Decoding Data Encryption: A Beginner’s Guide

  • July 2, 2019
What is Data Encryption
What is Data Encryption

Data is the lifeblood of a business that travels through the airwaves across multiple sources like devices, networks, servers, databases, and the cloud. Securing data can no longer be put on the back burner by the companies if they are truly concerned about avoiding critical damage to their business. Loss, theft or misuse of data can cost millions to a company and what is more threatening is the fact that we have entered an era of major cyber attacks with graver consequences. 

The technological conveniences like open and widespread internet connectivity, usage of multiple smartphones and cloud computing have acted as a coin with two sides where we can no longer ignore the risks of getting our data hacked. Companies all over the world are on high alert and are constantly working towards safeguarding their networks and data. Encryption plays a crucial role in this scenario.

What is Data Encryption?

Encryption comes in two main types with different uses and applications. Here, we will stick to the layman understanding of what encryption is how it works to protect corporate data. Originated from the science of cryptography, encryption implies the process of scrambling text or data into something unreadable for anyone who doesn’t possess the key to decode it. Today’s encryption complexity is greatly heightened, thanks to modern computer technology and its complicated mathematical principles. But this is important as the people’s ability to break codes has also been enhanced.

So, ideally, a private encrypted message or information will apparently appear as a jumbled bunch of random alphabets and digits. But once it’s decrypted by you with the help of a secret passcode or a key (that is sent to you separately), it will clearly show the original message. An encrypted data is often referred to as ciphertext and the unencrypted data is known as plaintext.

There are two types of encryption. let’s talk about them one by one.

Symmetric cryptography or shared secret encryption: This is the kind that exists since ancient Egyptian times. In this form of encryption, a single secret key or a shared secret is used by the person who scrambles the data or encrypts it into something undecipherable and then shares this same secret key to the recipient to unlock or decrypt the data and its algorithm. In this case, the same key is used to encrypt and decrypt the message or the data and hence is called symmetric encryption.

Asymmetric cryptography or public key encryption: Public Key cryptography was invented by Whitfield Diffie, Ralph Merkle, and Martin Hellman. In this form of encryption, they solved the age-old problem of key exchange where the same key was used for both encryption and decryption. Public Key cryptography or asymmetric encryption used two separate smaller keys. The key that was used to encrypt the message was made public, whereas the other private key was used by the recipient to decrypt the data. This way, the one who encrypts the message, and the one who decrypts the message doesn’t have to share the same key.  

Based on these two main types of encryption, there exists different encryption algorithms (namely Data Encryption Standard, TripleDES, RC4, RC5, and RC6 and AES), encryption applications (like Hashes and Digital Certificates) and encryption protocols [called IPsec, Point-to-Point Tunnelling Protocol (PPTP), Layer Two Tunnelling Protocol (L2TP) and Secure Socket Layer (SSL)].

What challenges does encryption face?

Brute force is known as the most common attack on encryption where the hacker attempts to find the right key through random trials until the right key is deciphered in the process. Here, the complexity and the size of the key is considered the deciding factor of the encryption’s strength. A longer key means greater effort from the hacker’s side to unlock the encryption.

Some other types of attacks also exist and are known as side-channel attacks and cryptanalysis, wherein the former type majorly tries to find a loophole in the system design or execution to succeed, and the later tries to explore a weakness in the ciphertext itself to exploit it.

Why and where data encryption is being vividly used?

The internet is full of references about FBI investigations being hampered by encrypted data, which invariably signifies what it can do to safeguard one’s company information. With the rising number of cyber crimes and the alarming statistics around online fraud, malware infections, internet attacks, and data theft, data encryption is immensely effective in securing corporate data that is stored, is in-transit or is being processed electronically.  

Companies all around the world are contemplating varied ways to secure and protect their data stored in devices, networks, servers, and databases. With more and more employees getting their own devices at work with the surging popularity of BYOD as a culture, there’s always a chance that sensitive business data might get compromised, knowingly or unknowingly. On top of that, organizations can hardly keep a constant tab on employees’ usage patterns of devices, web apps, and removable media, and the open access to cloud computing just add to the list of concerns. Hence, data, whether in transit or at rest, should always be in an encrypted form.

Data encryption is gaining popularity for being one of the most practical and easiest ways of data protection and is most commonly used in industrial sectors like eCommerce, financial services, government, healthcare, energy & utilities, and emergency services. It is crucial to encrypt documents and messages including sensitive business-facing information and high-level technical data, which if compromised or misused by hackers or competitors can incur a heavy loss to not just the company but also to the customers.

When it comes to securing data lying on your devices, choosing an MDM software that can manage, as well as secure your corporate data with encryption methods, will be a wise decision. As a modern and robust EMM solution, Scalefusion ensures to aid the company IT teams to manage and monitor employee-owned and company-owned devices. At the same time, we also offer security features like ‘FileDoc Encryption’ and ‘Message Encryption’ that aims at keeping your corporate data, apps, and content totally secure from being abused by the wrong hands.

Contact us now and share your queries and we will be happy to tell you more about our data security capabilities!

About the Author

Sonali has an extensive experience in content writing, marketing, and strategy and she has worked with companies where she was involved in the 360-degree content production and editing. An avid reader and animal lover, she loves to cook, take care of her plants and travel.

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