There is a lot of information flowing through different servers, networks; from emails to websites to our computers and TVs, sending data from one home network to another. We have a lot of data just sitting on our devices that can be intercepted or stolen at any time without anyone knowing about this theft.
However, there is one thing that helps us know that the data we have is only seen by the intended recipients; data encryption. Data Encryption protects your emails, bank transactions, end-to-end conversations, and even voice calls. It is a way of protecting your personal data from malicious hackers, internet spies, or online criminals.
We will touch base on what data encryption is, how it works, and how we can protect our data as it travels across networks. You may also be interested in checking out our 9 steps to a more secure cloud server when evaluating whether or not cloud servers from ServerMania are the right fit for you. Keep in mind that we use non-hackable systems to encrypt all data that we manage on our servers.
What Is Data Encryption: Types, Algorithms, and Methods
Data encryption is a type of security technology in which information is encoded and can only be accessed or decoded by a user with the appropriate encryption key. To encrypt sensitive data from an unauthorized person or organization, encrypted data, also known as ciphertext, is scrambled with a lot of mathematical equations and unreadable text.
Data encryption functions by means of mathematical algorithms and equations that scrambles data to protect your data from prying eyes. These algorithms encrypt data in a way that can only be deciphered by its intended recipient or someone who can understand its algorithms.
You can use encryption in two states. You can use data encryption in transit, which means you use it to send data from one place to another. You can also use data encryption when data is at rest, like when data is being stored on a drive. Data encryption’s job is to ensure that data can only be read by the intended reader.
Data encryption takes readable data, uses an algorithm along with a key, and converts it into seemingly random looking, hard to read, data. Using the same algorithm, the intended recipient can decrypt the data into a readable format.
Generally, anyone who intercepts the data will not be able to understand the data sent without the decryption key from the sending recipient, which brings us to the types of data encryption. Let’s look at the two types of encrypted data.
Types of Data Encryption: Asymmetric vs Symmetric?
- Symmetric Encryption (Private Encryption Key)
Symmetric encryption, also known as private key encryption, uses a single shared secret key (same key) for encryption and decryption. In symmetric Encryption, there is an encryption algorithm that both the receiver and the sender have decided to use to encrypt and decrypt the data. This is a mathematical algorithm called a cipher. The cipher takes the readable plain text and converts it into seemingly random data called ciphertext. In order for both parties to read the data sent, they need the cipher key that was created to decrypt the data.
- Asymmetric Encryption (Public Encryption Key)
Asymmetric, encryption systems, also called public key encryption, has a decryption key that both ends need to use to decipher data. However, this kind of decrypt technique is a bit different from the symmetric encryption system.
Asymmetric encryption uses two keys: a public key and a private key. Encryption uses the public key, whereas decryption is performed using the private key.
Here we have two decryption keys, but they are linked to each other. There is a private key and a public key that anyone can use. The private key encrypts the data and sends it across to the receiving party (possibly multiple users).
The public key is then used to decrypt the data, and when the receiver or receivers send back the data, they use their public key to keep encrypting data before sending. In asymmetric encryption, anything encrypted by the public key can only be decrypted by the private key.
Key Features of Data Encryption Solutions
Now that we have gone through the types of data encryption, let’s explore the key features of data encryption algorithms.
Strong Data Encryption Standards:
The Advanced Encryption Standard (AES)-256 is the industry standard for encryption used by government agencies, corporate and public organizations worldwide. The earlier Data Encryption Standards (DES) was updated because it was prone to brute force attacks, occurring when a hacker tries various cipher combinations until they find the right combination.
Data Encryption Key Management:
Key management functions of data encryption software include key creation, distribution, destruction, storage, and backup. A strong and automated key manager is essential for fast and flawless encryption and decryption, which is necessary to decrypt and encrypt data for the smooth functioning of the organization’s applications and workflows.
While it is possible for you to encrypt all data, this process can put a load on your IT resources. However, to relieve your server and system of this load, you can encrypt the most important and sensitive data, like intellectual property, personally-identifying information, social security numbers and bank details. Encrypting files or applications, as well as full disk encryption and portable media encryption, are possible. Full disk encryption is used for computers that can be misplaced or stolen, or damaged. If a laptop, or tablet, or portable media is encrypted, your organization can be protected from certain liabilities.
Encryption of Data In Transit vs. Data At Rest
Data at rest is kept on servers, desktops, laptops, and other devices. At rest, data is encrypted by the file, the folder, or the entire disk.
Data in transit is information that flows over a network or the internet. The most common example is email. There are two approaches to secure and protect data in transit:
To establish a secure connection between endpoints, encrypt the data in transit using network-level encryption protocols like – internet protocol security (IPsec) and transport layer security (TLS) or secure sockets layer (SSL).
Encrypt both the message and the payload to guarantee that only the intended recipient can access it.
Why Do We Need Data Encryption?
Businesses use encryption for many purposes but let’s look at why we need encryption for our data. If your conduct business or host in different countries, you may be interested in learning more about data security across borders. Find out more about Data Sovereignty vs Data Residency vs Data Security.
Privacy Protection: With privacy protection encryption, your personal information and secrets are kept from prying eyes, ensuring only the intended recipients can access it. When you shop online, your payment and bank information are kept safe and secure with an encryption key and can only be accessed by the right people.
Secure Communication: Using secure communication channels, you can ensure that the message, like locked letters that can only be accessed by the intended person and can only be read, thus, preventing hackers from eavesdropping. Encryption protects data across devices, including mobile devices, for end-to-end communication.
Preventing Data Theft and Hacks: It stops cybercriminals from easily stealing sensitive data, like passwords, credit card numbers, and personal information. Even if a company’s data is breached, encrypted data is tough for hackers to use because they can’t decipher the information without the encryption key.
Regulatory Compliance: Many laws require data protection. Encryption helps organizations meet these standards and avoid legal issues. Examples of regulatory and compliance standards that enforce data encryption standard include HIPAA, PCI-DSS, and the GDPR.
What is Hashing?
Hashing provides a fixed-length unique signature for data collection or communication. Each message has its own hash, making minor modifications to the data readily trackable. Data that has been encrypted via hashing cannot be deciphered or reversed. As a result, hashing is solely employed for data verification.
Many internet security experts do not believe hashing to be a true encryption mechanism, however the bottom line is that it’s an excellent method of ensuring that no one tampers with the data.
What is end-to-end encrypted data?
End-to-end encrypted data is a secure line of communication that locks out a third party from viewing a conversation while the data is in transit from one device to another.
Can Encrypted Data be Hacked?
Cloud data encryption can only be hacked if your private key falls into the wrong hands. A hacker could hack into your cloud storage to access your private key and use your encryption algorithms against you.
Should You Use Symmetric or Asymmetric Encryption?
Both data encryption methods and type have their specific functions for encryption. We recommend you use the one that works best for you. Symmetric encryption uses the same key encryption to decrypt data, while Asymmetric is a two-way key system.
Note: Public keys cannot decrypt data encrypted with a private key.
We have discussed the working process of data encryption and given a few scenarios in which encryption can be used. It’s imperative to understand how encryption work in order to prevent loss of data.
Learning more about data encryption before storing or sending data across networks is critical to business continuity. Keep in mind that private keys are a one-way street and should not be shared with a third party. Keep them somewhere safe so that they can be accessed for future use.