What is encryption and why is it important for workplace data protection?
Encryption is the foundation of data protection and the most important way to ensure that information cannot be stolen and read. We know that the Internet is today the most widespread means of transporting information , and it is clear that the risks of misuse are often underestimated. This is why the need for some form of encryption is becoming more and more evident. This is why some form of encryption is increasingly necessary.
Although its origins are very old, encryption has today become an essential factor in telecommunications and in applications requiring a high level of protection of the data they contain.
However, many users are still constantly exchanging information without feeling the need to protect their sensitive data and risk making it accessible to everyone.
Let’s not forget that anyone can access the network – even malicious people – and applications are in fact increasingly vulnerable (just think of banking and tax applications). It is for this reason that the HTTPS protocol has been adopted for some time, which adds to the traditional HTTP protocol (where the data always circulates in the clear) a cryptographic algorithm (TLS) and a digital certificate, in order to declare the identity of the remote server and the person managing it.
When talking about a cryptographic algorithm, it is essential that it offers:
- authentication: process that certifies the identity of each participant in a communication;
- secrecy: essential to ensure that no one can read a message except the intended recipient;
- Integrity: protection against unauthorized alteration of the transmitted message (the material sent to the recipient must not be able to be modified before delivery).
- Non-repudiation: A mechanism to ensure that the sender of a message cannot deny having sent it.
These elements help prevent a cybercriminal from carrying out attacks such as sniffing and spoofing.
The first allows “spying” on the content of data packets in transit in search of useful information; the second, which targets IP addresses, consists of generating IP packets containing, as the sender’s IP address, a fake address that does not correspond to the one actually used by the attacker.
Encryption is used for precisely that: both to protect transmitted data against tampering or theft by attackers and to authenticate a user.
So what is encryption?
It is the conversion of data from a readable format into an encrypted format that can only be read or processed after it has been decrypted. Only the authorized person can decrypt the data and access the information in its original format. There are many methods to encrypt and decrypt data, but the key to success is not in the algorithm. The most important thing is to keep the cryptographic key (password) secret, or rather to ensure that only authorized people know it.
Encryption is the basis of data protection. It is the easiest and most important way to ensure that the information in a computer system cannot be stolen and read by someone who wants to use it for malicious purposes.
Employed by both individual users and businesses of all sizes, it is widely used on the Internet to protect user information sent between browser and server and to protect sensitive data on their servers and databases.
Today, communication – of whatever nature – occupies an increasingly central place in our lives; in the age of the internet, billions of pieces of information (including sensitive information) circulate on the net. For these reasons, it has become even more necessary to develop sophisticated systems capable of guaranteeing a high level of confidentiality for some of this data.
Computer encryption as we know it today is an ever-evolving subject. Paradoxically, greater security is guaranteed by systems that are already known and therefore publicly tested (which obviously cannot be guaranteed in the case of newer algorithms). Additionally, subject matter experts recommend sticking to and relying only on official reports, such as those published by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
Cryptography can therefore be defined as a system which, through a mathematical algorithm, acts on a sequence of characters by transforming it. This transformation is based on the value of a secret key, that is to say the parameter of the encryption/decryption algorithm. It is precisely the secret of this key that represents the security seal of any cryptographic system (in this respect, it is interesting to note the distinction between coding and encryption, the first serving to facilitate the storage or transmission of data, the second to keep the information secret).
Besides the obvious benefit of protecting private information from theft and tampering, encryption is also a means of proving that the information is genuine and comes from the stated source. It can be used to verify the origin of a message and confirm that it has not been altered during transmission.
Types of encryption
Depending on the key used, two types of encryption can be distinguished:
- Symmetric key, also known as secret key algorithm, where messages can only be decoded by the person who knows the password. These cryptographic schemes are not normally used on the internet because the password obviously cannot travel over the same channel (otherwise it could fall prey to malicious users wishing to decode the message). The password can at best be shared through other channels, but that’s definitely not the best approach for exchanging messages with remote users.
- Asymmetric key: this method uses two different keys, public (which can be shared with anyone) and private (which must be kept secret).
To encrypt a text, it is therefore sufficient, with asymmetric encryption, to use the public key of the recipient of the message, whereas the latter must necessarily have his private key to decrypt it.
Finally, there is a third type of encryption, called end-to-end encryption (mainly used by WhatsApp, Messenger or Telegram), which helps protect privacy and communication by using two pairs of cryptographic keys necessary for encryption and decryption. messages en route from one end of the communication to the other. Each user will use a public key and a private key, which are inextricably linked. The private key will remain on the device of both “communicators” and will be used to decrypt incoming messages; the public key, on the other hand, will be shared with the other party and will be used to encrypt outgoing messages. This encryption makes it possible to render harmless the attempts of attacks of the type “man-in-the-middle”,
Encryption, in the field of information security, has therefore become (also thanks to the introduction of the GDPR – General Data Protection Regulation) a fundamental tool to protect data, stored or in transit, against unauthorized access. or prying eyes, but above all it has become necessary to prevent accidental disclosures that could occur due to the unconsciousness of users who handle the information incorrectly, thus allowing data theft or other unfortunate events. In addition to the introduction of the HTTPS protocol, this encryption system has also been implemented at the level of company archive files for the exchange of messages in the corporate world,
It is only by understanding and properly implementing the various steps, such as those outlined above, that a business and its valuable assets (which are typically archived and managed data) come to life. safe from most cyber risks, in a simple way to implement and safe from most cyber attacks.