What are the Benefits of Encryption?

Whether you’re a home user or a business, encryption is becoming more of a necessity. But what is encryption, and what are its benefits?

Put simply, encryption takes your data from a readable format and scrambles it, rendering it unreadable without a unique decryption key. With data breaches becoming more and more common, your private data could potentially be stolen and sold, or used to blackmail you or your business. Encryption can be hardware-based or software-based. Hardware encryption is self-contained within a device, such as elf-encrypting drives (SEDs) or iPhones. Because the encryption is always turned on, it makes it harder for hackers to break. Software encryption uses a software program to encrypt data; one example is BitLocker. Software encryption is very cheap to implement. Windows 10 Pro and Enterprise come with BitLocker included, and it’s incredibly easy to set up.

Encryption is particularly important right now with the advent of home working. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we work, with more of us working from home than ever before – and it looks like that’s here to stay. If you’re a business, it makes sense to implement encryption for your employees who are working from home. The risk of a data breach is more likely when working remotely, particularly when working in public places like cafés. When using unsecure public Wi-Fi, it’s advisable to use a virtual private network (VPN) to protect any confidential data stored on your laptop.

With the sheer amount of personal data we store on our devices, encryption is a no-brainer. Files such as photos and financial documents can be a goldmine for cybercriminals. Photos, for example, may embed location data, potentially revealing your home address. Financial documents such as tax returns contain a vast array of personal details, such as your national insurance number. If your data is encrypted and your data does get stolen, it will be unreadable. One of the latest ransomware trends is to steal an individual or company’s data and use the threat of leaking it as blackmail; encryption will make this impossible.

If you’re a business, encryption can help you comply with data protection laws. Things used to be fairly simple, but with the passage of legislation such as the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), things are a bit more complicated. The general theme, though, is a focus on protecting customers’ data, and restricting access to a “need-to-know” basis. Encryption enables businesses to meet these requirements, as only individuals with the decryption key can access the data.

While there are some disadvantages associated with encryption – such as slower speeds as the encryption software does its thing – overall, the benefits outweigh this.