BLOG

Data encryption pros outweigh cons

Email and text message encryption is only now beginning to catch on

Recap

Encryption is a process by which written content, images, audio and video are converted into non-readable form that can then be translated into its original form only by the intended recipient(s).
New versions of this technology are highly effective and easy to use. That said, the National Security Agency (NSA) works full time to decode encrypted messages. With so many resources at their disposal, it’s should come as no surprise that recent (post-Snowden) revelations show that the NSA has had powerful decryption methods for many years.

One interesting footnote–once you begin using an encryption system to shield your data, especially email, you are then much more likely to pop up on the NSA’s radar. Many larger companies, most often for reasons completely unrelated to any national security violation, have consequently decided to move their operations overseas.

“Off the shelf” email encryption

Email and text message encryption is only now beginning to catch on. If you send frequent, sometimes sensitive data via text, be aware that it can easily be encrypted with a service like TextSecure.

Most standard email systems and browsers offer free encryption plug-ins. There is an incredible selection of such extensions/apps (e.g., Microsoft Outlook, Chrome’s End-to-End, and Mozilla Thunderbird); others are under commercial license. The latter, generally more comprehensive, security systems are for larger organizations who can afford IT administration.

One highly versatile new free encryption tool is Virtru, a download that can be added to standard email systems like Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook, Hotmail, as well as Chrome, IE10+, Yahoo, Safari, Android, iOS, and Firefox. Among its many advantages–it encrypts both individual emails and attachments. If you’re a small business, look into Virtru for Business, now in Beta mode.

If you only need to encrypt your email occasionally, try a free site like InfoEncrypt, or SafeMess both of which encrypt messages directly into your browser without storing any information.

Pros
  • Ease of Use–Encryption is now easier to use than ever, with coverage for increasingly large amounts of data.
  • Abundant, No Cost Options–The variety of effective, free encryption software is taking us into a new age of Internet security.
  • Versatility–Modern encryption software packages allow you to specify who can access an encrypted file while restricting others.
Cons

There’s little or no downside to new encryption technology. However, if you’re a larger organization, with bigger, more comprehensive security needs, there are potential issues:

  • Expense–Third party or in-house encryption may require costly development and labor intensive integration with your existing proprietary systems.
  • Time Consuming–Data encryption can be burdensome for your IT staff, especially if you have a complex system with multiple data encryption keys. Especially concerning: if you lose a key to third party encryption, that data cannot be retrieved unless you have stored your key(s) in a safe or other highly secure location (never a flash drive, etc.).
  • Detailed Strategic Planning Is Required–Strategic planning for in-house data encryption takes time and money. However, without detailed planning, data encryption can easily become too complex for your IT administrator to manage and confuse your end users.

More Insights