DEFINITION of 'Encryption'

Encryption is a means of securing data using a password (key). The encryption process is simple – data is secured by translating information using an algorithm and a binary key. When the data needs to be read back, the code is decrypted using either the same key or a different key depending on the type of encryption used.

BREAKING DOWN 'Encryption'

Encryption strength is based on the length of the security key. In the latter quarter of the 20th century, 40 bit encryption, which is a key with 240 possible permutations, and 56 bit encryption was standard. Those keys were breakable through brute force attacks by the end of the century, and the 128 bit system became standard in web browsers. The Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) is a protocol for data encryption created in 2001 by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology. AES uses a 128 bit block size, but key lengths of 128, 192 and 256 bits. AES uses a symmetric-key algorithm, meaning the same key is used for both encrypting and decrypting the data. 128-bit encryption is standard but most banks; militaries and governments use 256-bit encryption.