The Limitations of Data Encryption

Is data encryption the beginning and end of data security? We discuss the limitations of data encryption, how it works, and how to select for your needs.

Tips to Help Your Business Choose the Best Data Protection

In today’s digital world, there are many ways in which your organization’s sensitive data can be compromised. Cybercriminals and hackers are becoming more sophisticated, and are devising more complex strategies to attack your network, steal or intercept your data.

One of the key strategies that you can use to protect your data and prevent it from being used by unauthorized people is data encryption ─ the process of encoding data so that it can only be read by a certain entity. Encrypted data looks like gibberish until it is decoded, and to decode it you must have the decryption key.

Now, you might immediately jump to the conclusion that all your data should be encrypted. But that strategy wouldn’t consider the limitations of encryption.

To help you make the best choice for your data protection strategy, in this article we share the disadvantages of data encryption and give tips to help you select the best solutions to protect your data.

What Is Data Encryption? How Does It Work?

Data encryption is a way of protecting information by transforming it into an unreadable format. Data encryption software encrypts data with a key before storing it or sending it out, making it impossible for hackers to access and steal sensitive information. 

Time to get a little technical!

There are several approaches to data encryption, but these can mostly be categorized into symmetric, asymmetric, and hashing.

What Is Symmetric Encryption?

Symmetric encryption is also known as secret key algorithm or private-key cryptography. To read the data, you need the same key as was used to encrypt the data. It’s crucial that you ensure that both parties store the key securely.

What Is the Asymmetric Encryption?

Asymmetric encryption is also known as public-key encryption and is a system that has two keys ─ one private and one public. The two keys are linked. You encrypt data with the public key and decrypt it with the private key.

What Is Hashing?

Whether hashing is an encryption method is often debated, but it is worth noting. It’s a system that creates a unique signature for each dataset. Each hash is different, making it easy to track any alterations made. You cannot reverse hashed data back to its original state, which is why it’s a good method to verify the data sent ─ the only reason that hashing is used.

Encryption ─ It’s Algorithmic!

To encrypt data, we use what is known as encryption algorithms ─ and there are a ton available. Here are a few of the most used:

  • The Advanced Encryption Standard (AES)

AES is considered by many experts to be the gold standard of encryption algorithms and is widely used by the federal government. It takes an awful lot of muscle to crack into and is becoming increasingly popular for use by private companies.

  • Triple DES

Originally, the Data Encryption Standard algorithm was the go-to algorithm ─ until cybercriminals learned how to break the code. Triple DES applies the DES algorithm three times ─ that’s a lot of encrypting.

  • RSA (Rivest–Shamir–Adleman)

RSA is an asymmetric encryption algorithm and is a standard algorithm used to encrypt data that is sent over the internet. However, when transmitting large volumes of data, can slow things down.

  • Blowfish and Twofish

Also designed to replace DES, Blowfish is a public domain encryption algorithm. It’s fast and flexible and is used by many eCommerce platforms and secure payment applications. Its successor, Twofish, is even faster and used in hardware and software environments.

Okay, that’s enough of the technical stuff. If there’s anything you’d like further clarified, don’t hesitate to send us a message. Even though we’ve got decades of experience in the game, and we are highly technical (we must be), we are also human ─ and we break things down, so you’ll understand all the key terms and concepts.

The Limitations of Data Encryption

While data encryption is crucial to keeping your data safe from prying eyes, there are some limitations to its use and usefulness. Here are the three primary disadvantages of data encryption:

  1. It requires a password or key

The thing that makes data encryption so strong is also one of its biggest downfalls ─ in the wrong hands.

Are you the kind of person who is always losing your car key? Do you sit in front of your laptop, scratching your head because you can’t remember the password to your online bank account? Do you go to pay for something with your credit card, only to discover you’ve forgotten your PIN?

If this sounds like you, then take care with encryption! Using simple encryption keys makes your data more vulnerable. So, you employ more complex encryption keys ─ but if you lose the key then the encrypted data becomes useless. And you cannot simply reset the key, as you would with your online banking password, for example.

  1. Data encryption is expensive

Unlike protecting a bank account with a secret PIN, data encryption requires a lot of resources. And it takes time to execute. You’ll need to select which algorithms to use for encryption, and you’ll need to apply these to the appropriate data ─ and that takes huge amounts of data processing.

The bottom line is that data encryption as a solution is two things ─ essential, but expensive.

  1. The more protection you seek, the more difficult it is to implement

Volume encryption is not enough to protect data on the move. It cannot provide any level of access management or data separation. Therefore, cell-level encryption should be used in combination with volume encryption. However, the deeper the level of encryption, the harder it is to implement ─ and this also loops back to greater expense and the possibility of losing the keys.

The Bottom Line: Don’t Ignore the Limitations of Data Encryption

Data encryption is a crucial security measure that needs to be taken. However, as with any other technology, there are limitations to data encryption too. 

If the encryption key gets lost or stolen, all your encrypted data will be rendered useless.

You’ll also need to prioritize which data is encrypted, considering not only the sensitivity of the information held but also your budget.

And encryption becomes increasingly more complicated the deeper you need your encryption to go.

How Do You Choose the Best Solutions for Data Protection?

There are a lot of different solutions for data protection. It’s important to explore the options and choose the one that best suits your needs.

When considering data encryption as a data security measure, you must consider several factors. When we work with small and medium businesses, we find it best to consider the same factors that you would when making any strategic business decision:

  • Usability: Is it easy to manage and deploy?

  • Scalability: Can it grow with your business growth? Does it fit your business goals?

  • Cross-platform: Is it compatible across your entire network?

  • Adaptability: Will it easily integrate into your existing work processes?

  • Compliance: Will it meet the standards required by applicable regulations?

Assessing data protection solutions is complex. 

For example, when considering data encryption, you might veer toward symmetric data encryption. It’s faster than asymmetric data encryption. On the other hand, you’ll need to ensure that both parties store the key securely and that the key is only available to the software using it ─ which is why it functions most effectively on closed systems.

Because of this type of complexity, you’ll need the help of independent, third-party experts to deliver the bespoke data protection package that is most suitable for your business.

You should also remember that, while data encryption is crucial, it is not the only way to protect your data. 

You should build a multi-faceted data protection strategy that encompasses layers of protection, thus increasing the challenge for hackers and cybercriminals to break into your systems and data. 

The more difficult you make intrusion, and the more frustrating you make it to breach your network, the more likely it is that an attacker will give up and move on.

Whatever you do, put data protection at the heart of your business strategy. The consequences of a data breach can put your customers at risk, and reveal your intellectual property to the world. If this happens, the damage to your brand’s reputation may be irreversible.

Are you unsure of where to begin? Contact Millennium Enterprises for help with all your cyber security needs.

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