Without encryption, the ways we use the internet today would look very different. Using things like online shopping, banking and other services online would be much more difficult and unsafe.
That’s because websites that have access to your personal data, such as bank details and passwords, encrypt it in order to protect you, their customer. This makes encryption one of the best ways to shield your organisation’s sensitive data from malicious cyber attacks.
But what exactly is encryption and is it really necessary for your organisation? With solutions out there for all types of organisations at various price points, we strongly recommend that organisations of all types consider implementing encryption into their IT security strategy. Read on to discover how data encryption works and some of the key benefits of using it.
What is data encryption?
Encryption is really nothing new. In fact, different forms of it have been around since the Ancient Egyptians, who used hieroglyphs unknown to the general public to convey secret information to those with the ability to understand them.
These days, with the help of computer algorithms, encryption protects sensitive information about organisations and individuals everywhere on the internet. This includes messaging apps, online banking and much more.
Encryption works by scrambling sensitive information with a key made up of algorithms. The result is unintelligible data that would be useless to any hacker who might be able to get their hands on it. This way, encryption helps support your other cybersecurity efforts as the last wall of defence against cybercriminals.
In order to unscramble encrypted data, you’ll have to use your encryption key or a separate decryption key, turning the data back into an understandable format. This means that only those with access to the right keys can view your encrypted data.
Types of encryption
There are countless different types of data encryption out there, but for clarity’s sake, we’ll focus on the two most common forms of it: symmetric and asymmetric. Symmetric encryption uses a single secret key for encrypting and decrypting data. Because one key is all it takes to scramble and unscramble files, it’s very important that this private key is only shared with safe individuals.
Also known as public key cryptography, asymmetric encryption works by using two keys: one for encrypting and a separate one for decrypting data. One of these is public and can be shared with everyone, while the other one has to be kept secret. This extra level of complexity makes asymmetric encryption generally much slower than its symmetric counterpart.
Four benefits for organisations using data encryption:
1. It helps you move into the cloud and stay safe there
By now, you’ve probably heard a lot about the benefits of cloud computing: greater flexibility, easier collaboration and simpler disaster recovery are just a few examples. That being said, many people still have their reservations about moving to the cloud.
They wonder if their files really are as safe in the cloud as they are on their own private computer network and data centre. After all, when you use a cloud-based storage solution, your files are sitting at a location managed by another company. This location just might also be shared with some of your competitors.
We believe that cloud computing is the way of the future and that it’s better to get started with it earlier rather than later. For those worried about the safety of cloud computing, encryption technology can offer an added layer of protection.
By encrypting the files you store in the cloud, even if a data breach does take place, your files will be safe. This is because the information in them will be unintelligible and unusable to hackers. Just make sure that you store your encryption keys separately from your encrypted files.
2. You can easily block access to data at the end of a business relationship
If you’re storing data with one cloud-based service provider and want to move to another one, data encryption helps you make sure that no matter what, your old provider can’t access your information after you leave.
You do this by simply “changing the locks” – you create new keys for decrypting your files and shred the old ones. The same method can be used when employees with access to sensitive data leave to make sure they can’t share any of your information, either accidentally or on purpose.
3. It helps you stay compliant
As we’ve mentioned many times on this blog, under GDPR the responsibility for preventing data breaches falls on individual organisations. Failure to adequately protect the sensitive information you have access to could mean fines and public scandal big enough to irreversibly damage your business.
While GDPR doesn’t outline the specific steps that you need to take to safeguard sensitive information, It’s one of the methods that it recommends. It’s one of the best ways to protect confidential information when storing or transferring it.
4. It keeps your sensitive data safe wherever it goes
Your offices might be equipped with the greatest firewalls, strong anti-malware software and savvy employees who’ve gone through tonnes of security awareness training. However, what happens when your data leaves the office?
Is your confidential information safe when it arrives at the offices of your accountants or lawyers? What about freelance contractors and remote staff? Can you really trust that these businesses and individuals are following all best practices to keep your information safe?
This might be the case, but chances are it’s not. Even if these people are doing their best to protect your data from cyber attacks, their hardware could still be stolen, leaving you vulnerable. These are not risks that you should have to take. Data encryption makes sure your confidential information stays protected wherever it goes.