Why Encryption is Crucial for Your Business' Data Security

August 16, 2023

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In this digital age, businesses of all sizes rely on technology to store, transmit, and process sensitive data. While the use of digital technology brings many benefits, it also comes with its own set of challenges, and one of the biggest ones is ensuring cybersecurity.

The exponential increase in cybercrime has made it essential for companies to prioritize security while working with digital technologies. So, if you’re running a business, you need to have a holistic security strategy, and encrypting your sensitive organizational data should be one of its core components.

That’s because 58% of IT professionals believe that encryption is the most effective way to secure data. But unfortunately, only 50% of organizations follow a consistent data encryption strategy. You don’t want to be one of those organizations because unencrypted data is a huge business risk. It can lead to forensics investigations and fines and loss of intellectual property and financial resources.

In this article, we’ll discuss the importance of data encryption for businesses in detail. It’ll help you understand how it can help you prevent data breaches, protect customer privacy, and boost overall business security.

What is Encryption?

Definition for Google Snippet: Encryption is a way of securing data by transforming it into a secret code that only authorized individuals can access, using an encryption key. It involves using complex mathematical algorithms to create that key, which is a unique code that enables access to the encrypted data.

Encryption Types

The following are two main data encryption types that you need to know.

  • Symmetric Encryption: It uses a single password/key to both encrypt and decrypt data.
  • Asymmetric Encryption: It’s a complex type of encryption that uses two different keys, including a public key to encrypt data, and a private key to decrypt it.

How Does Encryption Work?

Suppose a business is working on a confidential project with sensitive information like the project plan or team management strategies. This information needs to be shared with team members, working from different locations. To ensure that all the shared data remains secure, the business uses encryption.

Using a suitable encryption algorithm and a unique encryption key, the business transforms plaintext data into ciphertext. Then, it shares this encrypted data with team members through different communication channels like email, cloud storage, or instant messaging to the intended recipients.

Only the recipients who have the decryption key will be able to convert the ciphertext back into plaintext and access the confidential information. This way, even if an unauthorized individual gains access to the encrypted data during transmission, they’ll not be able to read it without the decryption key

It’ll allow the business to ensure that the sensitive information remains safe and confidential, and only the intended users can access it.

Popular Data Encryption Algorithms

The following are the most popular data encryption algorithms that most modern tools use.

  • RSA (Rivest–Shamir–Adleman): Named after the creators, it’s one of the first public-key algorithms and it uses one-way asymmetric encryption. It’s popular due to its long key length and is used widely throughout the Internet.
  • ECC (Elliptic Curve Cryptography): It’s an improved version of RSA. The best thing about this algorithm is that it uses shorter key lengths but offers better security. It’s an asymmetric method used in the SSL and TLS protocols.
  • Twofish: It’s one of the fastest encryption algorithms and it’s available in 128, 196, and 256-bit sizes. It uses a complex key structure for increased security.
  • AES (The Advanced Encryption Standard): Established as the US government standard for encryption, it’s a symmetric-key algorithm that uses block cipher methods. It’s also available in 128, 192, and 256-bit sizes and used in both hardware and software.
  • FPE (Format Preserving Encryption): This encryption algorithm performs anonymization for content. It encrypts the data while retaining its existing format.
  • Blowfish: It’s a symmetric block cipher that can have a key length from 32 to 448 bits. It divides the data into 64-bit blocks during encryption and its performance depends on the key’s length.

Importance of Data Encryption for Businesses

Now that you understand what data encryption is and how it works, let’s discuss why it’s important for businesses to use it to protect their data.

Provide Security and Privacy

Data encryption is crucial for businesses to ensure the security and privacy of their data. According to a recent survey, unencrypted data is one of the biggest security vulnerabilities and it can be the top reason behind a data breach for small businesses.

It’s important to note that a data breach can cost you a whole lot of money and damage your reputation beyond repair. Even if you have a strong firewall to prevent external data access, unencrypted data is still accessible to cybercriminals if your internal business network is infiltrated.

This is where encryption comes into play. It’ll make your sensitive business information useless to unauthorized parties as it’ll be unreadable without the decryption key. This way, only authorized individuals will be able to access and use your organizational data. It’ll provide your teams with a secure and private environment to use data conveniently.

Hackers typically target data assets that are easier to decode, but encryption ensures that everything remains unusable to outsiders. So, it also helps you avoid getting targeted by hackers to make sure that all your business operations are running smoothly.

Ensure Data Integrity

Data integrity is a critical aspect of data protection for businesses. When your business data is in transit, attackers can attempt to manipulate it, such as changing its content, type, or size, or copying or deleting files.

Keep in mind that poor data quality is the biggest reason why 40% of small businesses and startups fail to achieve their targets. That’s because it can lead to reduced productivity, inaccurate analytics, poor customer relations, and bad decisions.

