What Is Data Encryption?

In the world of cyber security, there are few things as essential but invisible as data encryption. Data encryption takes data and scrambles it into a code called “ciphertext” or “cipherscript” according to one or many algorithms. This renders the data unreadable and useless, even if it is in a leak. Without the decryption key, the data is useless. Along with effective key management, encryption solutions can protect your data from outside attacks and prevent the theft of sensitive information such as passwords or customer details.

You can apply data encryption to both stored data and data that is being transmitted – This is referred to as data that is “at rest” or “in use.” Data at rest is within hard drives, registers, and archives and is broken down into static or inconstant data. Static data may include archives or OS files, or other things that are not expected to change, ever. Inconstant data is data that could change, such as reference tables. Data in use is data being sent or received or data that frequently changes, such as queries or databases.

Data encryption can be further broken down into symmetric and asymmetric encryption. Both of these have their advantages and disadvantages.

What is Symmetric Encryption?

A fast and efficient way to encrypt and decrypt data, symmetric encryption uses the same key for both encryption and decryption. However, having this single key presents a potential security risk. If someone captures the key, it could access, modify, or destroy information. It can then be re-encrypted while disguising the action as an authorized use case.

What is Asymmetric Encryption?

Asymmetric Encryption is an alternate take to encryption keys. This method of algorithmic encryption can use a “public key” and a “private key.” The encryption is performed according to the public key – Which does not necessarily mean the general public, but in the sense of a business – And then decrypted using the private key. This way, only those with the proper key can access the data, just like a safe deposit box.

What Does it Mean to Salt and Pepper Encryption?

As mentioned earlier, encryption uses algorithms to scramble data into unreadable strings. Salting refers to another random, algorithmic string. Peppering is when you add an additional random string before the string. This creates a longer string with random characters before encryption, increasing its difficulty to decrypt. For example, if we wanted to encrypt the word “Apple” and salt it, the algorithm may produce “Apple-3e19cF” before encryption, while peppering this salted string may result in “9#RvEgApple-3e19cF.” Encryption keys include the algorithm for salts and peppers to remove these additions during decryption.

Do Multiple Layers of Encryption Help?

It depends. The primary purpose of encryption is to defend against brute force attacks. If an upper layer of encryption has a password or access key that is weaker than the layer it is covering, it could compromise your security, where otherwise it may have done fine. However, this is an area of intense debate in the intelligence community.

The Takeaway

Encryption is an essential part of protecting yourself from attacks. It is a robust complication that protects data. There is never any reason not to use it, especially for storing passwords or identifying information that could harm you, your business, or your customers. If your data is not currently encrypted, reach out for a consultation and let us know about your specific needs.