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Learn data encryption with online courses and programs

Data encryption helps to keep your information safe from cybercriminals. Learn about data encryption with online courses delivered through edX.

What is data encryption?

Today, people are comfortable with digitizing an incredible array of information. Credit card numbers, home addresses, health metrics, and other important data is used by and stored on apps, laptops, and smart devices. Of course, no one would use this hardware and software if they weren’t capable of concealing our data from being accessed, stolen, and used. 

Data encryption is a process that safeguards data from cybercriminals. It uses a dedicated encryption key and an associated encryption algorithm to encrypt (make illegible) a data set, which can only be accurately deciphered using a decryption key that is sent to the intended recipient. 

Encryption and decryption keys are generally combinations of numbers and letters that are stored in a file either physically or on the cloud. The decryption key can either be the same as the encryption key (a process known as symmetric cryptography) or a separate decryption key (asymmetric cryptography).

There are three main types of data encryption:Footnote 1

  • Data Encryption Standard (DES): a symmetric-key data encryption standard that uses 56-bit keys for encryption and decryption.

  • Advanced Encryption Standard (AES): a symmetric-key algorithm that encrypts data in a single block rather than individual data bits.

  • Rivest-Shamir-Adleman (RSA): an algorithm that uses a public key for encryption, and a receiver’s private key for decryption.

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Data encryption course curriculum

A data encryption course may cover topics like:

  • Cryptography: This subject involves the crafting and usage of encryption algorithms and systems to conceal private data and protect personal autonomy, making it the cornerstone of data encryption.

  • Programming: Software engineers use programming languages to create cryptographic algorithms that can encrypt and decrypt data.

  • Computer forensics: Computer forensics specialists use data encryption and decryption knowledge to investigate and prevent cybercrime.

  • Information technology: Data encryption is useful for information technology experts who develop and manage data systems.

  • Big data: Cybercriminals aim to access the massive data stores organizations keep on proprietary and customer information. Sophisticated data encryption algorithms and techniques are necessary to effectively conceal all this data.

If you are interested in understanding what encryption is, unpacking data encryption standards, and applying new skills in a hands-on learning environment, explore the educational offerings made available through edX. The edX platform offers everything from specialized boot camps to full programs that can enable you to earn a bachelor’s degree or even a master’s degree in a relevant field. Get started learning today.

Explore jobs that use data encryption

Now that you know what data encryption is, you can begin exploring jobs that use it. Some of those professional roles include:

  • Data engineers: construct and maintain their organization’s data storage architecture. With code, they can encrypt and decrypt proprietary and customer information as necessary.Footnote 2

  • Database administrators: build and organize data storage systems. Part of their database installation and maintenance workflow involves using approved data encryption tools and techniques.Footnote 3

  • Security engineers: install and secure computer systems and networks, then implement organizational network security solutions and investigate emerging security issues. These processes aren’t possible without a firm data encryption background.

  • Cybersecurity analysts: work to understand their organization’s security technology and protocols. They use this information alongside data encryption techniques to craft and enact security plans that can defend against cyberattacks.Footnote 4

  • Software engineers: should understand data encryption, since data security will always be top of mind for global organizations as more people embrace technology and become hyper-connected via the internet.

Learning about data encryption alone does not mean you have the skills required for the jobs listed above. It’s important to research the potential careers that you intend to apply for and align your learning pathway with the knowledge and skills requirements that are expected for professionals in that role. 

How to become a data encryption specialist online

To become a cybersecurity analyst or engineer that specializes in data encryption, you may need knowledge about:

  • Symmetric encryption: symmetric encryption uses an encryption key to encrypt and decrypt data. The intended recipient of the encrypted data needs access to the key to decrypt the data.

  • Asymmetric encryption: asymmetric encryption uses a separate encryption and decryption key. Depending on the encryption type used, the encryption key may either be public or private, while the other is always kept private by the owner.Footnote 5

  • Encryption and decryption algorithms: these algorithms are foundational to the field of data encryption. Without them, human-readable data can’t be secured, and encrypted data can’t be read by people.

  • Programming languages: programming languages like Java and Python are used to decrypt and mine large volumes of data, offering organizations valuable insights.Footnote 6

  • Database query languages: database query languages like SQL and GraphQL help you interface with relational databases for data insertion, querying, deletion, and analysis.Footnote 7

With edX, you can enroll in an online bachelor of data science program or take a more targeted approach to learning with a data analytics boot camp or a cybersecurity boot camp. Begin studying data and cybersecurity today.