CNET GLOSSARY: Terms for the techie
The process of changing data into a form that can be read only by the intended receiver. To decipher the message, the receiver of the encrypted data must have the proper decryption key. In traditional encryption schemes, the sender and the receiver use the same key to encrypt and decrypt data. Public-key encryption schemes use two keys: a public key that anyone can use and a corresponding private key that is possessed only by the person who created it. With this method, anyone may send a message encrypted with the owner's public key, but only the owner has the private key necessary to decrypt it. PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) and DES (data encryption standard) are two of the most popular public-key encryption schemes.
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