Cryptography is one of the oldest and most widely used tools for safeguarding IT assets. Nearly every business relies on cryptography to secure sensitive data and IT infrastructure. So, what is cryptography in cyber security, and how can it help you optimize your security posture? Put simply, it’s a way to make information unreadable by attackers, even if it is compromised.
What is Cryptography?
Cryptography in computer network security is the process of protecting sensitive information from unauthorized access when it is at rest or in transit by rendering it unreadable without a key. Leveraging encryption, cryptography helps users secure data transmission over networks, ensuring that only individuals with designated keys can access encrypted data.
To answer the question, what is cryptography in cyber security?, this blog will:
- Break down the two types of cryptography
- Explain different methods of cryptography
- Provide several cryptography examples
- Walk through the benefits of cryptography protection
In most cases, cryptography needs will vary depending on an organization’s structure, security controls, and broader governance requirements. Partnering with a managed security services provider (MSSP) is the best way to optimize cryptography protection to your specific needs.
Types of Cryptography
There is no shortage of methods of cryptography available on the market, so you might be wondering which cryptography types will work best for your organization’s security needs.
In general, there are two types of cryptography widely used for cybersecurity applications:
Also called “secret key cryptography,” symmetric cryptography functions via cryptographic key sharing between users. In this method, the same key is used to encrypt and decrypt data and is typically shared between users. In theory, only an individual with a unique cryptographic key should be able to decrypt the encrypted data. Symmetric cryptography is often used to safeguard the local storage of sensitive data on drives or servers.
On another level, asymmetric cryptography is typically used to safeguard the transmission of sensitive data across public networks. Asymmetric cryptography is also called “public key cryptography” because its users must have two keys. One of the keys is considered a “public key” that can be provided to anyone either user communicates with. However, the second key decrypts the encrypted data and is meant to be kept private.
Encryption And Decryption In Cryptography
So how exactly does cryptography work? In practice, as with the primary types, there are two primary approaches or methods of cryptography, which work hand in hand to secure data:
Data encryption refers to the process of using an algorithm to convert binary data from one form to another, accessible only by a specific key. For encryption to work, an algorithm converts plaintext into a difficult-to-decipher form (also called ciphertext), which can only be converted back to plaintext with a cryptographic key. Developing complex encryption algorithms will help increase the security of data transmission and minimize the risks of data being compromised.
Decryption essentially reverses encryption. Using a cryptographic key that matches the encryption algorithm, a user can decrypt sensitive data whether at rest or in transit.
Depending on the complexity and robustness of the algorithms you use, both encryption and decryption in cryptography will help optimize your security posture and safeguard sensitive data.
Examples of Cryptography
With wide-reaching applications, cryptography can help secure a wide range of sensitive digital environments, regardless of organization size, business needs, or industry. Your choice of cryptographic solutions will depend on the type of security controls you need to implement.
Below are some of the common uses of cryptography:
Encrypting BYOD Devices
Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies enable employees to use their own personal phones and computers at work or for work—on premises and, potentially, for completing work tasks. But BYOD devices are at high risk for security threats if they’re used on unsecured, public networks.
The risk of data breaches is even higher if employees transmit sensitive data on these devices.
You should consider implementing BYOD device encryption if your employees can work remotely using their personal devices or bring them into work environments altogether.
Securing Sensitive Emails
Any emails containing sensitive data should be secured using industry-standard encryption algorithms that minimize the chances that cybercriminals will access the emails—or be able to read and use data within if they are accessed. End-to-end encryption tools can help secure sensitive emails, especially if private and public keys used to encrypt the emails are kept safe.
Encryption also extends to databases containing sensitive information such as:
- Customer data (e.g., home addresses, bank account numbers)
- Employee data (e.g., social security numbers)
- Intellectual property (IP) data (e.g., patent information)
Database encryption is critical to mitigating threat risks to data at rest across on-premise and cloud databases.
Protecting Sensitive Company Data
Encryption is also an essential tool for safeguarding your company’s sensitive data such as:
- Employees’ personally identifiable information (PII)
- Financial data relating to the company and its partners
- Customer or supplier data
One of the most common database encryption tools is transparent data encryption (TDE), which encrypts most SQL-based databases.
HTTPS to secure website
Secure websites are typically encrypted by the HTTPS protocol, which helps safeguard the confidentiality, integrity, and authenticity of transactions on the Internet.
HTTPS encryption also helps mitigate attacks like DNS spoofing, where cybercriminals attempt to direct users to unsecured websites to steal their sensitive information. HTTPS encryption is also widely implemented in customer-facing industries like retail, where customers can immediately identify an unsecured website based on the “https” in a website’s URL.
Benefits of Cryptography Protection
Cryptography protection keeps your data confidential and maintain its integrity. Below are some benefits of email encryption, which can also apply to other forms of cryptography:
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Encryption helps keep sensitive data confidential and minimize any risks of the data being exposed to cybercriminals. It is far easier to invest in a robust encryption method than risk compromising sensitive data belonging to valuable customers, vendors, or business partners.
When integrated into email applications, encryption can help identify potential phishing attempts and verify the authenticity of email senders, links, and attachments. Encryption will also make it easier for your employees to identify phishing threats and prevent any full-blown attacks.
Encryption also helps preserve the integrity of your sensitive data. Specifically, data is susceptible to security risks when it’s stored locally or in the cloud and during its transmission from one party to another. Using industry-standard encryption algorithms will help keep your data secure at all stages of storage or transmission.
Cryptography protection can also provide non-repudiation assurance, ensuring both parties receive confirmation of data transmission. When transmitting highly sensitive data to business partners, customers, or vendors encrypting your emails will also help avoid any legal issues, should one party claim a message was not sent, received, or processed.
How RSI Security Can Help You Implement Cryptography
Back to the starting question: what is cryptography in cyber security? It’s a set of tools to help your organization keep data and other sensitive IT assets safe. Partnering with RSI Security will help optimize your cryptography, in-house or outsourced. Our cryptography services include:
- Local and remote disk encryption
- Implementing encryption in compliance with industry standards
- Management of endpoint cryptography
- Monitoring the integrity of local and cloud file storage
- Patch management of cryptography tools
- Penetration testing of encryption methods
As an experienced MSSP, our team of experts understands just how cumbersome it is to manage the encryption of endpoints across an organization. As threats keep evolving in today’s IT landscape, we help optimize cryptography and ensure that encryption tools work robustly within your cybersecurity framework. To learn more, contact RSI Security today!