How to Secure Your Data: Encryption at Rest and in Transit

Protecting data at rest and in motion is essential. But which encryption at rest and in transit tactics should you use, and will they be enough?

Best Practices to Protect Your Data and Business from Cyberattack

Securing your data from malicious attack, unauthorized access, loss, or manipulation should be among your strategic business priorities. With the right data security measures, protecting your data will also protect your business.

When choosing how to secure your data, encryption is crucial. But which type of data encryption you use depends on several factors ─ including whether the data is at rest or in transit.

What is the difference between data at rest and data in transit?

Data in transit (or data in motion) refers to data that is being transmitted from one location to another. This might be across the internet or through a private network, or from a local storage device to cloud storage.

Protecting sensitive data in transit is vital because it is highly susceptible to interception.

Data at rest is a term that refers to data stored on a single device or network. It’s not moving from one device to another. Nor is it being transitioned from network to network. Data protection at rest aims to secure inactive data on any device, local storage like a flash drive, or a single network.

Securing data at rest vs data in transit

Commonly, protecting data at rest and in motion is achieved by using data at rest and data in motion encryption. And again, there are different tactics to use for encryption at rest and in transit. 

How to secure data in transit

If you think of data in transit as products that are in a truck being moved from the warehouse to the store, it’s easy to see how vulnerable your data is when it is in motion. Tactics to secure this type of data include:

  • End-to-end encryption, which encodes the data as soon as it is moved. This prevents anyone from reading it until it reaches the intended recipient. This type of encryption is used for email.

  • Pre-transit encryption, which encrypts the data before it is transmitted.

  • Using encrypted connections, such as HTTPS, SSL, TLS, FTPS, etc.

How to secure data at rest

There are three primary tactics to encrypt data at rest. All transform the information held from plaintext to ciphertext, making it unreadable without the decryption key. This prevents the reading of the data to access sensitive information.

The three tactics are:

  1. Full disk encryption, which protects the entire hard disk ─ for example, if it were to be stolen or lost

  2. File-level encryption, which protects data in individual files and directories

  3. Database encryption, which protects all stored data by encrypting in real-time, whether online or offline and ensuring there is no loss of functionality

Never rely on data encryption alone

You need to protect your most valuable assets like a bank protects its money or like Fort Knox protects its gold. They don’t rely only on a locked vault. They have timed systems, CCTV, security guards, alarm systems, access controls, and so on. Why? Because they know that the more layers of security they have, the more protected they are.

You should take a similar approach, investing in a range of data security measures to build a ring of defenses around your data.

In addition to data encryption at rest and in transit, you should also:

  • Implement robust network security controls

These include technical controls like firewalls and antivirus software, administrative controls such as segregation of duties and categorization of access levels, and physical controls such as locked office doors and alarm systems.

  • Use proactive security measures

Proactive security focuses on the prevention of cyberattacks and IT security. It includes tactics such as continuing security awareness training, penetration testing to identify potential vulnerabilities, and proactive network monitoring.

  • Develop and employ fit-for-purpose data protection policies and solutions

The effectiveness of your data security is founded on an effective data protection policy. 

Security policy best practices include developing policies that cover employee security training, password management, acceptable use, and disaster recovery. You’ll need to identify everything on your network, control access, encrypt or mask data, and ensure that your security policy is aligned with your business goals. And you’ll need to review your policy regularly.

Solutions include automatic encryption of sensitive data, user prompting, and access controls.

  • Create policies for classifying data promptly

One of the weakest links in the chain is poor data classification processes. Data is entered into your system’s database without classification and categorization. It is therefore left unprotected (or under-protected). Often, this situation results in reams of unprotected data on a system.

To protect against this, put in place policies and procedures that make it mandatory to classify and categorize data as soon as it is entered into your system.

What data protection tactics should you employ?

There are many strategies you can employ to make sure your data is safe. Data encryption is essential, and often required by law. However, you should never rely on encryption alone.

To develop an effective data protection strategy, you should first identify what data is stored on your network and devices, how that data is used (whether it is at rest or in motion), and determine network, device, and human vulnerabilities. From this starting point, you can then begin to determine which tactics your company needs to protect its data, its customers, its reputation, and its business.

According to a survey by the Ponemon Institute, 76% of small and medium businesses reported a cyberattack in 2019 – and this is growing. 

If you’re looking for help to protect your data effectively, contact Millennium Enterprises.

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