security method is to
only keep sensitive information on removable storage media like portable
flash memory drives or external hard drives. But the most popular forms
of security all rely on encryption, the process of encoding information
in such a way that only the person (or computer) with the key can decode
it.</p>
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