Home : Technical Terms : Decryption Definition


Decryption is the process of converting encrypted data into recognizable information. It is the opposite of encryption, which takes readable data and makes it unrecognizable.

Files and data transfers may be encrypted to prevent unauthorized access. If someone tries to view an encrypted document, it will appear as a random series of characters. If someone tries to "snoop" on an encrypted network connection, the data will not make any sense. So how is it possible to view encrypted data? The answer is decryption.

How Decryption Works

There are several ways to encrypt files, but most methods involve one or more "keys." When encrypting a file, the key may be a single password. Network encryption often involves a public key and a private key shared between each end of the data transfer.

Decryption works by applying the opposite conversion algorithm used to encrypt the data. The same key is required to return the encrypted data to its original state. For example, if the password "ABC123" is used to encrypt a file, the same password is needed to decrypt the file.

Secure network transfers, including Internet connections, handle encryption and decryption in the background. Protocols such as HTTPS and Secure SMTP encrypt and decrypt data on the fly. These protocols automatically generate a secure key for each encrypted network transfer and do not require a password.

NOTE: Encrypting data is a smart way to protect private information from prying eyes. But make sure to use a password you will remember when encrypting files. If you cannot remember your password, the data may be unrecoverable.

Updated: May 8, 2021

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