Introducing Encryption: 6 Ways We Chance Upon It On The Daily Without Even Realising It
What is Encryption?
If you’re an active user of WhatsApp, you may have seen this notification in your chats: “Messages to this chat and calls are now secured with end-to-end encryption”. Like me, you might be wondering what ‘encryption’ means and why it matters to you.
To put it simply, encryption is one of the most secure ways to protect classified information from cyber threats. Information is converted into a secret code through cryptography—a method of protecting information through the use of codes—and can only be opened by a ‘secret key’; an encryption key to be exact. This prevents any access from malicious third-parties.
Let’s learn more about what encryption is and all the ways we’ve been using it in our everyday lives through a given day-in-a-life scenario.
1. Secured texting
6:59 AM—It’s another Monday morning, and that means going back to school. You reach for your phone and reply to the unread messages from your secondary school friends you’re going to meet tonight. It’s been forever since you last saw them! You tell them that you will update them on the dinner place later today. You and your friends use WhatsApp, a messaging app that provides end-to-end encryption (E2EE). E2EE ensures that messages delivered can only be read by you and the user you’re communicating with. This prevents external parties, including WhatsApp itself from accessing your texts. E2EE is permanently activated, which means that your texts will always remain secured. What’s said in the group chat, stays in the group chat. After sending the message, you get up from bed and ready yourself for school.
2. Easy and safe credit card payment
8:15 AM—You head to grab a coffee-to-go and choose to use your credit card for cashless payment. What you might have failed to realise is that when you pay with your credit card, you actually used three points of encryption, through the credit card’s chip, the payment terminal and while the credit card information was transferred to authorise your purchase respectively. Now you have your coffee to give you all the energy to power through your classes.
3. Protected video calls
12:08 PM—It’s time for lunch! You decide to head to the nearby bookstore to stock up on some stationery for your team project. Conflicted between the choice of two items, you phone your teammate through FaceTime to seek his opinion. Your video call is secured by E2EE as well, so it is difficult for any uninvited guests to eavesdrop on your conversation—not even Apple. You pay for the items and meet your teammates at the food court.
4. Website encryption
You’re surfing the internet to find the best and convenient diner
4:02 PM—It’s your last lecture for the day when you suddenly remember that you need to settle on a place to have dinner with your friends. You hop on the internet to search for a diner that’s convenient for everyone. On the left side of the search bar, you see a lock icon that tells you that the site uses Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) security, which means it’s harder for anyone to see what content you’re browsing.
5. Contactless payment
6:31 PM—Finally, the last lecture is over! You meet your friends at the restaurant and go ahead to place your orders at the cashier. Upon approaching the cashier, you realise that you left your wallet in your bag. But it’s okay, you can still pay using your e-wallet linked to your phone. Once you tap your phone on the point-of-sale terminal, the payment transmission is secured with a one-time-only number which is uniquely created to keep sensitive data encrypted. This number is extremely difficult for any third party frauds to copy and hack into the transmission.
6. Secured wireless network
10:46 PM—You are back home from a long day. Phew! Unfortunately, you still have school projects to worry about before hitting the sheets. Using your home Wi-Fi connection, you access your project documents which contain confidential information about your client. Luckily, your Wi-Fi is encrypted so you don’t have to worry about it being leaked.
Understanding What Encryption Is And How It Is Apparent In Our Everyday Lives
We have grown into a highly advanced digital age where almost everything and anything we do online is secured with encryption. However, this is not to say that we can heavily rely on it to keep us safe from any sorts of spiteful data breaches. We can further boost the security of our encrypted data by using a Virtual Private Network, regularly backing up our data and setting strong passwords to boost the security of our accounts.