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Data: its security and encryption

The data security is essential to guarantee the confidentiality of the information, especially in the age of anonymous, identity theft and hacking. It should be a major concern for anyone who lives at least part of their life online.

But how do we address this? Namely by encrypting the information that we digitally send around the world. But encryption isn’t without its drawbacks.

The risks of the encryption of data

When assessing the risks of encryption, we first need to assess one thing: the level of encryption. The level of encryption is generally determined by the number of bits which will be used to create an encryption key which will then contain a whole series of equations to transform a deciphered text into a ciphered text. Fortunately, there are pre-existing keys and official algorithms, such as the AES (Advanced Encryption System that dates from 2001), for example (which replaces the standard OF created in the 70s), that are used in numerous transactions in SSL (Secure Socket Layer, which includes the authentication) on the Internet. AES exists in 128, 196 or 256 bits and is very strong; its robustness depends on its algorithm, but also, naturally on the number of bits used for its key.

If the number of bits is important, there are two things to be mindful of. First of all, the more bits there are, the more time is needed to decrypt the data in order to access or process it. Secondly, the larger the number of bits will not necessarily guarantee optimal protection due to the type of encryption. For example, the first encryption of WI-FI, which was called WEP, served as reassurance of data privacy until software became available on the Internet that allowed third parties to read the data being transmitted. The WPA quickly replaced the WEP by integrating parameters of sophisticated encryption with varied levels depending on what level of protection the user required.

There can also be others drawbacks to encryption: data encryption technology can be tricky when you are layering it with existing programmes and applications. This can negatively impact routine operations within the system. Data encryption can also prove to be quite costly because the systems that maintain data encryption must have capacity and upgrades to perform such tasks. Without capable systems, the performance of system operations can be significantly compromised.

Tools for data encryption

Once the awareness of the functions and the risks in the encryption of the data is understood, it is advisable that the user asks the question – what tool should I use and is it supported if something goes wrong? It is particularly misadvised to use an encryption software tool installed in the firmware of a hard drive, unless the tool is well known and trusted, and in the event that data recovery is required, the manufacturer will be able to supply a public key. This problem often arises with SSDs. Among some of the main encryption software packages there is Bitlocker, which is supplied as standard with certain versions of Windows as Windows 7 Ultimate or Windows 8.1 Enterprise, Windows Server since the version 2008 or still Windows 8.1 Professional. There are other solutions like Steganos Safe 16 (384 bits AES), Sophos Encryption Suite, etc.

In most of the cases the encryption software package will be installed in the classic way, i.e. on the computer or server operating system, will be much more reliable in terms of capacity when the system is upgraded over time.

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