Data Encryption in a Nutshell

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A pillar of many cybersecurity protocols and procedures, data encryption is used to protect sensitive information during transmission, at rest, and on lost or stolen devices. Encryption uses complex mathematical models to scramble data in a form that is unreadable by anyone who doesn’t have the decryption key. It’s commonly used in daily activities such as sending and receiving emails, online shopping, and online banking. However, encryption is even more critical for organizations that handle sensitive personal or financial information or confidential communications, like hospitals and banks, military organizations, power and energy companies, and insurance providers.

Public Private Key Encryption

Unlike traditional data security measures, such as firewalls and VPNs, which are used to protect against hackers, data encryption can be deployed at the application, network, or database level. It’s often based on public-private key encryption, where the same encryption key is used to encrypt and decrypt data, or symmetric cryptography, which requires both parties to have the same key. Other methods include, where data is converted into a fixed-length string of characters that can’t be reversed.

Security Provided by Data Encryption

In addition to boosting your peace of mind, the security features provided by data encryption are mandated in some cases. For example, if you run an ecommerce business that handles customer credit card numbers and billing information, you’ll need to encrypt all the data that you transmit or store on your system to ensure compliance with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). Other regulations also require specific levels of encryption for different types of data, including HIPAA and GDPR.

The Most Common Use Cases for Data Encryption

A core benefit of data encryption is that it scrambles information so that it’s readable only by the party with the decryption key, which is a password or cryptographic code that converts ciphertext back to plain text. Without the decryption key, an unauthorized user would be unable to read the information that has been encrypted, and even if they could decipher it, they wouldn’t be able to understand the context or meaning of the data.


It’s important to keep in mind that no security measure is perfect, and data breaches are a reality for most organizations. Encryption helps prevent sensitive information from being stolen and sold to hackers, but a lack of appropriate application or oversight can leave the encryption keys exposed. To avoid this, it’s essential to properly categorize the risk of different types of data and implement a set of protocols for managing certificates and decryption keys that are centrally managed according to those policies.

Data encryption is a common practice in all sectors and businesses to keep personal or confidential information secure against cyber attacks. In fact, most ecommerce sites and any website that handles credit card information use data encryption. Even your smartphone or tablet likely has encryption on it, because mobile operating systems and apps typically encrypt the information you send or receive.

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