Encryption is a data protection method where information is encoded and can only be decoded by a user with the correct decryption key. Encrypted data (also known as ciphertext) appears scrambled to anyone who accesses it without the right key. So, one big encryption benefit is that if someone does steal your data, it would be completely unusable to them.
Some industries are legally obligated to encrypt their sensitive information. However, it’s still a good practice even if it’s not your legal obligation.
Why exactly is this? This article will dig into the answer to that question. We’ll go over how encryption works, the benefits of using it, and what could happen if you don’t.
How Encryption Works
When data is encrypted and decrypted, it goes through the following steps.
- An encryption algorithm scrambles the original text using an encryption key
- The unreadable files is transferred over the internet or stored on a database
- A separate algorithm within a key descramblers the message for an authorized reader
Types of Data Encryption
There are two different types of encryption: symmetric and asymmetric. Both follow the basic steps highlighted above, but with a few key differences. The best choice depends on the use case.
Symmetric encryption uses the same key for both the encryption and decryption processes. It’s generally faster and less intensive than asymmetric encryption, but comes with the risk of having only one key. The best time to use it is for data that doesn’t need to be transmitted over the internet, like information on a hard drive or USB.
Asymmetric encryption uses different keys for encryption and decryption. This method is slower, but ideal for highly sensitive data and internet transmissions.
Many companies use both symmetric and asymmetric encryption methods for different sets of data. So, consider the specific data you are protecting instead of your overall organization when choosing a method.
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5 Encryption Benefits & 5 Risks of Unencrypted Data
If you’re responsible for private information, like people’s health or financial data, you know how crucial confidentiality is. Encryption ensures that only authorized personnel can read or understand the data. Therefore, private information stays private even if exposed to unauthorized personnel.
Encryption can behave as a sort of “anti-eavesdropping” measure. Hackers are capable of intercepting emails, text messages, and online instant messages to collect data from your conversations. However, when they decrypt these messages, they won’t get anything out of it.
Due to the nature of the encryption process, you’ll have a better idea of who has tried accessing your data. Encrypted data can only be deciphered with the right key. So, you’ll know exactly who can see what. It’s also an extra layer of access control that goes above standard usernames and passwords.
If a hacker can’t read your data, they can’t tamper with it either. Paired with regular backups, encryption is an excellent way to preserve your data’s integrity in the face of any unexpected breach attempts.
Storing passwords and other credentials as encrypted data helps prevent unauthorized access to user accountssimply because it’s more difficult for a hacker to steal credential information.
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Encrypted data is at a much higher risk of leakage. Should unauthorized individuals gain access to unencrypted data, they can easily exploit and sell it. Encryption also protects against accidental leaks, such as an unauthorized employee unintentionally opening a file they shouldn’t.
Loss of Trust
Sometimes, encryption is expected. When it’s not there, it may erode your partners’ or clients’ trust. This is especially true in high-stakes industries like finance or government.
Intellectual Property Theft
Trade secrets, proprietary algorithms, or confidential business plans are appealing targets for theft. Left unencrypted, hackers can easily steal this information, especially if it’s in your online communication. This can lead to financial losses, loss of competitive advantage, or unauthorized usage of intellectual property.
Encrypted data is more prone to interception and therefore more prone to disruptive attacks like a DDoS attack. Therefore, it’s important to encrypt any infrastructure-critical data that could cause a system failure if tampered with.
As mentioned, sometimes encryption is a legal obligation. It’s also required in some regulatory standards like HIPAA. Failing to encrypt this type of data may leave you liable for the damages if a significant data breach occurs.
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Bring Tactical Strategy to Your Encryption Methods
Everyone should be using encryption in some capacity, but companies who hold high-stakes data need more than the usual. Encryption can be used as one one of the tools in your strategic arsenal against cyber threats.
The team at Redpoint Cybersecurity comes with experience in Military-grade cyber protection. We can use our knowledge to help you establish an encryption strategy alongside other robust cybersecurity defenses. This way, your sensitive data gets a significantly higher level of protection.
Contact us to learn more about our services.