Wales

Data Encryption

If your confidential data and communications (for example emails) are accessed by individuals or other organisations not authorised to see them, the consequences can be very damaging … fraud, identity theft, espionage and non-compliance with data protection rules being frequent examples. If your business has confidential data and/or sends and receives confidential email, you should consider encryption as a means of protecting them from such unauthorised access.

How encryption works

There are a number of encryption methods and tools available, all of which use an encryption and decryption key related to each other. The information to be encrypted is encoded using an algorithm (mathematical formula), preventing it from being understood by anyone who is not authorised to read it.

Encryption and decryption takes place using software that may be loaded on the computer where the files reside or emails are sent from – and opened from – or by the encryption key accompanying the data itself. The mode and level of encryption chosen should be determined by the sensitivity of the data involved. As a general rule the more bits used for the encryption the stronger it will be, so 128-bit encryption is stronger than 64-bit.

Using encryption techniques can also be used to verify the source of an email and the integrity of its content.

Encryption is also used on ecommerce websites and for wireless networking security and remote access, to prevent eavesdropping and spoofing.

Choosing encryption

Use of encryption software is generally fast and straightforward. The implementation of encryption software, however, can be technically challenging depending on your IT infrastructure and the software itself. Care should be taken to choose your encryption software according to your specific needs and level of risk. You may wish to consult a third party IT support provider or security specialist.

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Jargon Buster

A Glossary of terms used in this article:

Identity theft

The crime of impersonating someone – by using their private information – for financial gain.

Encrypted

The process of converting data into cipher text (a type of code) to prevent it from being understood by an unauthorised party.

Decryption

The process of converting encrypted data back into its original form.