Data encryption is the process of translating data into another form, or a code. It is only accessible to people with specific access to a secret key (formally called a decryption key) or password. Encrypted data is referred to as ciphertext and unencrypted data is termed as plaintext. Currently, encryption is the most popular and effective data security method used by organizations of all sizes. There are 2 main types of data encryption:
Symmetric Key Cipher: This is known as a secret key algorithm where there is a singular method of decoding the message that must be sent to the receiver before the message can be decoded. There will be a common key that will be used to encode and decode which is best suitable for individual users and closed systems.
Asymmetric Cryptography: This method uses two different keys (a public and a private key) that are interlinked together mathematically. The keys are large numbers that have been paired and synced with each other. They are not the same number, hence the term is known as asymmetric. You can share the public key with anyone, but the private key must remain confidential. Both can be used to encrypt a message, but the opposite key is used to encrypt and decode that message.
Why is data encryption important?
The main objective of data encryption is to protect and secure confidential digital data as it is stored on computer systems and seamlessly transmitted using the internet or other computer networks. Data privacy is very important especially if it’s going to be transmitted through the internet. The old form of data encryption standard (DES) has been replaced by modern encryption algorithms that play a critical role in the security of IT systems and communications.
These algorithms ensure confidentiality and drive key security initiatives like authentication, integrity, and non-repudiation. Authentication allows for the verification of a message’s origin and integrity provides proof that a message’s contents have not changed since it was sent.
Apart from protecting sensitive data from being stolen or compromised, data encryption also helps prove that the information is authentic and comes from the point of origin it claims to come from. It can also be used to verify the actual origin of a message and confirm that it hasn’t been altered during transmission.
In general, there are two distinct ways to you use data encryption:
1. Encrypting when it is “in transit” means you send your data somewhere else via the web, email, or anywhere other than just on your own device. When you encrypt data in transit, you are effectively using encryption to try to deter people from listening in on your conversations. The most common form of this encryption type is web traffic. A lot of websites, specifically financial, social media, and email websites now use this by default. Malware and viruses are kryptonite to any computer and/or website and they should be dealt with before you actually get one.
2. Encrypting when it is “at rest” means when it is stored on your device, which could be an integral part of the device, like a hard drive, removable drive, or a thumb drive. All of the major operating systems and familiar software applications provide the option to encrypt files and folders on your device. When you leverage this option, you must make use of a password that allows you to unlock and decrypt those files.
What are the risks for data encryption?
The speedy increase in encrypted traffic is altering the security landscape drastically. About 85% of CIO’s believe that their security defenses are less effective since they were unable to inspect the encrypted network traffic for attacks. Around 90% of the CIOs have or expect to suffer from a viable breach in which encrypted traffic is used to hide the attack. Encryption technology could be a helpful tool to keep out unwanted attacks but there is a possibility it could be a curse too.
In a nutshell, it is essential for the businesses to aggressively inspect the two security risks – tangible threats that include malware, and threat indicators such as signs that a malicious/risky party is scanning the network for vulnerabilities. Data security experts need to check encrypted traffic from all aspects of their business and audit the information from every session to understand the full ‘transaction’ of a particular piece of traffic.
Reasons why encrypting your data is crucial
Information / Data is the most valuable asset you own, and business owners should be aggressive when it comes to protecting it. Here are some reasons why you should encrypt your data:
1. Your customer’s contact information can be used to redirect payments to a different bank account
2. A good hacker can place orders for goods which your company is liable to pay for by making use of your supplier account details
3. An unused, locked, or ost or stolen mobile device containing sensitive information can be easily stolen through information like cached domain passwords, stored Wi-Fi passwords, and passwords saved in web browsers
Healthcare is a great example as they have taken serious measures to ensure that all patient data is secure. HIPAA plays an important role in healthcare and others should follow their lead in trying to secure their data.
What is the cost of data encryption?
Most organizations will never put a financial price on the protection of their data and that of your customers. The inability to protect data can destroy a company’s reputation and no one wants to work with an organization that may allow sensitive information to fall into the wrong hands. Experienced data security experts like SDI however, can easily help you out with encryption options that will suit your organization’s needs.
The cost depends on the company size and the level of encryption needed. Good companies can make a more cost-effective solution based on your needs all while still protecting your data from threats.
Whether it’s protecting your email communications, stored data, some type of encryption should be included in your lineup of security tools. While data encryption may seem like a daunting, complicated process, it is necessary and there are experts to help you.