How Can Encryption Bolster Our IT Security Strategy?

How Can Encryption Bolster Our IT Security Strategy?

The cybersecurity landscape continues to get more dangerous every year. There are new forms of attack, new malware variants, and more dangerous cyber-criminal cartels to deal with.

For example, earlier this year, a large state-sponsored hacking group out of China spearheaded a hack that has impacted approximately 250,000 small and large businesses that run an on-premises Microsoft Exchange Server.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it a “cyber pandemic,” with hackers taking advantage of the fear and disruption, as well as all those newly remote workers without proper network security.

Pandemic-fueled cyberattacks have resulted in a 400% increase in cybercrime and a 273% increase in the number of records exposed in data breaches. 

This rise in cyber attacks has led many businesses in Australia to look at what they can do to bolster their IT security strategy.

One security tactic that many companies haven’t fully explored is encryption.

How Is Encryption Used in IT Security?

Data encryption isn’t only used by large government or security organisations, it’s a tool that can be used by any size business to improve its security posture and compliance activities.

When files are encrypted, a key is used to systematically “scramble” the data. This makes it unreadable to anyone that doesn’t have the key to decrypt it.

  • If symmetric encryption is used, the same key that encrypts the data is used to decrypt it.
  • If asymmetric encryption is used, then a different key is used for decryption.

Encryption can be used in multiple ways to protect data. It’s used for wireless networks to keep data in transit from being readable by a hacker. It can also be used in software to encrypt sensitive files.

Today, encryption is automatically built into a lot of everyday tools that you may already be using, including VPNs and apps like Outlook in Microsoft 365.

Ways You Can Incorporate Encryption

Incorporating the use of encryption in your business doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult. You may find that you already have some tools that allow you to apply encryption, you just never knew it was available.

Here are some of the common ways you can improve your overall data security and compliance by adding encryption into your workflows.

Have Employees Use a VPN When Working Away from the Office

Employees are now working from home in record numbers due to the pandemic. Even pre-pandemic, employees often checked email and business apps while away from the office. This can be risky if they happen to be connected to an unsecured Wi-Fi at the time.

Having employees use a business VPN when connecting to work applications or sending/receiving emails can keep their communications secure. VPNs redirect that online traffic through the VPN servers, which automatically encrypt that data so it can’t be accessed by a hacker that is on the same network.

Use Email Encryption for Sensitive Content

Microsoft 365 users have email encryption options through Office Message Encryption (OME), Secure/Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (S/MIME), and Information Rights Management (IRM).

Once set up, encrypting sensitive emails and any attachments they have is as simple as choosing from a menu option inside Outlook.

With a little more customisation, you can even set up security policies using sensitivity labels that will automatically encrypt emails based upon specific keywords or default settings.

With sensitive emails encrypted, you don’t have to worry about the contents being intercepted by a hacker or compromised through an email address mistake.

Laptop Hard Drive Encryption

One of the top categories for data privacy violations is unprotected laptops with access to sensitive data. Laptops are popular because of their portability, but that portability also makes them much more likely to be compromised than a desktop computer.

86% of IT teams report that a user at their organisation has had a laptop stolen or lost, and 56% say the incident has resulted in a data breach.

Laptop hard drive encryption can be done by using encryption software. It encrypts everything on the drive, meaning that a thief would not be able to access any of the PC’s data, including contacts, stored browser passwords, or signed-in business apps.

If you have any employees that use laptops for work, laptop hard drive encryption is highly recommended to prevent a breach.

Website Encryption

If your business website doesn’t have an SSL certificate, then any data sent through your contact form could be compromised.

SSL stands for Secure Socket Layer, and it’s a cryptographic protocol for encrypting data sent over a computer network. You can tell the sites that use encryption by the “HTTPS” at the beginning of the URL and a small lock icon in the address bar.

Website encryption is a must these days. Google recognises the importance of encryption and uses it as a ranking signal for its search results. Additionally, if you don’t have site encryption the “not secure” tag on your website could be driving potential customers away.

Improve Security With Help from GKM2

GKM2 can help your Sydney area business incorporate encryption into your cybersecurity strategy in a way that makes the most sense for your workflows.

Contact us today to learn more. Call +61 2 9161 7171 or reach out online.