Every day, more and more of our lives are moving online – from our correspondence and photo albums to our bank accounts and health records. As that happens, more and more of the things that we once kept under lock and key in the security of our businesses and homes are now stored online.

A booming economy

The new digital products and services that provide such convenience, in turn, are helping fuel nearly unprecedented growth in the digital economy. Billions of online transactions take place each day, with banks routing more than $40 trillion in financial transactions each year and online customers ringing up more than $300 billion in goods and services.

But this kind of growth can only happen if businesses and consumers feel that their transactions, their information, and their online lives are as secure as those in the physical world. Encryption is a crucial component of that security. Encryption, which has played a vital role in protecting our national security for years, also helps ensure the operations of our critical infrastructure systems. Strong encryption safeguards our electric grid, protects our waterways and air traffic control systems, and secures nuclear facilities, to name a few.

Closer to home, encryption allows us to take the most important information in our lives and ensures we control who can access it. Encryption does not just preserve our privacy, it also is used to improve security and ensure identity, whether it is sitting in a computer, residing on a phone, being transmitted across the internet or being stored in the cloud.

“Strong encryption safeguards our electric grid, protects our waterways and air traffic control systems, and secures nuclear facilities...”

How it works

Technically, encryption works by mathematically transforming data into undecipherable text that can only be read by authorized people with the right decryption key. Many internet-enabled services and
features only work securely if the service provider can authenticate the person, device or computer seeking access. Authentication is the process of ensuring both ends of the connection are who they say they are.

To enable websites and internet-connected devices to interact with one another without impeding security, there are important encryption-enabled technologies that protect the data your online service might expose. This is not only a critical security-enhancing technology used today; the related technologies will also become increasingly important for authenticating and enabling the Internet of Things, where users need to give permission so devices can talk and interact with each other.

Given the widespread reliance on encryption for supporting vast parts of our economy and critical infrastructure, it’s important that innovators can continue to seek out newer and stronger ways to
protect digital security and optimize individual privacy. Their ability to improve and combine multiple forms of strong encryption and authentication is essential for continuing to stay at least one step ahead of emerging threats and actors — and, in the process, ensuring the security at the heart of the digital economy, protecting our critical infrastructure and national security, and safeguarding our most personal digital information.