The Importance of Corporate Cryptography
Author: Lee Kearns
The Importance of Corporate Cryptography
Cybercrimes are becoming increasingly common and more challenging to prevent due to the continuous and rapid advancement in technology. It is becoming more difficult to bring the perpetrators responsible for these cybercrimes to justice. With the advances in technology, sending data across a network is becoming more popular, leaving this data vulnerable to various attacks. Data breaches and interceptions occur daily, exposing billions of sensitive information. Many businesses now manage and store their sensitive information in a cloud environment, leaving them vulnerable to being compromised by unwanted parties. This exposure enhances the need for businesses to incorporate cryptography into their security plans.
Cryptography is converting plaintext data into an unreadable format through mathematical functions. There are several approaches to securing data in cryptography, including encryption algorithms. Encryption consists of converting plain text data into ciphertext, and the decryption process converts ciphertext back into plain text. This is achieved using an encryption key, either symmetric or asymmetric encryption. With the increase in companies implementing cloud storage, encryption is essential for securing data.
The Importance of Encryption
The IBM 2021 Cost of a Data Breach report outlines that the average cost of a data breach is $4.24 million, which is the highest in the last 17 years. Considering this statistic, businesses must enhance their data security to ensure their sensitive data is protected using adequate measures. Arguably the most effective measure for securing data is encryption. If you have physical measures to secure your business, you should also implement digital security via encryption. Once cybercriminals learn that your company’s data is unencrypted, they will be sure to target your company and steal sensitive data. This can lead to detrimental effects on your company’s reputation.
The Purpose of Encryption
In short, encryption secures stored data on your company’s systems and network. Let’s say your company collects personally identifiable information (PII), for example, names, client and customer financial information (credit card), or birthdates. They are responsible for ensuring that information is secure to comply with several committees and organisations. If this data is compromised, your company may be held accountable and can face heavy fines.
Having identified the ramifications of not encrypting PII or other sensitive data, the need for encryption is vital. It is a security best practice to encrypt sensitive data. However, there is no harm in encrypting your entire hard drive. When securing your network using encryption algorithms, you must remember that this measure does not 100% secure your data as it can still be accessed through physical locations such as a server.
For this reason, the bulk of corporate companies are migrating to cloud-based platforms to store and secure their data. However, cloud-based platforms can still be compromised through insecure network connections or social engineering techniques such as phishing emails.
How Does Encryption Work?
The concept of encryption is not new. For example, writing in code is a simple form of encryption. However, as the technology evolved and progressed and computers began creating codes and keys to decipher these codes, encryption methods became quite complex. Today, cryptography uses math and computer science to create encryption algorithms. Despite its evolution, the main goal for encryption remains the same: Transform plaintext information into unreadable data, known as ciphertext, that only a person with the corresponding key can decipher. There are two forms of keys that encryption algorithms use that work differently. Symmetric keys (the same key is used for encryption and decryption) and Asymmetric keys (public key is used for encryption and a private key is used for decryption). In theory, the art of encryption protects your data. As mentioned previously, this data could be personally identifiable information. Therefore, encryption is an essential practice for corporate security. It ensures that the sensitive data is not readable by third parties in a cyberattack or information leak due to human error.
Encryption Algorithms for Corporate Security
As we now know, encryption can protect your most sensitive data and secure connections across the network. Over the last decade, continuous innovations to networks and the rapid evolution of cybercriminals have forced many encryption algorithms to become obsolete. The two leading industry-standard encryption algorithms are discussed below: Advanced Encryption Standard (symmetric) and Rivest-Shamir-Adleman (asymmetric).
One of the most secure symmetric encryption algorithms available is the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). The algorithm uses a block cipher that encrypts data one fixed-size block at a time. This process is more efficient than other methods, as others encrypt data one bit at a time.
AES is comprises of AES-128, AES-192, and AES-256. Since the size of each block is measured in bits, that means that AES-128 will operate on 128 bits of plaintext to produce 128 bits of ciphertext. This means that the key bit you choose encrypts and decrypts blocks in 128 bits, 192 bits, and so on.
AES is a symmetric encryption algorithm, meaning the user must share the encryption key with another individual to access the data. The longer the bit size of the key, the more robust the encryption. Therefore, AES-256 is the strongest of the three algorithms. However, if you have performance in mind, shorter key lengths make for exponentially faster encryption than longer keys, meaning AES-128 is the quickest of the three. Overall, AES algorithms are more suitable for encrypting the data because the keys require fewer resources and are faster than asymmetric algorithms.
If the main priority of your business does not revolve around an easy decryption process, then you may be more inclined to implement Rivest-Shamir-Adleman (RSA) encryption. RSA is considered one of the most secure and powerful encryption algorithms worldwide, supporting encryption key lengths from 2048 bits.
RSA functions by using two encryption keys, with the first key, known as the public key, encrypting the sensitive information and the second key, known as the private key, decrypting the private data. The encryption keys used in RSA algorithms are strong enough also to encrypt keys from other algorithms. One important thing to note about the RSA algorithm, although it is considered an ironclad encryption solution, if the private key is exposed, then the data can be compromised.
In times where cyber-terrorism is rapidly increasing and cyber gangs are constantly searching for confidential information to extort companies, encryption must be one of the first lines of defence mechanisms used to ensure the safety of data. Incorporating encryption as one of your corporate security strategies is an investment that pays for itself in a short period of time. The estimated cost of cybercrime is $10.5 trillion annually through 2025 for corporate companies worldwide.
With the pandemic and companies allowing work-from-home workstyles, cybercrime has become increasingly popular, exposing more risk to small and medium-sized businesses. According to data from an Accenture study, 43% of cyberattacks targeted small businesses, but only 14% of these businesses had adequate measures in place to defend themselves against these actions. Encryption is, therefore, an essential technique that must be implemented into a company’s data defence procedures.
Contact our team at SecuriCentrix for more information about Cryptography and its importance to corporate security.