Internet, Networking, & Security Antivirus What Is File Transfer Encryption? File Transfer Encryption Definition by Tim Fisher General Manager, VP, Lifewire.com Tim Fisher has 30+ years' professional technology support experience. He writes troubleshooting content and is the General Manager of Lifewire. our editorial process Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Tim Fisher Updated on February 19, 2020 Antivirus Online Scams Social Media Scams Email Scams Phone & Texting Scams Tweet Share Email Encrypting data as it moves from one device to another is called file transfer encryption. File transfer encryption helps prevent someone, who may be listening or gathering information during a data transfer, from being able to read and understand what's being transferred. This kind of encryption is accomplished by scrambling the data into a non-human readable format, and then decrypting it back to a readable form once it has reached its destination. Westend61 / Brand X Pictures / Getty Images File transfer encryption is different from file storage encryption, which is the encryption of files that are stored on a device as opposed to when they are moved between devices. When Is File Transfer Encryption Used? File transfer encryption is usually used only when data is moving from one computer to another computer or server over the internet, though it can also be seen in things much less long distance, like wireless payment systems. Examples of data transfer activities that are usually encrypted include money transfers, sending/receiving emails, online purchases, logging in to websites, and more and more even during your standard web browsing. In each of these cases, file transfer encryption may be imposed so that the data isn't readable by anyone while it's moving from one place to another. File Transfer Encryption Bit Rates An application is likely to use a file transfer encryption algorithm that uses an encryption key that's either 128 or 256 bits in length. Both are extremely secure and unlikely to be broken by current technologies, but there is a difference between them that should be understood. The most prominent difference in these bit rates is how many times they repeat their algorithm in order to make the data unreadable. The 128-bit option will run 10 rounds while the 256-bit one repeats its algorithm 14 times. All things considered, you shouldn't base whether or not to use one application over another simply because one uses 256-bit encryption and the other doesn't. Both are extremely secure, requiring a vast amount of computer power and a great deal of time to be broken. File Transfer Encryption With Backup Software Most online backup services will use file transfer encryption to secure data as they upload files online. This is important because the data you back up may be very personal and not something you'd be comfortable just anyone having access to. Without file transfer encryption, anyone with the technical know-how could intercept, and copy for themselves, whatever data is moving between your computer and the one that will be storing your backed up data. With encryption enabled, any interception of your files would be pointless because the data wouldn't make any sense.