Data Encryption

What Is Data Encryption?

Data encryption is a method that can allow you to safeguard electronic information by preventing unauthorized access to files. Encryption software works by converting "plain text" data that can easily be read into encrypted data via use of complex mathematical operations and a unique key. An encryption keys work in a similar manner to physical keys to doors or or a locked filing cabinet. Without the key, it is often extremely difficult to gain access to encrypted data. Most often encryption keys take the form of passphrases where only individuals who have the passphrase can unencrypt and view the data.

What Issues / Risks Are Related To Data Encryption?

Because access to encrypted data is dependent on your key (see above), it is possible that if you lose your key you may lose access to your data. For this reason it is very important to consider how you might securely backup and protect your encryption key when considering encryption.

Why Would You Want to Encrypt Your Devices Or Files?

Most often when a computing device is lost or stolen, the data on the device is unencrypted and therefore easy to access (even if the device is password protected). However when you use encryption then you can have greater confidence that sensitive data remains private. Another common use of encryption is create encrypted containers (more below) so that even if a computer is infected with malware there is an additional layer of protection that may thwart intruders from accessing less frequently used confidential or sensitive data.

What Are Some Different Data Encryption Methods?

  • Full Disk Encryption - This type of encryption is used to safeguard all data stored on a hard-drive including the operating system. 
  • File Level Encryption - This type of encryption uses a single key or multiple keys to encrypt a single file or series of files only.
  • Container Based Encryption - This type of encryption provides encryption of a container file that internally contains other files that can be read (i.e. encrypted zip file).

How To

Encrypting Personal Devices

Important Note:  Your data encryption protection is that is only as secure as your encryption key.  Make sure to use strong pass-phrases for your key that are easy to recall. If you store your key (i.e. write down passphrase) make sure you store it in a safe location.