What is Data Encryption: The Comprehensive Guide for Data Security

Definitive Guide on Data Encryption

What is Data Encryption?

Data encryption changes data into ciphertext that can only be read by authorized individuals or those with the decryption key. This converted data is solely accessed by those with a secret key (a decryption key) or passcode.

The role of data encryption is to curate a message in other forms. It could be a secret code or encrypted content. The replacement of each letter with an alphabet or unique case makes it scrambled. Only people with a decryption key or password can decode it. The ciphertext conceals important details to protect it from malicious actors online.

In most countries, over 90% of web traffic is encrypted. However, 27% of enterprises only partially encrypt their internet transactions. Other operating systems and platforms include Windows: 97% and Android: 95%. Edge Delta’s latest statistics stated that the data security market will grow by $68.29 billion by 2029.

So, encryption is now among the most efficient data security technologies for organizations. Encryption scrambles passwords, making them inaccessible to hackers.

Types Data Encryption

Data Encryption is classified into two types: Symmetric Encryption and Asymmetric Encryption.

Symmetric Encryption

Symmetric encryption is when encryption and decryption of data take place using a single cryptographic key. The encryption process uses the shared key to convert the original plaintext into a scrambled ciphertext. The decryption process then uses the same key to convert the ciphertext back into the original plaintext.

For example, Alex sent you “Good Morning” (plain text), which others read as “!@#$%^&*” (ciphertext). This is due to the secret key used in symmetric encryption to provide quick security. A few prominent kinds of symmetric encryption include DES, 3DES, RC4, AES, and QUAD.

Symmetric Data Encryption

Asymmetric Encryption

Asymmetric encryption is when two different but mathematically related keys are used: a public key for encryption and a private key for decryption. Website users encrypt their data using the recipient’s public key on a web server. The encrypted data is then safely sent via a public channel, protected from Man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks, and decrypted on the server’s backend using the private key.

For example, Alex uses her private key to sign a message. She can then encrypt the signed message with Ben’s public key. Ben can decrypt the message using his private key and verify the signature using Alex’s public key.

A few asymmetric encryption types are El Gamal, Diffie Hellman, DSA, RSA, and ECC.

Asymmetric Data Encryption

How Does Data Encryption Work?

Encryption is the act of converting plaintext into ciphertext, which protects the secrecy of digital data stored in your computer systems or communicated over the internet. Decryption, on the other hand, entails transforming the information back into its original form, employing a secret encryption key and a sequence of algorithms.

How Does Data Encryption Work

The more complicated the cryptographic key, the better secure the encryption. Encryption transforms human-readable plaintext into unreadable text, referred to as ‘ciphertext.’ It also uses a cryptographic key, a set of mathematical values.

Here, the sender and recipient agree to it. The person receiving it uses the key to decrypt the data, restoring it to accessible plaintext. Since the readable data is encrypted, third parties are unable to decipher it through brute force attacks.

Why Is Data Encryption Important?

Even if your data exists in a standard structure, it can still be compromised. It is possible that your data will be hacked. Hence, using data encryption can make it considerably safer. Encrypting data before transferring will ensure its safety. Systems relying solely on access controls sans encryption offer a different level of protection.

Data encryption ensures digital data secrecy while stored on both hardware and software. It is then delivered across the Internet or other computer networks. The old data encryption standard (DES) has been superseded by current encryption algorithms. They are vital to the security of IT systems and communications.

The additional importance of Data Encryption is highlighted below:

  • You get secrecy and important security activities like verification, reputation, and credibility.
  • Data encryption verifies the origin of a communication, proving contents haven’t been altered post delivery.
  • No repudiation features assure that the message sender cannot deny (repudiate) delivering it or transactions.
  • Ensures that the data you access hasn’t been changed or tampered with by unauthorized individuals.
  • Helps companies comply with regulations and avoid any repercussions for non-compliance.
  • Encryption during rest helps guarantee that private information, company secrets, and other sensitive documents stay unreadable and unusable by unauthorized parties.

