Encryption
Security
Digital Certificate
Public Key
SSL
Secure HTTP
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Encryption

The manipulation of data and communications into a code which is readable only by the intended recipient. Encrypting data is the most effective way maintain private communications over the Internet. In order to read an encrypted file, recipient(s) must first have access to a secret key or password that enables you to decrypt it. Unencrypted data is called plain text; encrypted data is referred to as cipher text.

There are two main types of encryption: asymmetric encryption (also called public-key encryption) and symmetric encryption.

Security

Any technique which enables data to be stored and or transferred in a computer without being viewed or altered by unintended parties. Most security measures involve data encryption and passwords. In most Internet communication data encryption is the translation of data into a form that is unintelligible without a deciphering mechanism. This mechanism is usually in the form of a secret password or phrase which allows an intended user access to that particular information.

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Digital Certificate

A digital certificate is a small attachment to an electronic message which is used to secure Internet communication. Digital certificates are most widely used to verify that the sender of a message is indeed who he or she claims to be, and to also allows the recipient with the means to encode his or her.

Any person who wants to send encrypted messages using this technology must first apply for a digital certificate from an authorized Certificate Authority (CA). The CA in turn issues a digital certificate containing their new public key and a variety of other identification information. The CA then creates its own public key with this information and makes it available to other users via printed media or the Internet

The recipient of an encrypted message uses the CA's public key to decode the digital certificate attached to the message, verifies it as issued by the CA and then obtains the sender's public key and identification information held within the certificate. With this information, the recipient can send an encrypted reply.

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Public Key

A cryptographic system that uses two keys -- a public key known to everyone and a private or secret key known only to the recipient of the message. When John wants to send a secure message to Jane, he uses Jane's public key to encrypt the message. Jane then uses her private key to decrypt it.

An important element to the public key system is that the public and private keys are related in such a way that only the public key can be used to encrypt messages and only the corresponding private key can be used to decrypt them. Moreover, it is virtually impossible to deduce the private key if you know the public key.

Public-key systems, such as Pretty Good Privacy (PGP), are becoming popular for transmitting information via the Internet. They are extremely secure and relatively simple to use. The only difficulty with public-key systems is that you need to know the recipient's public key to encrypt a message for him or her. What's needed, therefore, is a global registry of public keys, which is one of the promises of the new LDAP technology.

Public key cryptography was invented in 1976 by Whitfield Diffie and Martin Hellman. For this reason, it is sometime called Diffie-Hellman encryption. It is also called asymmetric encryption because it uses two keys instead of one key (symmetric encryption).

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SSL

Short for Secure Sockets Layer, a protocol developed by Netscape for transmitting private documents via the Internet. SSL works by using a private key to encrypt data that's transferred over the SSL connection. Both Netscape Navigator and Internet Explorer support SSL, and many Web sites use the protocol to obtain confidential user information, such as credit card numbers. By convention, Web pages that require an SSL connection start with https: instead of http:.

Secure HTTP

Another protocol for transmitting data securely over the World Wide Web is Secure HTTP (S-HTTP). Whereas SSL creates a secure connection between a client and a server, over which any amount of data can be sent securely, S-HTTP is designed to transmit individual messages securely. SSL and S-HTTP, therefore, can be seen as complementary rather than competing technologies. Both protocols have been approved by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) as a standard.

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