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3 Different Data Encryption Methods (and Why They Matter to You)

It’s no secret that we at DataShield are large proponents of data security. Not only are data breaches incredibly expensive, but laws regarding data security need to be followed if businesses want to avoid large fines.

And while we are obviously advocates of hard drive shredding when getting rid of your computer, that only guarantees the safety of your data once it’s time for new hard drives. So what about all the time in between?

Enter data encryption: a highly recommended way to keep your data out of the wrong hands the entire time it’s on your computer.

What is data encryption?

Encryption is a technique for transforming information on a computer so it becomes unreadable. So, even if someone is able to gain access to a computer with personal data on it, they likely won’t be able to do anything with the data unless they have complicated, expensive software or the original data key.

The basic function of encryption essentially translates normal text into ciphertext. Encryption methods can help ensure that data doesn’t get read by the wrong people, but can also ensure that data isn’t altered in transit, and verify the identity of the sender.

3 different types of encryption methods

According to Wisegeek, three different encryption methods exist, each with their own advantages.

  1. Hashing creates a unique, fixed-length signature for a message or data set. Each “hash” is unique to a specific message, so minor changes to that message would be easy to track. Once data is encrypted using hashing, it cannot be reversed or deciphered. Hashing then (though not technically an encryption method as such) can still prove data hasn’t been tampered with.
  2. Symmetric encryption methods, also known as private-key cryptography, earned its name because the key used to encrypt and decrypt the message must remain secure. Anyone with access to the key can decrypt the data. Using this method, a sender encrypts the data with one key, sends the data (the ciphertext), and then the receiver uses the key to decrypt the data.
  3. Asymmetric encryption methods, or public-key cryptography, differ from the previous method because it uses two keys for encryption or decryption (giving it the potential to be more secure). With this method, a public key freely available to everyone is used to encrypt messages, and a different, private key is used by the recipient to decrypt messages.

Any of these methods would likely prove sufficient for proper data security, and a quick Google search will reveal the multitude of software available for data encryption. Data encryption is a necessity (both for legal reasons and otherwise) when transmitting information like PHI, so no matter what method you choose, make sure you’re doing everything you can to protect data.

Don’t stop with encryption

Don’t just stop with methods for encryption, though. DataShield offers compliance consulting to ensure that all of your business’ data and policies are up-to-spec for local and federal laws.

Contact us today for more information on how DataShield can help your data stay safe through its entire life cycle, from its conception to its destruction, when your computer is finally thrown out.

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