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Data encryption is no longer an option today, and everyone from the individual to the multinational corporation should be using it. The rate at which the world produces data of all kinds is growing at fast rates and must be protected. Data breaches and targeted attacks on data warehouses are becoming more prevalent because the world is relying more and more on data. But what exactly is data encryption?

What is Data Encryption?

The concept of data encryption may sound like something out of science-fiction or spy action movie, but the concept is a basic one. Encryption is a system of mathematical algorithms that encode data. The data is then decoded only by those who have access or a need to know. Encryption helps protect all data whether it is on hard drives, in data warehouses, or being transmitted on the internet.

What Should be Protected by Data Encryption?

Simply stated, if the system produces, uses data, or transmits data across networks you should implement encryption measures. Today, everything we do uses data including making and receiving phone calls, using email, making online purchases, browsing the internet, and using social media. Even what users may not deem as relevant or important data is stored for analytics and research. Protecting yourself and your customer’s privacy should be at the forefront of your business.

How is Data Protected through Encryption?

Unsecure data is often referred to as plaintext data. It is visual and readable to anyone looking at it or intercepting it via a network. Encryption works to scramble plaintext into what is called ciphertext. Ciphertext is an encoded text that requires the right key to decode the message and convert the data back into plaintext code. Decoding the ciphertext requires the right key, which can be symmetrical or asymmetrical and depends on the type of encryption.

Two Types of Encryption: Symmetric Key and Asymmetric Key Algorithms

The symmetric key algorithm is the oldest form of encryption because it requires both parties, the sender, and the receiver, to know the cipher key. It’s like having a secret language in common that only the parties involved understand. When implemented, a secret link between two parties is established. Asymmetric key algorithms are more commonly known as public key encryption and use two different keys that are mathematically linked. Symmetric encryption can handle far more data than asymmetric encryption, but unlike asymmetric, where both parties generate their own public and private keys of authentication, symmetric requires both parties to know the key in advance.

Benefits of data encryption

Protection of sensitive data is the primary objective of data encryption and occurs when information is transmitted over networks or stored for later use. An example of data encryption in use is secure payment systems. Customers like the convenience of shopping online and when it comes time for payment, having a secured transaction is important. They will have to enter their credit card information and transmit it via the open internet, so providing encryption will protect them and give peace of mind during their transaction. A company may also save credit card information for future purchases. Data encryption is just as important when it comes to protecting stored data.

Data encryption is a necessary security measure for today’s companies, but it essential to understand it is only one component of data protection. Data encryption will slow down and, in most cases, completely prevent a hacker from accessing your company’s data but it will not prevent a hacker from trying. Other cyber-attacks, like denial of service, phishing, spam, or malware are also critical security issues to address and required secured or private connections. Developing full scope security measures as well as training employees on the proper way to use systems and networks is an integral part of securing your company’s and client’s data.