Encryption is the process of scrambling data to make it unreadable to unauthorized users. It’s one of the most important components of any information security strategy, especially where sensitive data is transmitted across unsecured mediums like the internet. However, encryption is also important for data in storage, whether it lives in the cloud or on endpoint devices, such as smartphones, laptops, or workstations. Your IT budget should cover endpoint encryption, as well as full end-to-end encryption for all data in transit.
Why Include Endpoint Encryption on Your Annual IT Budget?
How Does it Work?
Cryptography has been around since ancient times. However, old-fashioned ciphers are easily broken by a brute-force hack, which simply tries every possible combination of characters until it finds the right decryption key. Modern encryption engines use 128- or 256-bit ciphers, which mean there are 2128 or 2256 possible combinations. That’s many orders of magnitude too many for all the world’s supercomputers working in unison to break. The most common encryption standard in use today is AES-256, which is impossible to break with a brute-force hack.
That’s not to say there aren’t limitations of encryption. For example, most cyberattacks include a social engineering element, which might involve duping an unsuspecting user into divulging their decryption keys. Also, because there’s a risk of forgetting long and complex passwords, there’s a tendency to use simpler ones, as well as reuse passwords across multiple accounts. These habits can completely negate the usefulness of encryption. As such, encryption isn’t a panacea for all security needs, but it does still offer a vital layer of protection.
Benefits of Including Endpoint Encryption in Your Annual IT Budget
#1. Protect Data at Rest
Endpoint encryption refers to encrypting data in storage, typically by encrypting the entire disk or partition. This ensures the device remains protected even if it is lost or stolen and ends up in the wrong hands. This is especially important in the days of remote work, where employees routinely use smartphones and laptops in their jobs. Since these devices face a much higher risk of loss or theft, it’s imperative that the data on them be kept secure. AES, or the advanced encryption standard, is usually used to protect data at rest.
#2. Move Data Securely
Cyberattacks often involve intercepting sensitive data in transit, such as when it’s being sent over an unsecured public network or between an office network and a remote, cloud-hosted storage service. Not only should encryption be applied to all endpoints, including those hosted in the cloud – you should also encrypt data in transit. End-to-end encryption works in real time to ensure data is safe from wireless eavesdropping and man-in-the-middle attacks. Even if an attacker does manage to intercept your communications, they won’t be able to see the data.
#3. Secure Multiple Devices
Modern endpoint encryption is highly scalable, which is why it must be an integral part of your technology budget plan. Applying security by design and default means ensures that every device or virtualized computing resource added to your network is encrypted from the outset. This is also easier for administrators, since they can instantly provision new computing resources via a centralized dashboard where they can also enforce company security policies.
#4. Ensure Regulatory Compliance
Encryption is a key component of many compliance regulations and standards, such as those provided by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). NIST forms the basis of many regulatory frameworks, such as those designed to protect healthcare information and financial data. Even if a particular regulation doesn’t explicitly mandate encryption, it’s simply a standard and universal practice for protecting sensitive information. As such, encrypting your data will take you one step closer towards achieving full regulatory compliance.
#5. Maintain Data Integrity
Cyberattacks don’t always involve the theft of sensitive data, at least not directly. Sometimes, an attacker might attempt to inject malicious code into unencrypted data, whether it’s at rest or in transit. For example, they might use such methods to spread ransomware or deliberately manipulate the data. In other cases, unencrypted data might be deliberately falsified to cause widespread disruption. Encrypting your data doesn’t just protect it against theft – it also helps it maintain its integrity and provide a canonical source of truth.
Which Data Should Be Encrypted?
All potentially sensitive data should be encrypted. This includes any personally identifiable or financial data, patient health information, and internal assets like trade secrets. Furthermore, every device used to store such information must be protected by endpoint encryption, while all communication channels used to transmit it must be protected by end-to-end encryption.
Charles IT provides endpoint encryption and managed security services to safeguard your data no matter where it lives. Contact us today to schedule a consultation!
Editors note: This blog was originally published on November 20th, 2020 and was updated on January 6th, 2023 for accuracy.