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The Importance of Encryption in Cybersecurity

Advanced technology has brought numerous solutions for businesses. At the same time, it has created greater potential for cybercriminals to engage in cyberattacks. 

In fact, the past couple of years have seen an alarming rate of cybersecurity incidents flood news headlines. These include high-profile incidents such as the Colonial Pipeline attack and the JBL attack, which cost these companies $5 million and $11 million, respectively. 

That said, with nearly one-third of US organizations having suffered a data breach, businesses are starting to appreciate the need for strong cybersecurity measures to avoid falling victims to cyber-attacks. One of the measures they are taking is encrypting their data. In this post, we’ll discuss the importance of encryption in cybersecurity. 

Let’s dive in. 

What Is Encryption in Network Security? 

Data encryption refers to the process of transforming readable data into a scrambled piece of information. This is done to prevent unauthorized persons from reading data while it’s in transit. Data encryption helps protect sensitive data and private information, and can improve the security of communication between servers and client apps. Basically, when you encrypt your data, even if an unauthorized user accesses the data, they will be barred from reading it. 

Given the high risk of cybercrime today, every individual or organization that uses the internet should be able to incorporate basic data encryption, at the very least. 

How Does Data Encryption Work? 

The data that needs to be encrypted is referred to as plaintext. The plaintext needs to be passed through some algorithms (basic mathematical calculations done on raw information). There are several types of algorithms, with each of them varying in security index and application. 

Besides the algorithms, one also needs an encryption key. By using a suitable algorithm and the key, the plaintext is converted into an encrypted piece of data (ciphertext). Rather than sending the plaintext to the recipient, the ciphertext is sent through insecure communication channels. 

Upon the ciphertext reaching the intended recipient, they can use a decryption key to convert the ciphertext back to its readable format. The decryption key must always be kept secret and must be unique for every message. 

Why Do You Need Data Encryption? 

Below is an outline of the reasons why you need to encrypt your data: 

1. Authentication 

An encryption key demonstrates that the private key is owned by a website’s origin server and was therefore assigned an SSL certificate legitimately. This is an essential feature given the high number of fraudulent websites that exist on the internet. 

2. Security 

Data encryption helps protect information from security breaches, regardless of whether the data is in transit or at rest. For instance, even if a company-owned device is misplaced, stolen, or lost, the data it contains will remain secure, provided that its hard drive is properly secured. 

3. Privacy 

Data encryption provides a guarantee that no one will be able to access your data or read your messages unless they are the intended recipient. As such, it prevents hackers, cybercriminals, internet service providers, and even government agencies from accessing and reading your personal data. 

4. Regulatory Compliance 

Many industries and government departments have regulations in place that mandate that organizations that handle users’ personal information keep that data encrypted. Some of the common regulatory and compliance standards that enforce data encryption include HIPAA, GDPR, and PCI-DSS. 

How Can You Improve Your Encryption System? 

Here is an outline of a few best practices that you can implement in your organization to improve data security and minimize security vulnerabilities: 

1. Implement Zero Trust Model 

This is a security model centered around the belief that organizations shouldn’t automatically trust anything that’s inside or outside of their network. Instead, they need to verify everything that’s trying to connect to their systems before granting access. The concept of zero trust boils down to not trusting anyone – you are not giving access to machines, IP addresses, etc., until you know who the user is and whether they are authorized. 

By building your entire network and infrastructure around the zero trust framework, you will prevent security breaches, given that the concept will help you verify everyone and everything that requests access to your data. Use SSL certificates and encryption keys that rotate with a set frequency to defend against data leaks and keep secure encryption within your network. 

2. Diversify Key Storage 

Data is a very important resource. When your company falls victim to a security breach and your data falls into the wrong hands, the repercussions can be devastating, especially if the threat actors have access to your data’s decryption keys. Apart from suffering financial losses, your organization’s reputation may be severely tarnished. 

With that in mind, you should ensure that your decryption keys, encryption keys, and encrypted data aren’t stored in one location. Storing them in one location leaves your information vulnerable to a data breach. 

3. Keep Algorithms Up-to-Date 

Cybercriminals are constantly concocting new methods and schemes to use in breaching your data. As such, it’s important to use the latest algorithms for data encryption. Older algorithms can be easily deciphered by hackers and can therefore leave your data vulnerable. 

4. Use One-Way Hash Function 

The one-way hash function generates a fingerprint of a given message, but there’s no way of getting back the original message. Suppose the input is the same, then the hash is always the same. In case it changes at all, the output will be completely different. 

For highly sensitive data such as passwords, PINS, secret keys, and security questions, use a cryptographic key to run a one-way hash function on the message. This ensures that it’s almost impossible to reveal the original message without proper authentication. 

Cyber Sainik Can Help Enhance Your Cybersecurity 

Our cybersecurity solutions are designed to provide organizations with a crucial understanding of current & potential risks, advanced protection of critical systems, and top-notch security technology and products for greater protection. 

Cyber Sainik’s managed security services include: 

With Cyber Sainik, you have access to solutions and resources that will ensure that your data is properly encrypted and that your business is protected from cybersecurity attacks. Schedule a free consultation to learn more about our services.