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End-to-End Encryption Can Prevent a Truckload of Trouble

Rick Robinson| November 25 2015

| security

Don't look now, but you and your IT team may be in the trucking and secure-transport business. And naturally, you'll need end-to-end encryption.

Every day, your business is a virtual loading dock, packaging data and shipping it out to users who, now, have more than one way to receive it. All of it is valuable, or you wouldn't be transferring it. And much of it is highly sensitive, filled with your intellectual property and your customers' financial information.

With respect to file transfer, you're probably transferring larger files (and more of them). With respect to the cloud, much of this file warehousing takes place at remote locations where your data gets trucked over the Web. And with regard to today's highly sophisticated cybercrime rings, hackers would love to get their hands on it before it hits its destination. Securing it for transit with end-to-end encryption is, without a doubt, a pretty darn good idea.

What Is End-to-End Encryption?

What exactly is end-to-end encryption? Wired's Andy Greenberg said it best: a procedure in which "messages are encrypted in a way that allows only the unique recipient of a message to decrypt it, and not anyone in between."

The servers that forward the file along the pipeline act as "illiterate messengers" passing along messages whose contents they can't read themselves. More specifically, this form of encryption relies on public-key cryptography, wherein the user provides a public key that anyone can use to encrypt a message. However, only the user's personal key can decrypt it to read the information.

To put it another way, the truck drivers don't carry a key to the trailer's cargo door, so they can't be tricked or suborned into letting the truck get pilfered.

Data Protection Is In Your Hands

Vendors promise to encrypt files in transit, but this means the trucking company holds the key to the data, not you. Their security may be excellent, but you don't have control over it. What's this mean? You shouldn't rely solely on their protection.

The list of big-enterprise breaches keeps growing, Target and Sony falling victim to two of the most spectacular as of late. Regarding a recent hack of British telecom carrier, TalkTalk, Jeff Goldman at eSecurity Planet quotes one security specialist's advice: "Any company that collects, stores or transmits personal information needs to encrypt that data at rest and in transit."

Apart from shipping your data on storage media in a physical lockbox, encryption is the only tool that can protect your data while it is in someone else's possession.

Encryption Helps After Data Theft Has Occurred

The use of encryption points to a couple of fundamental points about security. One is that no security technology, including this one, is invulnerable. A so-called man-in-the-middle attack can trick senders into using the attacker's public key rather than that of the intended recipient. Or, an attacker can hack your own computer and simply steal your private key.

These security measures can't make data theft impossible; rather, it's all about making data theft as difficult as possible. Encryption increases the chance that even if data is physically stolen, those behind it will be unable to read or use it.

Keep in mind that the subjective nature of security means there's nothing wrong with adding multiple layers of protection. As noted at ZDNet, security experts consider it best practice to encrypt data in this way at all times — at rest as well as in transit. End-to-end encryption works particularly well in the latter, adding that critical extra layer of protection while data is out on the open superhighway and exposed to the world's most precise attacks. Don't let your data leave home without it.

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Topics: security

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THIS POST WAS WRITTEN BY Rick Robinson

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