The BIG Technical Jargon Guide

If you need answers to broadband jargon or technical terminology you're in the right place



What is encryption?

Encryption is a way to protect information by turning it into a secret code. It's like putting a message in a locked box - only someone with the key can open the box and read the message. Similarly, encryption uses a 'key' to scramble information and make it unreadable to anyone who doesn't have the key to unscramble it. This way, even if someone intercepts the information, they won't be able to understand it because it's in code.

Encryption in more technical details

Encryption is a process of transforming plaintext data into ciphertext using a mathematical algorithm. The algorithm takes in the plaintext data and a secret key and performs a series of complex operations on the data to produce a ciphertext.

The strength of the encryption algorithm depends on its ability to make it difficult for an unauthorised person to reverse engineer the ciphertext and extract the original plaintext without knowing the secret key. The key is a string of bits that is used as input to the algorithm and is essential in both the encryption and decryption processes.

Modern encryption algorithms are designed to be computationally infeasible to break without the correct key. These algorithms typically use a combination of substitution, permutation and diffusion to produce a ciphertext that is statistically indistinguishable from random noise.

In addition to the mathematical algorithm, encryption also involves various protocols and standards for managing keys, authenticating users and securely exchanging ciphertext. Encryption is used extensively in secure communications such as online banking, e-commerce and secure messaging, as well as in data storage and protection.