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How to Encrypt Your Files

Tech Talker: Quick and Dirty Tips to Navigate the Digital World
Tech Talker



Quick & Dirty Tips

Scientific American presents Tech Talker by Quick & Dirty Tips. Scientific American and Quick & Dirty Tips are both Macmillan companies.

In last week’s episode, I went over how to send and receive large files over the internet. In the end of the episode, I mentioned that there are always some security concerns when sending personal files over the internet that you don’t want made available for the general public. One way to safeguard against this security concern is to implement encryption.

What Is Encryption?
But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s take a quick look into what encryption is and how it works. Imagine you are going to send a postcard in the mail. You go to your nearest mailbox and drop the postcard into the slot. What many of us forget is that anyone who handles the postcard on the way to its destination will be able to read exactly what you wrote. This is similar to what happens when your data is sent over an unsecure connection—anyone who intercepts the message has the ability to read it.

This definitely wouldn’t be ideal if you were sending something of a personal nature, would it? That’s where encryption steps in! Encryption basically scrambles your data, or in this case your postcard, to make it unreadable to anyone else unless they know the special key or password to open it up.

Encryption is used all over the internet for things such as online banking, secure file sharing, and pretty much any website that requires a password.

 

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