What Is Data Encryption?

What Is Data Encryption?

What Is Data Encryption?

The growing digitization of information has helped businesses in more ways than one. However, this shift brings with it the increasing risk of data breaches – which can result in theft of your customers’ sensitive personal data, and your company’s financial and proprietary data – in addition to leaving your organization vulnerable to numerous other types of cybercrimes.

As we covered in our blog post – “How Costly Could a Data Breach Be?” – this disastrous event can have wide-ranging consequences for businesses of all sizes. Data breaches not only affect your company’s reputation, but can also cause you substantial financial losses.  With regulatory fines, remediation costs and lost business opportunities due to your damaged reputation, data breaches can prove to be a costly affair to handle.

Defining Data Encryption

The main defense in preventing data breaches is through data encryption. This process translates your data into another form or code, rendering it useless for those who don’t have the secret key (decryption key) to read it. Only those who have access to the secret key or password can read your data. While unencrypted data is plaintext, encrypted data is known as ciphertext. Encryption is by far the most effective and popular method used by organizations for data protection. Data encryption is mainly of two types – asymmetric encryption (public key encryption) and symmetric encryption.

Most of your data today remains on computer systems, and you use the internet or other computer networks to transmit your data. Data encryption helps protect your digital data. Modern encryption algorithms have replaced the outdated data encryption standard (DES), which boosts the security of IT systems and communications.

The algorithms not only offer confidentiality, but also drive other key security initiatives like authentication, integrity, and non-repudiation. While authentication verifies the origin of the message, integrity is proof that the message’s content remains unchanged since its origin. Non-repudiation is to make sure that the sender of the message cannot deny sending the message.  

When to Use Encryption

Encryption can help protect the sensitive information of your organization. Generally speaking, there are two contexts when you would use encryption: when it is “in transit” or “at rest.” What “in transit” means is when you send it somewhere else via the internet, email, or any time you want it to be somewhere other than just on your own device. Data is considered “at rest” when it is on the storage media on your device, which could either be an integral part of the device – like the hard drive – or removable, like a thumb drive.

Either in transit or at rest, here are examples of when to use encryption.

To protect your sensitive data if your laptop or other mobile device is stolen – Encryption can help protect your sensitive information and financial details if your laptop, tablet or smartphone is stolen. Without encryption, anyone can gain access to data stored there. A laptop thief is mostly interested in the hardware, but there are occasions when it can land into the hands of someone more interested in stealing the data.

When you send sensitive data online – Any communications or transmitted files are vulnerable to theft or interception when sent via email. In today’s environment, not providing encryption is irresponsible, negligent and will most likely have severe consequences should the data be stolen, exposed or otherwise compromised.

The Different Types of Encryption

Data encryption consists of the following types:

Individual file and folder encryption – This encrypts specific files, folders, and documents. As a business, you can use this method if you store very few documents on the computer. It will at least provide some protection to your sensitive documents.

Volume encryption – This is a notch above the first type. It creates a kind of container that is fully encrypted. Whatever you save or create in this container is encrypted.

Whole disk or full-disk encryption – This is the complete encryption format. You don’t need to save your files or documents in a specific location because all files, documents, folders and volumes are encrypted here. In full-disk encryption, you have to provide an encryption passcode or let the computer read an encryption key from a USB device when you open the computer to unlock the files so that you can use them.

The Take-Home Message

Your company’s data and reputation are too valuable to be left vulnerable to theft or compromise. Finding the right partner to protect your digital assets is essential.

DocuServe is a cloud-based digital data protection company providing services that include cloud-based document management, content encryption and distribution, and digital media replication and encryption to businesses of every size, in every industry. Contact us today to learn about our full range of solutions.

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