What is Data Encryption & Why It is Important in a Work or Personal Environment

Importance of Data Encryption

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Data encryption is available on many of the applications and devices we use daily. In most cases, it is quite easy to toggle "on" as well. It would also seem as if many internet users are beginning to realize the importance of encrypting their data online. A recent article by Chad Skipper of VMware notes "the percentage of encrypted web traffic on the Internet has steadily increased, from around 50% in 2014 to between 80% and 90% today..."

Why was there such a significant jump in encryption usage? Are people beginning to realize its benefits to the security of their data? Continue reading as we examine these questions and more.

What is data encryption?

In its simplest form, data encryption is a technology that allows information to be concealed from others thanks to the use of advanced algorithms. In essence, this turns normal data, how we consume it online (plain-text data), into unreadable data.

What files need to be encrypted?

Though the decision to encrypt certain data is up to you or the organization you work for, there are a few items that should always be protected with file encryption:

  • Personal Identifiable information: This can include social security numbers, drivers licenses, credit cards, and more. If you choose to store or send this type of information on a device like a laptop, make sure it is encrypted. When this type of data is stolen, it can result in a compromised identity or other similar fate.
  • Business and intellectual property: Most businesses prefer to keep a certain level of confidentiality when it comes to plans for a new product, new leads, and other upcoming developments. Since most of this data would likely be stored on a computer, businesses would want to ensure that the information is encrypted. This is because this information could prove valuable if it were to get into the hands of cyber-criminals or competitors.
  • When it comes to business, the type of data chosen for encryption may vary. However, customer information, financial data, and research and development information, should always receive the utmost level of security.
  • Backups: Whether for business or personal purposes, backups of your data should always be encrypted. If your device is lost, stolen or wiped, this backup will be critical in getting you up and running again, so be sure to protect it with an added layer of security.

Still not convinced? Here are 3 reasons why encryption is important

Even though you should encrypt the above-mentioned data (and more), it doesn't mean you will. In a recent article, Norton provides a few additional reasons as to why encryption is important for overall security of certain data at work or home:

  1. Internet privacy concerns DO exist

    You may feel invincible online....until the unexpected happens. A message appears demanding you (or your company) pay a large sum of money for the release of confidential information. Your data is now encrypted, but it has been done so by the wrong person.

    Avoid situations like a ransomware attack by taking internet privacy seriously. As Norton explains, "encryption helps protect your online privacy by turning personal information into 'for your eyes only' messages intended strictly for the parties that need them -- and no one else."

  2. Hacking has become big business

    Cybercrime is worldwide. While you secure physical spaces from potential communal threats, you must secure your online community as well. However, online communities are much larger and prone to risk from both national and international cybercriminals.

  3. Regulations

    In some cases, encrypting data is a personal preference. In other cases, it is the law. To use the healthcare industry as an example, Norton points out that the "Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requires healthcare providers to implement security features that help protect patients' sensitive health information online."

Next steps

By this point, we hope that you understand the importance of encryption of sensitive data. Whether at work or home, no one is safe from the threat that cybercriminals pose. Though there are many steps one can take to protect themselves, encrypting data makes it "unreadable" to those who shouldn't be seeing it.

If you are running a business, consider checking on government regulations for the particular industry in which you operate. You may be required to encrypt or take a specific action when it comes to customer or patient data. Even if it is not mandated by law, you may still want to encrypt sensitive data regardless.

As a personal technology user, be sure to encrypt any sensitive personal identifiable information that you have saved.

In all cases, perform regular encrypted backups, and consider storing sensitive information using a cloud-based service.