How Data Encryption Protects Multiple Industries

Without any technological privacy, companies or businesses can experience fraud and threats to information. Therefore, relevant precautions are necessary for industries to ensure the safety of their contents. Along with financial information, data encryption has become essential for businesses.

Healthcare

Cybercriminals can steal an individual’s health information. So, the use of data encryption by health providers makes it challenging for hackers to access the patient’s health information. Moreover, they must adhere to the strict laws of the General Data Protection Regulation of the European Union.

Financial Services

The financial sector is the most vulnerable since the data collected here is very sensitive, and the leakage of such confidential information can impact an individual’s future. Most financial firms use encryption to lower the chance of a data breach.

Government

Data encryption is much needed in government agencies to protect data from hacking. When devices are lost, cipher texts protect all the necessary information from inaccessible viewers.

Legal

Legal firms that handle clients must take greater precautions to guarantee the safety of their private information. Data encryption can be a great help while saving and transferring data on any device.

Education

Different kinds of PII are handled by educational institutions, which include social security numbers, addresses, phone numbers, bank account numbers, etc., which have the potential risk of unauthorized access. Encrypting data can provide a secure reputation to your educational institution by helping you save the PII.

How to Implement Data Encryption?

To implement data encryption, you need to follow the below four easy steps-

1. Correct Algorithm Selection

You must evaluate the algorithm’s usefulness and employ a reliable, validated one regularly. Accredited items provide assurance and conformity with legal requirements.

2. Get an Appropriate Key Size

As computational power grows and new mathematical attack methods emerge, some certificate providers may raise their key size. Check encryption keys frequently, as well as the threats and possibility of personal data-related cyberattacks.

3. Right Software Selection

It is suggested that any encryption solution comply with current standards such as FIPS 140-2 and FIPS 197, as well as encryption solutions certified by the National Cyber Security Centre’s CAPS system.

4. Ensuring Key Security

In the last stage, you must keep the key secure by following the steps below:

  1. Hide the symmetric and private keys to give the power to decode data.

    NOTE: Keys are often organized in a hierarchy for the administration’s convenience and need to have a limited lifespan.

  2. Then, save the top-level key to encrypt the keys underneath.
  3. Place all protocols to produce another key and re-encrypt the data.
  4. Safely safeguard and remove the previous key whenever it is not needed.
  5. If the key is compromised, the old key might need to be revoked regardless of whether this possibility can be ruled out.
  6. Then, generate a new key or key pair to secure data in the future.
  7. Furthermore, choose an appropriate algorithm, software, and key size. Since the finest data encryption solutions involve a selection.

Common Data Encryption Algorithms

Encryption algorithms convert data into ciphertext by predictably altering the data. It is done so the encrypted data can be converted back into plaintext using the decryption key. Various encryption algorithms are built for specific applications. When older algorithms fail to function properly, new ones are created. Some of the prominent encryption techniques are:

Twofish encryption

Twofish is one of the fastest encryption algorithms. This algorithm works in both hardware and software. The best part is that it is not patented, so it is available to anyone who wishes to use it.

3DES Encryption

The acronym 3DES stands for Triple Data Encryption Standard. This symmetric key algorithm is reliable hardware encryption for the economic sectors. The term “triple” here refers to three-time encryption. It uses the original DES algorithm (a discontinued algorithm).

AES encryption

Advanced Encryption Standard, or AES, improves the original DES algorithm. A few common AES algorithm applications include Signal and WhatsApp as messaging apps. Also, WinZip as a file archiver tool.

RSA Encryption

RSA algorithm was the first publicly known asymmetric encryption method. It was prominent for its long key length. RSA uses a pair of keys to secure data transmission, making it an asymmetric algorithm.

RC4 Encryption

RC4 Encryption is used in WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) and WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) protocols. It is also widely used in wireless routers.

