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256-bit encryption is a data/file encryption technique that uses a 256-bit key to encrypt and decrypt data or files.
It is one of the most secure encryption methods after 128- and 192-bit encryption, and is used in most modern encryption algorithms, protocols and technologies including AES and SSL.
256-bit encryption is refers to the length of the encryption key used to encrypt a data stream or file. A hacker or cracker will require 2256 different combinations to break a 256-bit encrypted message, which is virtually impossible to be broken by even the fastest computers.
Typically, 256-bit encryption is used for data in transit, or data traveling over a network or Internet connection. However, it is also implemented for sensitive and important data such as financial, military or government-owned data. The U.S. government requires that all sensitive and important data be encrypted using 192- or 256-bit encryption methods.