Encryption can prevent this from happening and ensure the integrity of your data. It’ll keep your data accurate and consistent on all the digital tools and solutions you use, which is critical for the smooth workflow management of your business.

Additionally, high-quality data also helps you learn more about your customers and identify critical insights. This way, you can make data-driven decisions to grow your business and achieve your goals.

Therefore, you should consider data encryption a part of your company’s overall data security strategy.

Prevent Legal Fines and Forensics Investigations

In many industries, ensuring data security isn’t optional but mandatory due to regulatory requirements. For example, the HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) requires healthcare providers to implement security measures, to protect patients' health information online.

Similarly, the FERPA (Family Education Rights and Privacy Act) requires schools to secure the data of their students and the FCPA (Fair Credit Practices Act) mandates that retailers must protect their customer information.

Using data encryption technology can help your company comply with the required regulation(s) depending on your industry. It’s important to note that non-compliance with these regulations can result in legal consequences such as fines and forensic investigation.

It happened with the MD Anderson Cancer Center of the University of Texas back in 2018. A laptop was stolen from an employee’s home and it had 33,500 unencrypted patient records. It violated the HIPAA regulation and the center received a $4.3 million penalty.

The MD Anderson Cancer Center could have avoided this penalty if the data in the stolen laptop was encrypted. You don’t want your organization to fall victim to such an incident and utilizing the power of encryption technology can help you with that.

Increase Customer Trust

With the growing concern about data breaches and cyberattacks, customers are becoming more aware of the risks associated with sharing their personal information with businesses online. Recent statistics show that only 21% of online buyers believe that brands keep their personal data safe and secure.

Additionally, 77% of customers across the globe say that they’ll stop buying products/services from a company if it used their data irresponsibly or lost it. Therefore, protecting the data of your customers should be your top priority.

It’ll allow you to make your customers understand that their data is safe with your company. Not only will it help you increase customer trust but it can also offer your business a competitive edge.

Protect Remote Workers

Data encryption is one of the most important cybersecurity measures for remote employees. It’ll keep your sensitive data safe even if their devices fall into the wrong hands.

If you work with remote teams, you would already know that they sometimes need to use insecure public internet connections to connect to your company’s network. It increases the risk of cyberattacks and losing your organizational data.

The best way to prevent it is to ask all your remote employees to install VPN software on their mobile phones, laptops, tablets, and any other devices they use to access business resources. It’ll encrypt all the data being transmitted and prevent malicious actors from interpreting it, even if they intercept it.

Common Pitfalls to Avoid While Using Encryption

The following are some of the most common errors that many IT professionals make while implementing data encryption. It’s important to avoid these pitfalls to make sure that your encryption strategy works as intended.

Not Encrypting All Your Data

One common mistake is not encrypting all sensitive data. It’s easy to overlook some information, especially if it’s stored in separate silos across multiple data centers.

To avoid this, you should start with a comprehensive data discovery plan that covers the entire network to identify all data and categorize it correctly. It’ll ensure that you encrypt every piece of sensitive information.

Using the Wrong Type of Encryption

The type of encryption you use is also crucial, as using the wrong one can lead to vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit.

Choosing a complex algorithm with a higher-length key may enhance security, but it’ll reduce the performance and take more time and resources. The right strategy is to assess the sensitivity of the data to determine when this tradeoff is acceptable.

Ideally, the more sensitive the data, the more security should be favored over convenience.

Poor Key Management

Key management is crucial in ensuring a successful encryption strategy and failing to do so can undo all the good work done with encryption. That’s because a hacker will render your encryption efforts worthless if they can access the keys.

So, you should implement strict controls and procedures to ensure that all your encryption keys are stored securely.

Not Updating Encryption Protocols

Encryption technologies are constantly evolving, and failing to keep up with the latest developments can make your data vulnerable to cyber threats. So, it’s important to update your encryption protocols regularly to make sure that you’re using the most secure technologies.

Relying Too Heavily on Encryption

It’s a mistake to assume that data encryption can prevent all cyberattacks. Hackers are always looking for new ways to access data, and they can use social engineering tactics to trick employees into revealing sensitive information.

The right approach is to count encryption as just one component of your company’s security strategy. You should complement it with other security measures, such as employee training, access control, incident response plant, data backups, and security audits.

Final Words

Encryption is a crucial aspect of data security that every business should prioritize. It can help you protect your company’s sensitive information and prevent it from falling into the wrong hands.

By implementing encryption in your business’s daily workflows, you can mitigate the risks of cyberattacks and data breaches and maintain the integrity of your data.

We hope this guide has helped you understand the importance of encryption and how it can benefit your organization’s data security.