Data Encryption: Why You Should Protect Your Business With a continued increase in data breaches, threats, and attacks it's important to consider the benefits of data encryption. Encryption helps keep your sensitive information safe and unusable to hackers. To begin, consider the amount of data you have that may need to be encrypted. There's no slowdown in the amount of data organizations continue to accumulate, just through day-to-day activities. From customer information to employees’ social security numbers, payroll information, financial statements, and passwords, your organization has more sensitive data than you may realize. Because your data is important, you need to protect it and keep it secure at all times. To ensure maximum protection, it’s best practice to encrypt your data at all times and in all locations (often referred to as in transit and at rest). Data in transit is data that’s moving from one location to another, either across the internet or a private network. Data at rest is data that’s not moving (or being used) and is stored on hardware and software. Encrypting data renders information unreadable when accessed without proper authorization. In fact, the only people that can decrypt it are you or anyone else authorized who has the decryption keys. Some common uses of encryption include sending sensitive data, ensuring email security, safeguarding your cloud storage, and protecting your operating system. Why should you encrypt your data? And how do you do it? Let’s take a look. Data Encryption: Why You Should Protect Your Business It’s no secret that cyberattacks and threats continue to be on the rise and in news headlines. According to a recent study released by IBM, the average cost of a data breach is now $4 million. The study also reports that the average cost incurred for each lost or stolen record containing sensitive and confidential information is now $158. While there are many cybersecurity solutions that help prevent your organization from getting attacked, encrypting your data is one effective way to minimize cyber risks and threats. With encryption, if your organization gets hacked, the perpetrator won’t be able to use or read the data. How to Encrypt Your Data Now let’s talk about the different methods to encrypt your data. The good news is that most software and computers have an option to enable encryption. Passwords and Kinds of Encryption As mentioned above, when you encrypt your data, you’re essentially locking the file and making it unreadable. To unlock it (or decrypt it) you need a strong and unique password with some level of complexity. For a list of password best practices, click here. Once you have your password ready to go, it’s time to choose the appropriate data to encrypt. If your organization has a lot of sensitive information, then it may be best to go with a full-disk encryption, which encrypts your entire hard drive. Microsoft’s BitLocker software makes this process simple, and comes already installed on computers with Microsoft Windows. When BitLocker is on, your hard drive will be automatically encrypted. When you encrypt your data, it makes it unusable. In order to use it, you have to unlock it. For instance, when you’re running a program that uses your encrypted data, the program unlocks the data from past memory, so that it can be used. How do you unlock your encrypted data? That’s what the next section is all about. Decryption Keys and Key Management Passwords are one thing, but having the decryption keys are another when dealing with full disk encryption. Example: What happens when an employee leaves the company and you have a laptop that the employee encrypted with their password? Turns out, they didn’t leave you their password either. The company doesn’t have access to the data on the laptop. However, with proper key management, they would be able to access the data on the hard drive. Key management allows your organization to have control and authority over your decryption keys. Organizations can have a lot of keys, but not know how, where, or why they’re being used. In order to ensure your data is encrypted and staying encrypted, you need to be aware of what keys are being used, who’s using them, and what systems they give access to. Create an inventory of all your decryption keys and make sure this is routinely updated and managed appropriately. Hosted and Offsite Data Another area to consider is data that’s hosted and stored offsite. As organizations adopt hosted or cloud strategies and move their physical environments into virtual cloud environments, they need to understand the security ramifications. If you have data or applications in the cloud, ensuring you’re using a secure service provider is vital and will minimize your data security risks. This goes for nationwide providers, such as Microsoft, or a local hosting company. Ask your cloud services provider about their encryption standards and processes. Ensuring that your data is encrypted can seem complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. Many technology providers can handle this for you, which can provide peace of mind. Encryption is essential to your organization’s data security measures, but additional layers of security can further minimize risk. For more information about layered security strategies, click here to read our blog post on the topic. In the end, encryption shouldn’t be your only security measure, but it is a key component to keeping your organization protected. Could your organization benefit from data encryption?? Scott Hardee Scott Hardee is a Business Solutions Manager at Aureon Technology. Scott's focused on figuring out what his clients issues are and working together to overcome those hurdles to provide the right solutions. With a focus on healthcare, CPA's, nonprofits/charity, and general small to medium-sized business, he's always working to build long-term relationships to help make the ever-changing world of IT easier to handle for his team and his clients. Aureon Technology provides end to end IT and communications solutions and has locations throughout the Midwest, including Des Moines, Omaha, and Kansas City.