The Essentials of Encryption

Data is every company’s most valuable asset and so, it is critical to ensure that your data and physical systems are highly secure. When data falls into the hands of unauthorized users, it exposes the company to a number of risks with severe consequences.

With the rise of cyberattacks and hackers using increasingly sophisticated methods to access systems and data, organizations need to consider robust protection other than just passwords. There are three solutions available for businesses to include in their security arsenal: authorization, authentication, and encryption.

Here we are going to explain how encryption works to keep your data safe. It’s important to understand the basics to make informed decisions that will safeguard your business.

What is Encryption?

An elementary definition of encryption is converting data into an indecipherable form. Data is scrambled and needs to be decoded to be legible. During the World Wars of the early 20th century, classified information was manually encrypted and decrypted. Today, digital encryption follows the same concept, but algorithms are used to accomplish the same goal.

Encryption protects the information being sent from sender to receiver. When the data is received, it is decrypted and altered back to its original state while maintaining data integrity. The encryption process needs additional information, known as a key. Sometimes the same key is used for encrypting and decrypting and other times, each end uses a different key.

An encryption key uses a mathematical algorithm to translate plaintext (readable) data into ciphertext (illegible) data. Then the decryption key deciphers the data back into plaintext. This way, encryption protects data and enhances the security of your business communication between end-user applications, servers, and over the Internet.

Encryption Methods

If hackers intercept or steal data that’s been encrypted, it is considerably difficult to access the data in readable form. While there are software programs that can guess the encryption key, it would take months to successfully crack it. And the more advanced the encryption algorithm is, the longer it takes to decipher the code.

The two main encryption methods used are symmetric and asymmetric. Symmetric encryption secures data with a single private key. Asymmetric encryption uses a combination of public and private keys, and this method also provides the underlying structure for digital signatures and digital certificates.

Symmetric encryption is the most common method and the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) is the standard used by the US government. Data is converted multiple times and to decode it, a 128-bit, 192-bit or 256-bit key is needed. The 256-bit encryption key is the strongest and most secure. Passwords can replace encryption keys, but the downside is that without a very strong and well-enforced password policy, hackers will still be able to gain access.

Securing Your Business

There are specific areas where encryption will bring significant benefit to your business. Larger organizations tend to implement more stringent controls, but small businesses are soft targets for cyber criminals because they underestimate their risk level. A US National Cyber Security Alliance report estimated that 60% of small-to-medium businesses will collapse within 6 months of a cyberattack or major data breach.

1. Keeping Communications Secure

Business owners should be investing in core systems that offer built-in encryption capabilities. Email and file sharing applications are widely used by office workers on a daily basis and are vulnerable to malware and cyberattacks. Encryption for messaging and the connection over which information is sent is vital. This entails using SSL, TLS, or HTTPS digital certificates on servers to facilitate secure external communications.

2. Locking Down Hardware

Using passwords to lock computers, portable hard drives, and USB pen drives help as an initial barrier to data breaches, but for full protection, encrypting data sources offer the best defense. There are system-level encryption applications like BitLocker for Microsoft Windows, and File Vault for Apple OS that can be installed to prevent unwanted access.

3. Protecting Data in the Cloud and Over the Internet

Especially in today’s climate with an increase in remote working, protecting data and Internet traffic is more important than ever. Setting up a VPN (Virtual private network) is an established approached in securing data and work applications as it uses a secure tunnel to communicate over the Internet while encrypting data. Additionally, educating staff on using Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (WPA2) for connectivity are steps to tighter security.

With cloud-based systems, reputable providers employ the use of encryption methods to ensure data is safely stored and safe while in transit. Companies can still implement additional measures with encryption software.

Encryption Best Practice

Data and computer encryption is just one factor to having a complete security solution. SQL View understands the strategic importance of implementing security controls to safeguard data. Our records, documents, and facility management systems are designed with encryption capabilities that enable secure storage, communication, and collaboration. SQL View consultants can offer planning and guidance that ensures your business protects its most valuable asset.






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