If you’ve been following the news lately, you’ll know that encryption can be a controversial subject. The Marriott Group’s hack allowed 500 million client’s personal data to be stolen and distributed all over the Internet. For about 327 million of the 500 million affected, the data stolen included information such as passport numbers, emails, date of birth, gender and mailing addresses. So if you’ve stayed at a Marriott, your data could be for sale on the Dark Web. This is the largest loss of personal data ever reported. Sadly, the simple fact is, it could have been easily and inexpensively avoided by having proper managed encryption in place. In a post GDPR world, this attack has a huge impact on the data protection landscape. It also highlights the criminal enterprises who are trying to gain access to your clients’ personal information.
So, what actually is encryption, and what does the controversy surrounding it mean for your business? If you encrypt your data, you turn it into ineligible data that can only be read by those with access to a decryption key, which turns the data back into a legible format. Let’s say you’re a business who regularly sends your clients’ addresses from one member of your team to another. Using encryption would add another layer of security to that information as you are sending it, meaning that if you fall foul of a cyber attack (or accidentally send it to the wrong recipient!), your clients’ data is far less likely to land in the wrong person’s hands in a readable form. Ultimately, the encryption of your data protects your business from falling over to the wrong side of the GDPR regulations.
Processing the figures: how can effective encryption make a difference to your business?
It probably goes without saying that whatever industry you’re in, having a solid foundation of privacy is only ever going to be a good thing. Whether it’s your organisation’s bank details, your clients’ email addresses or even simply their full names, it is vital that the information you promise you’re keeping private is only ever seen by the people who need to be seeing it. In effect, encryption makes it more difficult for prying eyes to see privileged information; even if your IT infrastructure is compromised, an encryption solution will mean hackers can’t use any of the data they find. This will mean that as well as keeping your customers’ personal details safe, your business’s reputation will also stay intact, so long as you can prove to the ICO and the public that you were taking a series of measures to make sure your clients’ data stays protected.
How does encryption work?
As technology moves forward, the algorithms and solutions used for securing data have had to evolve quickly in order to stay one step ahead of potential cyber threats. Because of this, encryption has become one of the most popular and effective ways for businesses to make sure their personal information is safe, and so should be a crucial element of your data security strategy. Most encryption solutions are made up of two main types of ciphers; a symmetric key cipher, and asymmetric cryptography. Both of these processes use encryption keys to decode their data. The longer and more complicated the key is, the harder it is for hackers to break into your systems.
In symmetric key cipher encryption, the same key is used to encrypt and decrypt your information - so both the sender and receiver of the data you’re processing decode the message in the same way. This kind of encryption is a much more traditional method of protecting your data, making it susceptible to cyber threats because the key has to be exchanged between the people reading it. The process of exchanging the keys means it is more likely to be taken advantage of by hackers.
To solve this potential weakness of symmetric encryption, asymmetric encryption has been developed as a more modern way of keeping your data safe, even while cyber threats evolve and change. Instead of using the same key, asymmetric encryption uses a pair of public and private keys, meaning another layer of protection is added to the data exchange process. While the public key can be shared with anyone as it is meaningless on its own, the private encryption key is kept secret. If the private encryption key doesn’t correspond with the public key, the data cannot be decrypted.
Whichever encryption process you make use of, your data security strategy should have encryption at the heart of it. As technology evolves and your business’s infrastructure becomes decentralised through IoT, it’s important that your whole IT system is protected, not just individual solutions. Protecting data not only involves securing access to data, protecting against network hacking, but also includes locking the data itself.
If you lock your data with encryption, there is nothing there. Even if your network is compromised and the data is stolen, nobody can read it. This gets you out of a lot of uncomfortable discussions with your partners, clients and the ICO. Whether you work from a PC, tablet, or even your mobile for answering emails on the go, encryption can be applied to your data wherever it resides.By incorporating an encryption solution that covers the whole of your infrastructure, you can make sure that there’s no room for error, protecting your clients’ data no matter how you interact with them.
At CIS, we go the extra mile to make sure that your entire infrastructure is protected from cyber attacks. Contact us for personalised security strategies like managed encryption that will future-proof your business’s reputation.