There are two types of encryption in use today: symmetric and asymmetric encryption.
What is symmetric encryption?
Symmetric encryption is when the same key is used to encrypt and decrypt files. This means that the data must be sent in a secure way to stop it being intercepted. Symmetric is less secure to asymmetric because it is the same key that ‘unlocks’ and ‘locks’ the data. This just means it has to be kept even more secure.
What is an Asymmetric encryption?
Asymmetric encryption is when 2 keys are used for the process of encryption and decryption. These keys are called the public and private key.
The private key is kept safe and secure, only you have it so only you can decrypt the data. Your public key is (believe it or not) public. All anyone can do with the public key is encrypt the data and only the private key can decrypt. So, if you send a message to someone, your private key decrypts it and once it reaches them, the data is automatically decrypted with the corresponding private key.
What about hashing?
Hashing is a technique that generates a fixed length value summarising a file or message contents. It is often incorrectly referred to as an encryption method.
Hash functions are used with cryptography to provide digital signatures and integrity controls but as no secret key is used it does not make the message private as the hash can be recreated.