Data Encryption

Data encryption definition

Data encryption is a type of security process that converts data from a readable format called plaintext into an encoded, unreadable form called ciphertext. Encryption effectively scrambles usable data into a unique, random string of bits – rendering it undecipherable. Decrypting data  requires access to a private encryption key, which decodes and unscrambles the encrypted dataset.

What is data encryption?

Data encryption is a security measure that transforms readable data (data in the clear) into an unreadable format using a unique (and private) encryption key. Data encryption renders business data unreadable and of no value to cybercriminals who do not have access to the key used to encrypt the data. Organizations that rely on plaintext format when storing or transmitting data have an increased risk of valuable business data and assets becoming compromised or falling into the wrong hands. Another danger that accompanies data theft is the possibility of public exposure of the victim’s private data.

Data encryption provides an extra layer of security and helps organizations insulate their data, wherever it lives. Data protection solutions offer advanced encryption for both data at rest and in flight. In addition to data encryption, cloud-based solutions can also isolate data copies in air-gapped, immutable locations. This ensures that data backups are unreadable and housed in immutable locations outside an organization’s network – keeping them out of reach from bad actors.  

What is data encryption, and how does it work?

On the surface, data encryption is a simple approach to a complex problem, and is an essential element in data protection and disaster recovery. Data encryption adds a necessary layer of protection by rendering value business information unreadable, unless unlocked with a proper encryption key. Without access to this unique encryption key, unauthorized parties who gain access to data have no way of deciphering or exploiting your data.

The main aspects of data encryption include,

  • Robust security posture. Adopt an edge-to-cloud security posture that protects the edge, the data centers and the cloud properties. Empower IT to monitor the state of the environment’s security, manage access, encrypt data and proactively fight risk of potential attacks.
  • Encryption. Organizations must establish strict policies for encrypting everything, especially data in flight, data at rest, and when possible, data in use. A unique encryption key is required to scramble data initiating the encryption process. Encryption is not a luxury and is widely available for IT to incorporate in data protection policies. There are two primary types of encryption keys: public and private. Most cloud providers offer rock-solid encryption and key management for the multi-tenant public cloud environments.
  • Decryption. Using the unique encryption key, one can decrypt data, turning scrambled data back into a readable plaintext format. Encryption and decryption are commonly used in our day to day lives as many applications silently encrypt messages, data, and files without intervention from users.
  • Key management. Like passwords, encryption keys need to be protected with restricted access. Some solutions maintain and protect encryption as part of their offerings. For solutions that allow customers to bring their own keys (BYOK), key management tools often sophisticated cryptography for safeguarding.
  •  Prevention. Implement robust, zero-trust access controls and keep all antivirus apps up to date. Companies can avoid most of the potential risks by keeping unauthorized parties out of their environments at the first contact with the network
  • Proactive education. Cybercriminals use phishing and social engineering to penetrate the intended targets. Enterprises should routinely train and educate employees on the nature and the dangers of cyberattacks and the vital role they play in protecting valuable digital assets.

Why is data encryption important?

The number of malicious cyberattacks incidents is on the rise, driven by  work from home (“WFM”) and distance learning vulnerabilities. Even in 2019, nearly 60% of enterprises experienced a ransomware attack. Cybercrime has emerged into a large and global organized crime industry. Complex user passwords are no longer an effective form of protection and are often hijacked and sold for profit. Without proper data encryption, companies are more likely than not to fall victim to attacks, lose data and experience business disruptions. With proper data protection and encryption tools, businesses can effectively keep their data secure, recoverable, and out of the wrong hands.

Benefits of data encryption

Digital data and applications are the drivers of business growth. Protecting business-critical workloads data against potential loss or theft is vital for business survival. Data encryption is a staple when combatting cyberthreats and plays a significant role data protection, including:

Mitigating attacks. Data encryption’s primary goal is to prevent unauthorized parties from accessing proprietary data. Encrypted data is of no value to cybercriminals seeking to sell or publicly expose the stolen data – as it cannot be read, exploited or monetized. Without access to unique and private access keys, valuable business data is unreadable, and acts as a deterrent for cybercriminals.

Diminishing risk. Solutions with rigorous data encryption capabilities remove the prospect of negative exposure. While data encryption helps thwart the attempts of bad actors, it also narrows the window of liability when maintaining, managing, and storing sensitive information and data.

Lowering costs. The cost of protection pales compared to the costs of a business shutdown and potential customer data loss. Businesses should err on the side of proactive safety and adopt data protection solutions with robust encryption policies, regardless of their storage destination.

Common use cases for data encryption

Organizations of all sizes need data protection. Encryption plays a vital role in these solutions and go a long way in securing business data:

  • Data protection. Without proper protection, data remains susceptible to potential loss and corruption. Data encryption preserves the integrity of your data and usable backup copies that you alone can access with your protected encryption keys
  • Business continuity. With encryption software, businesses can protect all of their data and configurations needed to bring business back to life following unpredictable disruptions. Encrypted data is of no use to cybercriminals and may serve as a deterrent against future attacks
  • Disaster recovery. It is accepted that all businesses and IT environments may face disruptive encryption events that could cause data loss, corruption, or disrupted IT operations. Putting a robust data encryption strategy in place reduces the risks associated with ill-intended cyberthreats and data theft.

Does Metallic offer data encryption?

Yes! Metallic SaaS Backup offers integrated encryption of data in flight and data at rest. Whether data is stored on user devices, in SaaS applications, or across on-premises and cloud environments, Metallic provides comprehensive coverage to safeguard your data from today’s data loss threats.

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