The Need for Stronger Data Encryption Techniques in the Modern World
The original founders of the internet who wrote the original protocols viewed their work as a means to distribute information freely across a chain of networks.
In today’s world where man is growing increasingly dependent on technology, the desire for privacy in the virtual realm has increased the importance of data encryption techniques. These techniques are used broadly to safeguard sensitive information ranging from bank details to personal identities.
As much as we value our perception of privacy online, and as powerful as modern data encryption programs are, our privacy may still be compromised. Encryption has been used in the past by clandestine organizations and individuals as a secure means of communication.
In the mid 1970s, strong encryption techniques emerged from the sole preserve of secretive government agencies into the public domain, and are now employed in protecting widely-used systems, such as Internet e-commerce, mobile telephone networks and bank automatic teller machines.
Encryption is a procedure that renders the contents of a message or file unintelligible to anyone not authorized to read it. It primarily relies on encoding information in a way that makes it difficult to decode without either a cipher or by mathematically brute forcing using dedicated computing technology. To read an encrypted file, you must have access to a key or pass phrase that enables you to decrypt it.
The longer the length of the cipher (in bits), the more difficult it will be to break. Although there are many encryption techniques that are unbreakable in practice, there are very few that are unbreakable in theory, given enough time or processing power.
There are two main types of encryption schemes. One is the symmetric system and the other is the asymmetric system. Encryption algorithms that use the same key for encrypting and for decrypting information are called symmetric-key algorithms. Consequently, communicating parties must agree on the same key before they wish to communicate.
However, in asymmetric schemes, the encryption key is published for anyone to use and encrypt messages. Only the receiving party has access to the decryption key and is capable of reading the encrypted messages.
Date security vulnerabilities are not a new issue. In the United States, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) reported that a stolen computer exposed more than 100,000 personal records. In the United Kingdom, a laptop storing personal data on 11,000 children was stolen from a Nottinghamshire hospital.
Furthermore, the 2006 asset audit of the New Zealand Inland Revenue Department (IRD) showed that the IRD has no clue as to the whereabouts of 106 of its computers or their contents.
Furthermore, ever since the Edward Snowden whistleblower incident with the NSA last October, it makes you wonder how secure your online presence really is. The NSA, which has grown from a security agency into a huge data-mining bureaucracy driven by organizational imperatives is constantly exploiting existing encryption techniques and developing new ones.
According to documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, the NSA has invested $79.7 million towards developing a quantum computer which can crack even the strongest of encryption techniques known to man today.
Even multinational corporations are being affected by this and are heading towards cloud computing because it is cost effective, flexible and easy to deploy. Cloud computing enables you to access your data anytime, from anywhere around the world.
Despite the benefits, even the cloud services come with a fair amount of security risks. Every day millions of customers have their data compromised due to hacking of cloud storage systems. Both these examples stress the importance for the need for Data encryption.
Despite encryption technology advancing rapidly over time and its practical uses expanding exponentially, our identity and security is at risk at all time while using the internet. While 128-bit encryption and larger more advanced products have made cracking data keys impractical, it cannot be dismissed as impossible. There are so many commercial products in the market which can easily destroy our security protocols.
Even worse news is that the government is removing our perception that our privacy online is guaranteed, whether we are each being monitored by the NSA or not. No data is one hundred percent safe and this is a harsh reality which we must accept.