Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jan 28, 2009

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Yes. Encryption converts data into a code – and you need a key to this code in order to decipher the data. What encryption software does is take the information that you want to send and turns it in a code that is transmitted – instead of your original message. The recipient of the code then needs to decipher the code to convert it back to the content of your original message. And if the incoming message isn’t encrypted with your code, you can treat it differently.

Encryption is very common – most of your e-mail is probably encrypted without you even knowing it since it is built into so many Internet software applications. E-mail is encrypted so that it can only be deciphered at its intended destination (as opposed to the computers it goes through in order to get there).

Sophisticated encryption software programs should be used whenever there is a need for high-level security. But then you can run into some tricky questions with U.S. export laws, especially if you’re working for, or with, a multinational and the information is crossing the U.S. border. Better check with a lawyer, especially if you’re sending information out. Absolutely if it might be weapons-related; we’re talking criminal felonies and mullion-dollar fine potential, here.