In 2021, 74% of large businesses and 61% of small businesses experienced a data breach, according to research from Statista. With global data breaches rising over 70% in Q3 of 2022, those numbers could certainly rise as we reach the end of the year. The threat of harmful personal consumer data leaks and threats to national security and global supply chains that arise from data breaches have prompted an international firestorm of regulations requiring data encryption. For companies that don’t immediately fall under these new terms, and even for many that do, understanding data encryption and knowing its benefits is often a challenge. Thankfully, these answers are not as complex as they may seem.
Data Encryption 101 – What is it?
When you leave home, like most people, you likely verify that all entry doors are locked to protect from break-ins. After all, your whole life is inside. But, what if long before you left, you applied a complex algorithm to your neighborhood? This algorithm would scramble the streets leading to your residence into an unsolvable maze that would prevent anyone who didn’t have the key to the maze from reaching your home. They might be able to enter your neighborhood, but they could never reach your home and your valuables. You would probably feel much more secure. This is data encryption in a nutshell.
Data encryption transforms readable data into an unreadable format using an algorithm. This protects your business’ crown jewels – your data – from being accessed by bad actors. The only way to decrypt this data and read what lies behind the encryption is to have the key that breaks the algorithm.
There are two types of data encryption to be aware of. First- data encryption at rest, which simply means you are encrypting data that is not being moved between devices or networks. it can be stored on a hard drive, backed up to a flash drive, or archived in some way. Second, there is data encryption in transit. As the name suggests, this is data you encrypt that moves, whether between networks, from on-premises to cloud, or from device to device. Data encryption best practices require you to encrypt both at rest and in transit.
Why Businesses Should Encrypt Their Data
Encryption is now essential to any robust data security posture- it has become an infosec best practice. Data encryption protects your business’s most sensitive information by translating it into cyphertext, an unreadable language that can only be deciphered with an encryption key. This makes it almost impossible for bad actors to understand your data.
Let’s face it. Even the largest Fortune 100 companies face data breaches, despite their massive cybersecurity budgets. With all the money in the world poured into a secure environment, your data is still at risk. That does not mean that it need be easily surrendered, however. Even after suffering a security breach, you can protect your most sensitive information from being stolen by converting it to an impossible-to-understand string of code via encryption. With data encryption, your files can be impervious to those who would steal them.
Data Encryption and Compliance
In addition, to protecting your crown jewels, data encryption can also help you to meet compliance requirements. Many industries now mandate that businesses encrypt their data.
For example, businesses in the healthcare industry must comply with HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), which requires that patient protected health information (PHI) and electronic PHI (ePHI) is encrypted when data is at rest. Encryption at rest is also required for any financial enterprise doing business in New York after the New York Department of Financial Services made it law in 2017.
Two of the largest-scale data encryption compliance requirements are the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) for organizations that handle credit card data and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) for businesses operating in the European Union and the European Economic Area- widely considered the most robust data security law in the world. While GDPR does not specifically mandate data encryption, it is strongly recommended to reduce the risk of heavy fines, and it is likely that encryption will be codified into the law in the near future.
Whether your company falls within an industry that currently mandates encryption or not, the trend toward mandating data encryption is only growing. It is likely more business areas will continue to join the trend. Encrypting your data will help you fall in line with compliance or get ahead of the curve and meet infosec best practices.
5 Tips to Encrypt Data and Keep It Secure
- Be sure to use a reputable encryption algorithm. Some of the most popular encryption algorithms include AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) and RSA (Rivest-Shamir-Adleman).
- Be sure to store your keys in a secure location that only authorized personnel can access. We recommend using a managed service, such as Managed Data Protection from Sidechain Security, that will help protect your keys without having access to your data.
- Be sure to keep backed-up data encrypted. It is easy to forget to encrypt backed-up data since it is rarely accessed, but it is essential. Otherwise, encryption efforts are for naught if backed-up data is accessible.
- Be sure to keep all software up to date in order to avoid security vulnerabilities. This includes both operating system(s) as well as any applications used for encrypting or decrypting data.
- Be sure to monitor activity on all devices that have access to encrypted data. This will help to quickly detect any unauthorized activity so that appropriate action can be taken.
Encrypt Your Crown Jewels — Your Data — With Sidechain Security
Now that you have a general understanding of data encryption and the immense benefits it provides for the security of your business, you can begin to take action to protect your data.
If you are unsure about the next steps to proceed with data encryption, don’t worry. Even if you know how to move forward, but would feel more comfortable with guidance, we promise you are not alone. Sidechain Security offers support for data encryption and key management via its Managed Data Protection Solution.
Whether you are just beginning the road to data encryption or are looking for a key management solution for your already encrypted data, contact Sidechain Security today to help you on your encryption journey.