How-to: Protect Your Sensitive Files with End-to-End Encryption
Data at Risk
End-to-End Encryption – In recent years there have been lots of security incidents, many of them data breaches. And they are getting more every day. In 2019, according to EY Global Information Security Survey 2020 U.S. firms lost 654 Billion US-Dollars through cyberattacks. 60% of global companies state that they were affected by a substantial or significant cyberattack.
As if this was not enough, there has been an increasing number of cyberattacks since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The crisis forced us to move from the familiar work environment to working from a workroom at home, a kitchen, or even a bedroom.
For most companies, the abrupt change and the complete relocation or new setup of the IT infrastructure was a major challenge – promising conditions for hackers who knew how to exploit the crisis for their own benefit. Some important data was suddenly no longer as protected as before. Data theft, espionage, cyber threats – there are lots of risks employees must face when working with data whether in the office or at home.
If the worst happens and a company loses sensitive data, they have to face a bunch of negative consequences. These include high fees that come with GDPR related incidents, negative business reputation when personal data falls into the wrong hands, competitive disadvantages when business secrets come to light, and many more.
Why Data Needs to be Protected
Of course, there is data that you want to get out in the open and share with everyone. However, a major part of your data for sure is sensitive, protected, or confidential. Every company has secrets they want to keep (secure).
With more and more people working from home or remotely, it also becomes more and more difficult to collaborate in an easy but at the same time secure way. To use cloud computing is quite convenient: A cloud storage offers companies flexibility, easy integration, reduced costs, among other advantages.
However, companies that store data in the cloud suffer from an increased risk of data theft. Storing data not only on internal servers but also on cloud storages means that you relinquish control over your business data and – at least initially until you make your own precautionary measures – place the security of the data in the hands of third parties.
From a legal perspective, the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) demands strong protection of personal data. Therefore, companies that store and process the personal data of European citizens must take measures to conscientiously protect this data.
For example, most big cloud storage providers like Microsoft, Google, or Dropbox are U.S. companies. You should be aware that according to U.S. law, the government can force cloud providers to grant members of the government or law enforcement agencies a peek into their customers’ data.
To be GDPR compliant, companies must ensure that no unauthorized access is possible and that they always know who has access to personal data. The responsibility for the protection and security of the data cannot be transferred to the cloud provider. It is borne solely by the company that owns the data.
As you can see: There is a major need for companies to protect their business data.
Keeping Secrets with the Help of Encryption
End-to-End Encryption – There is a solution to your issue: Use encryption and make sure you are the only one who has the key to your data.
“Encryption is becoming a popular way to protect company data. As recently as 2005, only about 15% of US companies surveyed by the Ponemon Institute had an encryption strategy. In 2020, that figure was up to 48%, with payment, financial, and personnel records the top choices for encryption. Still, it leaves the data at more than half of firms exposed and potentially unprotected.” (Source: csoonline.com)
With encryption, you have one more layer of protection — even if your storage provider already offers good security measures. Only authorized persons are allowed to open the file and see the information in plain text. People who are not authorized to see the files and do not have the key to decrypt it only see scrambled data.
There are different cryptographic algorithms like AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) as an example of symmetric encryption and RSA, which is asymmetric encryption. If you want to try to break, for example, state-of-the-art AES 256-bit encryption symmetric keys with Brute Force, it will take 13.8 billion years to crack — at a rough guess. (Source: purevpn.com)
File encryption helps you to ensure secure collaboration on sensitive business files. It is one of the safest ways for companies and organizations to transmit and store data. However, even with encryption, there are differences and different approaches to look out for. We strongly recommend end-to-end encryption with zero knowledge standard.
End-to-end encryption means that files are encrypted on the user’s device before they are sent to the cloud provider as well as any other place you want to store them, e.g., USB, file server, NAS. Zero knowledge means that only the user knows the password, only he has the key to decrypt the data.
Picture: End-to-end encryption of a word document before it is synchronized to a cloud storage
Companies that need to comply with legal and industry restrictions can ensure compliance by using encryption. Furthermore, when it comes to GDPR, encryption is a technical and organizational measure to protect sensitive business data (Article 32, GDPR).
Once you can prove that encryption was used to protect files, it is no longer a data protection incident, even if data was obviously stolen. If files were encrypted before an incident, the thief has no way to view the information. He or she just holds a bunch of scrambled data in his or her own hands.
It is important that the encryption used in a company is easy to use and does not affect the regular workflow too much. Only then, will all your employees be willing to use encryption and keep data secure.
Enterprise Encryption in Everyday Work
End-to-End Encryption – Fortunately, there is enterprise-ready software that is specialized in encryption. With such a solution, you can realize secure and easy collaboration — with internal but also external business contacts. Furthermore, you can restrict access rights so that only those employees get access to files and folders that are supposed to.
If you are looking for a suitable encryption solution, there are a few things you should pay attention to. Here are a few examples:
- Encryption: Are public encryption methods (e.g., AES, RSA) used?
- Key Management: Are you the only one who can decrypt files? Can you access company files in case of an emergency, even if the password is lost?
- Flexibility: Does the encryption solution work for different storage locations like cloud storage, USB storage devices, hard drives, or file servers?
- Usability: Is it an intuitive, simple application?
- Additional security features: Are there further security features like Two-factor Authentication?
Once your company has chosen a suitable encryption solution and successfully implemented it in the daily handling of sensitive data, your data protection officer will certainly be able to sleep better again. Thanks to encryption software, your company can realize privacy regulation-compliant cloud security.
Picture: Screenshot of the encryption solution Boxcryptor on a Windows device.
How-to: Protect Your Sensitive Files with End-to-End Encryption