According to experts, cybercrime will cost the global economy $6 trillion annually by 2021. With the coronavirus pandemic serving as a catalyst, cybersecurity incidents have increased dramatically over the past 12 months. People and businesses are looking for more reliable means of protecting their data in transit and at rest. Encryption is a popular option. In light of rising cases of cyberattacks and data breaches, organizations are making an effort to encrypt their traffic. Encryption is the process of customizing data to protect it from unauthorized access. Data encryption is one of the basic building blocks of IT security and should be a vital part of your cyber defense.
Why Data Encryption Is Important
Encryption is a simple but effective way to ensure that data cannot be accessed or stolen by hackers and other online adversaries. But the benefits of encryption go beyond information security. Here’s why organizations and individual users need to make encryption part of the cybersecurity arsenal.
When it comes to information security, the importance of encryption cannot be overstated. Encryption helps protect data from cyberattacks at rest or in transit. For instance, data stored in an encrypted hard drive will most likely remain secure if the said hard drive is lost or stolen.
Encryption is the most effective way to prevent spammers, ISPs, hackers, cybercriminals, and even the government from accessing personal data. This measure guarantees that only the intended recipient or data owner can read messages or access data.
There are so many fraudulent websites on the internet today. Fortunately, encryption can help validate data online. A public key encryption proves that a site’s origin server owned the corresponding private key and was thereby legitimately assigned an SSL certificate.
There are regulatory and compliance standards requiring organizations that work with users’ personal information to encrypt that data. Here in the United States, for instance, HIPAA requires healthcare providers to encrypt patients’ sensitive information online. As you can see, encryption is a vital cybersecurity tool, more so in 2021 as cybercriminals come up with more menacing ways to infiltrate systems and intercept online traffic. Below, we look at various ways that data can be encrypted at rest or in transit.
Ways That Data Can Be Encrypted
Encryption takes plain text, such as an email or a text message, and scrambles it into an unreadable format known as ciphertext. The data is translated to its original form when the intended recipient accesses the message through a process known as decryption. Data stored in removable, and non-removable storage media (at rest data) can also be encrypted. Data encryption is all about protecting sensitive information from unauthorized access. Here are some of the ways that data can be encrypted, whether in transit or at rest.
Email and Messaging Apps
Most email clients use a secure HTTPS connection. This means that your emails are protected using a standard Transport Layer Security (TLS). However, some security experts say that TLS does not offer enough protection and recommend email encryption services such as ProtonMail, PreVeil, StartMail, etc., for robust encryption. However, if you want to send highly sensitive information over the internet, you’re better off using a messaging app. Quick messaging apps offer better encryption and security than standard email clients such as Gmail and Outlook. Apps such as Signal, Telegram, Threema, and Wickr use end-to-end encryption to protect your messages.
Computers and Laptops
Laptop and desktop computers are often used to store sensitive personal or work-related information, which creates cybersecurity risks. Laptops are particularly vulnerable because they are portable and can be easily lost or stolen. Luckily, you can protect laptops and the data in them with full disk encryption. Newer versions of Windows and macOS have built-in encryption programs to help you encrypt your data. Windows offers Bitlocker and macOS offers FileVault. The Windows full disk encryption feature Bitlocker allows you to encrypt the entire OS drive and other drives mounted to your PC. The built-in macOS FDE tool, FileVault, protects your entire drive.
Mobile devices come with a built-in encryption feature to protect your messages, photos, documents, and any other personal data stored on the device. This is not surprising, seeing as most of our data is stored on mobile devices these days. Encryption ensures that should a smartphone be stolen or lost; the data will still be secured. Newer versions of iOS are encrypted by default to protect the files stored on your iPhone. Android, which has been lagging in this aspect for a long time, is now catching up. The latest Android smartphones from manufacturers such as Samsung, Motorola, Nokia, Blackberry, etc., are fully encrypted by default.
Virtual Private Network (VPN)
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) offers one of the best ways to encrypt data in transit. A VPN routes your internet traffic through a VPN tunnel. A VPN encrypts your data as it moves between your device and a web destination. The VPN also masks your IP address and location. Your computer, smartphone, or any other device you are using initiates a connection to a VPN server. Once the connection is authenticated, the VPN client creates a VPN tunnel. That way, your internet traffic cannot be intercepted by your internet service provider (ISP), the government, hackers, spammers, or any other threats lurking on the internet. That’s how VPNs work to protect your data from any dangers lurking on the internet.
SSL Encryption on Websites
Secure Sockets Layer or SSL is a form of encryption websites use to keep attackers from accessing data when in transit. SSL encrypts data when it’s being sent to and from a website. Most legitimate websites use SSL. It’s always a good idea to access websites using SSL when conducting personal business online. Look for a padlock icon in the address bar. Employed by both individual users and corporations, encryption offers one of the best ways to protect data in transit and at rest. In addition to security, encryption may also help prove that information is authentic, has not been altered during transmission, and originates from a legitimate source. Use this method to protect the data you send, receive, and store using a device.
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