Encryption involves scrambling information, or plaintext, and converting it into another format — ciphertext — essentially turning ordered data into seemingly random gibberish. By encrypting information, you can keep data information out of the hands of other people, which can be useful for sending coded messages for military use, sending credit card information over the Internet to online shopping Web sites, or just hiding your personal documents from the prying eyes of family members, co-workers, or strangers.
The simplest form of encryption is substitution cipher, which basically replaces each letter with a specific symbol, such as another letter. A substitution cipher simply replaces one letter with another letter from the alphabet a fixed distance away, such as replacing the letter A with the letter Z, the letter B with the letter A, the letter C with the letter B, and so on.
In this case, each letter gets replaced by the previous letter in the alphabet, like this:
I AM HOT
Replacing the letter I with the letter H, the letter A with the letter Z, and so on creates the following ciphertext:
H ZL GNS
This information may be scrambled, but after someone discovers that each letter in the ciphertext actually represents the next letter in the alphabet, this simple substitution cipher can be cracked easily. When an encryption method can be broken easily, it's weak encryption. If an encryption method can't be broken easily, it's strong encryption.
The key ...