Encryption protects data by “scrambling” it into an indecipherable code that can only be unscrambled by an authorized recipient. Though encryption methods and types vary between applications, encryption has become a necessary security measure for almost every digital application.
Just how exactly does encryption work, and what are the benefits of adopting it? Read on to find out.
What is encryption?
Generally speaking, encryption uses algorithms and mathematical formulas to translate plaintext data into Ciphertex®, an indecipherable translation that can only be unlocked with an encryption key. Since only the sender and the recipient have access to the encryption key, anyone who might gain access to encrypted data (such as a hacker) won’t be able to read it.
Encryption is usually performed as the data is stored, before it is transported across a network such as the Internet. The encryption process typically involves generating an encryption key while encrypting the data using one of several encryption algorithms.
What is an encryption key and what are encryption algorithms?
The encryption process is performed by one of a wide variety of encryption algorithms. These algorithms encrypt data using patterns of various complexity, which can only be reversed by a corresponding encryption key; in other words, the associated encryption key is the only way to translate the encryption pattern of a specific data pool performed by the algorithm.
Encryption algorithms are generally categorized by the type of encryption they perform and the size of their keys. For example, industry-leading AES-256-bit encryption uses the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) to encrypt data with a 256-bit key.
Apart from the encryption standard and key sizes, encryption methods are also differentiated by who gets access to the associated encryption keys. This distinction is referred to as symmetry. Where “symmetric” encryption gives both sender and the recipient access to the keys, “asymmetric encryption” gives only the recipient access to the keys. Of course, using one over the other depends on the application.
What are the benefits of using encryption?
Despite the wide variety of encryption types, the benefits of using encryption are universal:
Improved data security
Many cyber attacks occur during transit, such as when data is being transported from a sender to a recipient. These attacks, such as a “man-in-the-middle” attack, are incredibly common when connections are routed through less-than-secure locations, for example when information is sent over the Internet.
While encryption doesn’t necessarily prevent these attacks, it protects the data by making it useless to the attacker. When an attacker intercepts encrypted data, they’ll see nothing but gibberish! To this end, encryption is also crucial for protecting user privacy and security online.
Encryption is also critical even when data isn’t in transit, such as in the case of an encrypted NAS server. Short for “network-attached storage” servers, these network-facing servers rely on NAS encryption or drive encryption to protect data in the case of unauthorized network access.
Compatible across devices
Since encryption essentially behaves as a “format,” almost any device can handle encryption—even if the sender and recipient are using completely different devices. This capability allows for high degrees of compatibility between senders, allowing both parties to maintain data integrity and privacy via symmetric encryption without having to use homogenous applications or hardware.
Supports compliance for federal mandates
Many federal security mandates require certain organizations to maintain a baseline set of security standards, one of which is encryption. While the exact requirements and mandates vary between industries and organizations, compliance with federal security mandates with rare exception involve implementing some form of encryption. Organizations out of compliance can face multi-million-dollar fines.
Impenetrable Encrypted Solutions to Try
The encryption process may seem complicated, but it’s incredibly easy to implement with the right products. An industry leading example is Ciphertex®’s advanced AES-256 bit encryption technology, which provides users with industry-leading encryption capabilities without complicated setup.