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Data protection is vital to the survival and success of businesses.  One way that businesses protect their data is by encrypting it. They do this by using specialist software or by using VPNs to encrypt the information and data that they transmit, send, and handle.

Encryption can be, for a lot of people, a very confusing subject. If it’s something that you don’t understand or want to learn more about, then you’re in the right place.

Here is how encryption works and what you need to know about it:

computer code on screen

What Is Encryption?

Encryption is a method employed to scramble data so that it can only be understood by authorized individuals.  In order for data to be scrambled, a cryptographic key is required. A cryptographic key is a set of mathematical values, agreed upon by the data’s sender and its recipient. These keys can then be stored in a cloud HSM or a physical HSM, to prevent anybody from being able to access them.

An HSM (hardware security model) is a storage device that’s used exclusively to store cryptographic keys. They are a highly robust form of storage, which ensure complete data protection.

If you do not store your cryptographic keys in places such as this, then they could get stolen or leaked. It’s not outside the realm of possibility for a very skilled or experienced hacker to be able to crack the mathematical values of a key, in order to then access the data stored within.

Types of Encryption

There are two main types of encryption, symmetric encryption and asymmetric encryption.  The symmetric encryption method means that there is only one cryptographic key, and all parties involved use the same key for encryption and then subsequent decryption. With asymmetric encryption, however, there are two keys.

One key is used to encrypt data, then another key is used to decrypt it. The decryption key is kept a secret, whereas the encryption key is public. Most businesses and security specialists use asymmetric encryption because it is much more secure and generally superior to symmetric encryption.

The Use of VPNs

VPNs (or virtual private networks) are used to encrypt one’s personal information, location, and any data that’s being submitted. However, it is important to note that VPNs are not storage devices; they can only encrypt information for you while you’ve got the program turned on. Once it’s turned off, you will become visible again. Most security specialists recommend that businesses should use VPNs at all times. The constant use of VPNs then means that businesses don’t have to worry about being exposed to hackers, cybercriminals, or anybody that’s watching them and trying to steal from them.

Benefits of Encryption

people at table

Privacy

One of the main benefits of encryption is that it provides businesses and individual entrepreneurs with privacy.  Encrypting data means that nobody other than the sender and the intended user will be able to read or access it.  This means that businesses can safely transmit data without having to worry about the data being read or accessed by anybody else. If data was in theory accessed, then it could lead to businesses having very sensitive information stolen, such as their customer information, or the details of financial transactions. Privacy is something all businesses should want for their data.

Security

In addition to privacy, encryption also gives businesses the comfort of knowing that their data is secure. Whenever data is encrypted, it is secured. Very few hackers are actually talented enough to be able to crack cryptographic keys and steal data. When they do, it is because they have guessed it. This is called a ‘brute force’ attack.  However, hackers do not try to guess themselves. Instead, they use software and programs to do it. Even so, modern encryption methods are mostly superior to such programs, which prevents cryptographic keys from being broken.

Regulations

Finally, if you do not look after your customer’s personal and financial data, then you can get yourself into a lot of trouble. The financial conduct authorities require businesses to ensure that the data they handle is thoroughly protected.

By encrypting data, you are conforming to these regulations, meaning you aren’t likely to get fined or punished.  Businesses who do not encrypt their data can not only be fined, but they can also lose the trust of their customers. After all, who wants to do business with a company that doesn’t take steps to protect customers from hackers and fraud?

Data protection isn’t something to be taken lightly. You need to make sure that your business’s data is encrypted and protected from criminals. As mentioned in this post, if it isn’t, you could receive fines, penalties, and scorn from customers.