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Your self-encrypting hard drive isn't nearly as secure as you thought

Your self-encrypting hard drive isn't nearly as secure as you thought
photo courtesy of SHUTTERSTOCK

If you want to keep your information away from hackers and snoops, whether it's your Internet use, email, hard drive data or your backup, the best thing you can do is use encryption. Encryption scrambles your data and, in theory, the only way to unscramble it is to know the password. That's why choosing a strong password no one can guess is important.

This is also what makes a ransomware virus that encrypts your files so dangerous. Without paying for the decryption password, you can't get your files back. Learn three steps you can take to beat ransomware. Unfortunately for your security, encryption isn't always a secure as you'd hope.

Without going into too much technical detail, there are a lot of ways that encryption can happen, from the method it uses to encrypt the data to how many bits it uses. For example, you'll see 128-bit AES and 256-bit AES show up a lot in programs and Web encryption. There's SHA-1 and SHA-2 from the NSA. For your router, you'll see options like WEP, WPA TKIP, WPA2 AES and more.

Unfortunately, not all encryption is created equal. For centuries, mathematicians and cryptographers have been coming up with and breaking encryption schemes. As computers have gotten more powerful, encryption that should have taken centuries to crack can fail in seconds.

That's why you don't see much 64-bit AES anymore, why using WEP on your router is the same has having no encryption, and why large organizations are moving from SHA-1 to SHA-2 encryption.

Of course, this is way more than the average person should have to think about. You should be able to trust that every company is using the best encryption possible in the products you buy and use. Unfortunately, that often isn't the case, and we just got a fresh reminder.

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