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Encryption for Exchanging Files

Padlock in front of a file

You seal the envelope when you send a letter. You lock your car when you park at the big box store. You track your packages to make sure porch pirates don’t get them before you do. Your file exchanges should be no different. Learn the essentials on how you can keep your data secure both while it’s sitting at home or being delivered.

What is Encryption and How Does it Work?

Encryption is a method of keeping your information secure by encoding it in a way that only you and the recipient know how to “unlock” – hopefully. The success of an encryption method depends on three factors:

  1. How complex the encryption algorithm is (how difficult it will be to crack).
  2. The length of the key (a type of password made up of a randomized string of bits – the more bits, the more difficult it is to “lockpick”).
  3. How suitable your chosen encryption method is for the type of work it’s doing.

Related Reading: How Encryption Works: Everything You Need to Know

The stronger the stance you take around encryption, the better. When you protect your data, both when it’s in motion and at rest, you’re taking crucial steps to avoiding data hacks.

File encryption can keep your data protected, from accidental exposure, internal threats, and deliberate attacks.

Encryption Terms


An unencrypted, readable message. For example: this is plaintext.


The result of plaintext being encrypted. To continue our example from above, if we use a simple cipher (shift 7) on our plaintext from above we get: aopz pz wshpualea.

Now, a shift cipher like that won’t be too difficult to decode. It may take a person a few minutes to figure it out manually, but it would take even a basic computer mere nanoseconds. That’s where today’s true encryption comes in.


Most encryption methods used today do more than just swap out letters: they will substitute, permutate, and carry out other operations multiple times to completely conceal the message. Through encryption, data is rendered fully unreadable and inaccessible without a decryption key.

Related Reading: Why You Should Use File Encryption Software


If encryption scrambles the message, decryption untangles the messy string of characters so that they are readable again. Most decryption requires two elements: the correct password and the decryption algorithm.

Hash or Hashing

This is, for example, when a website encrypts your password so that it’s not stored as plaintext. While encryption is a two-way function (you can encrypt and decrypt), hashing is a one-way function: once something is hashed, it cannot easily be reverse-hashed without a great deal of effort.

Why isn’t hashed data meant to be reversed? Encryption typically protects data in transit, while hashing is used to ensure data hasn’t been altered.

Salt or Salting

This concept typically is associated with password hashing. The salt is a unique value added to the end of a password to create a different hash value. This adds a layer of security of the hashing process, and is particularly useful when protecting against brute force attacks – this extra, unique value makes cracking the password pattern more complicated.


A key is a randomized string of bits used to encrypt and/or decrypt data. There are two primary systems used today:

  1. Symmetric: You use the same secret/private key to encrypt and decrypt.
  2. Asymmetric: You use key pairs, where one is private and the other is public. The public key is used to encrypt data, and the private key is used to decrypt data.


PGP stands for Pretty Good Privacy. This is a collection of algorithms that is used for hashing and data encryption.

Choosing the Best File Encryption Method for You

Choosing the right encryption method for you depends on several factors:

  • The sensitivity of the data you’re exchanging
  • How you’re transmitting the data
  • How large the files are, and whether they should be compressed
  • Whether the files should be encrypted at rest (even before the transmission), whether the connection or channel itself should be encrypted, or both
  • The encryption standards your trading partners support or require

The best file encryption software for your organization comes down to your unique requirements, and those of your trading partners.

Related Reading: The Ultimate Checklist for Purchasing File Encryption Software

File Encryption Options

Some common encryption methods include:

Encryption with MFT

An MFT solution can cover your file encryption needs, including protecting files in storage and in motion. MFT solutions typically cover all aspects of inbound and outbound file transfers through industry-standard network protocols and encryption. When you use GoAnywhere MFT, you can expect best-in-class features including:

  • Encryption and Connectivity: By encrypting your data at rest with Open PGP, GPG, or ZIP with AES, and protecting your data in transit via SFTP, FTPS, HTTPS, and AS2, GoAnywhere keeps your files safe at all stages in the data transfers.
  • Alerting: Receive notifications for pre-determined events and stay on top of file movement.
  • Automation: Schedule both time-based and event-based workflows to ease your manual workload and easily move files between internal systems, users, and trading partners.
  • DMZ Secure Gateway: Keep incoming ports closed to your private/internal network, and keep your file servers, passwords, and user credentials safely within your organization.

Get a Lesson from the Experts

Watch this 60-minute webinar and Q&A for an overview of encryption: why it matters, how it works, and how encryption with MFT can be the difference between a secure file exchange and a vulnerable one.

Watch the Webinar

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