Benefits of Data Encryption

Ensuring Regulatory Compliance

Many businesses, such as financial institutions and medical facilities, have tight restrictions governing how customer data is handled and maintained. Data encryption enables organizations to achieve these criteria and assure compliance.

Maintaining Data integrity

Hackers can change data to conduct fraud, besides stealing information. Even when cyber attackers attempt to alter encrypted data, receivers can identify the damage and respond quickly.

Cloud Storage Security

As more individuals and organizations use the cloud to store data, cloud security becomes increasingly important. Encrypted memory protects the confidentiality of the information being stored. Individuals must confirm that data is encrypted during use, and while it is stored.

Securing Data Across Devices

Most of us use many devices daily, and moving data from one to another can be risky. Encryption technology protects data between devices, even during transmission. Further safety regulations such as complex verification, assist in discouraging unauthorized access.

Safeguarding intellectual property

Digital rights management systems believe in encrypting existing data like music or software. It is to prevent hacking and unauthorized use or replication of copyrighted content.

Enhancing Workplace Security

Many companies have remote offices, particularly following the epidemic. That raises cybersecurity threats since data is available via several sites. Encryption prevents theft or accidental data loss.

Use cases of Data Encryption

Data encryption is crucial in various domains to protect their integrity and privacy. Following are a few use cases of it:

Massive Data Security

Security firms that handle the safety of various clients need to use data encryption. Their reputation lies in their ability to encrypt the data for top-notch security. They can secure financial records, customer information and prevent security risks.

E-commerce and Retail

Credit card details and personal information exchange is a common procedure in e-commerce transactions. Encrypting data safeguards such sensitive data during online payments. Managing customer data like contact info, residential addresses, email and passwords are protected as well.

National Security

Communication between agencies and confidential sources of national security and defense must remain concealed with best protection practices. Data encryption outperforms here by ensuring that its algorithms make adversaries unable to intercept and decipher critical intelligence.

Cloud Computing

The practice of cloud computing is based on sharing computing resources online. This clearly invites cyber criminals to make unauthorized access leading to data breaches and insider threats. So, encrypting your data before uploading it can keep your content unreadable without the encryption keys.

Critical Infrastructure

Many critical infrastructure sectors are vulnerable to cyberattacks including healthcare, transportation, energy, education and others. So, securing operational data, communication channels, control systems, etc., becomes essential. Encryption can prevent public risks of safety and essential services.

Data Encryption Best Practices

A lot of individuals use encryption regularly. So, you must know the most common applications involve the following:

  • You can use VPNs to secure all data sent between your device and the cloud. Protecting private information from possible eavesdroppers on the web requires it.
  • With Transport Layer Security (TLS) and Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) your website must have SSL/TLS to encrypt data as it is being transmitted.
  • You can verify that your online transactions are safe and encrypted. Check for the padlock icon within the URL bar and you must look for “s” in “https://” to access a “secured” webpage. Transitioning from HTTP to HTTPS is very important.
  • For end-to-end encryption, use messaging services such as WhatsApp. You can also get encrypted audio calls and find an encrypted folder on your phone.
  • Use digital signatures to verify the integrity and validity of documents. They are a key component of copy protection and digital rights management as well.
  • To encrypt your emails, use OpenPGP (encryption protocols). Your email can only be seen by the specified recipient.
  • Encrypt work laptops and desktop computers to prevent important company data. If the device is lost or stolen, complete disc encryption is one way to prevent unlawful access to that data.

Data encryption can delete information. Often, you can recover the removed information using data recovery tools. So, encrypting the data beforehand and discarding the key ensures that just the ciphertext is recoverable. Also, the original information remains concealed.

Conclusion

Data privacy is a legitimate issue in a safe system and to manage secure data, a system must use data encryption. Ensure a system only transfers and saves encrypted data across a communication channel. Encrypted data only views the sender and their designated recipients.

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