Encryption in general pertains to transforming plain text into an undecipherable form (otherwise known as ciphertext) via specialized algorithmic schemes, which in turn ensures the concealment of the encoded material's content. The person who's supposed to receive the text (which could either be a correspondence or even a password) could decode or decrypt it using a key of sorts that helps return the cipher to its original, readable form. Basically, the encryption key serves as the trigger that solves the encryption algorithm. Encryption also comes in two categories: asymmetric (uses a public key and private key) or symmetric (uses a single prearranged key that's shared between receiver and sender).
Before the Internet came along, encryption
Was rarely mentioned outside of war stories, spy novels, and political dramas that usually dealt with such esoteric topics. In fact, it was largely viewed as an exclusively military tool that was sometimes linked to the operations of government agencies like the CIA or FBI. Nowadays, thanks to the sudden proliferation of web-based healthcare, banking, marketing, and other services requiring extra data protection from the dangers of the Internet, the average household member (i.e., Internet user) is now aware of what encryption is.
Encryption is no longer a practice solely associated with espionage and intelligence gathering. Run-of-the-mill web browsers will automatically encrypt text for you whenever it's connected to a secure server (which is usually evidenced by a URL that contains the "https" indicator).The server then decodes the text only after it has been delivered to its rightful destination, which means that the transmitted data remains protected from unauthorized browsing as it travels between machines. Any attempt at intercepting that privileged information will only be rewarded with encrypted gibberish, so encryption plays an important part in making secure broadcasts as private and protected as possible.
At any rate, even though the encryption types presently available are myriad and assorted, not all of them are completely dependable. No matter how savvy the world's programmers and IT security researchers are in creating complex encryption algorithms, hackers and identity thieves will always match that ingenuity by continuously coming up with innovative bypasses and exploits of their own. To be more precise, the same PC power and programming expertise used to fortify an encryption scheme could also be used to break down weaker methods of ciphertext creation.