File encryption software is a tool – either free or paid – that encodes your information so that it remains secure in motion, at rest, or both.
Securing sensitive data is essential for any organization, and file encryption software does the heavy lifting. File encryption software uses one of several complex algorithms to scramble the contents of your files, rendering them unusable and unreadable until decrypted with the appropriate key, which is provided by the sender.
Related Reading: How Encryption Works: Everything You Need to Know
There are three major components that dictate how secure the encryption methodology is: how appropriate the encryption system you’re using is for the data that you’re sending, the strength and complexity of the scrambling algorithm, and the key length. Common private key lengths are 128 and 256 bits, while public keys are 2048 bits.
Why Organizations Encrypt Their Files
Data is encrypted to keep unauthorized parties from accessing information they shouldn’t. While it’s evident that financial groups and healthcare organizations – which handle sensitive banking or private healthcare information, respectively – should safeguard data moving through their systems, companies in all verticals encrypt data both in motion and at rest.
Encryption is just one piece of the puzzle, but businesses use file encryption software to gain multiple benefits:
- Better data protection. File encryption software shouldn’t be the only security measure on your cybersecurity roster, but it adds to the other layers of data protection you have in place, like secure networks, connections, employee education, and business practices.
- Secure sending. An effective file encryption software solution helps to ensure that files are protected at all points in their journey, both at rest and in motion – across any device.
- Interception awareness. While data theft is the best-known type of breach, interceptions and alterations are another threat that file encryption can protect against. Bonus: the best file encryption software will confirm that your data has arrived unaltered.
- Follow compliance guidelines. Many regulations contain a file encryption expectation, and file encryption software can help you meet that expectation.
Related Reading: Why You Should Use File Encryption Software
File Encryption, Compliance, and Cybersecurity: A Triple Threat
Complying with regulations and requirements is increasingly hinging on encryption, and for good reason. Some of the biggest data breaches and fines handed out this year may have been avoided with better encryption software and data security practices. Well-known regulations, including PCI DSS, the GDPR, and HIPAA highlight encryption as a key technical strategy to ensure data security.
Nearly everything to do with compliance can be tied back to cybersecurity. Compliance requirements often outline the minimum conditions to be considered secure – a compliance blueprint that organizations can follow to achieve a strong cybersecurity stance.
Related Reading: Defending Against Data Breach: Developing the Right Strategy for Data Encryption
By encrypting your information – both in motion and at rest – you’re taking a critical step towards better cybersecurity. Recent encryption failures and fines – which have even prompted new guidelines in some cases – have been led by organizations as small as local gaming apps and as large as multi-national conglomerates.
Recent Data Breaches and Fines
GDPR Fines for Unsecured Data and Overcollection
While the GDPR is relatively new and the fines being imposed are low compared to what they could be, some organizations have been hit hard for GDPR noncompliance:
- Google – France – €50 million
- British Airways – England – £183 million
- AOK Aden-Württemberg – Germany – €1.2 million
- Unidentified bank – Croatia – €20 million
- TIM SpA – Italy – €27.8 million
Researchers have disclosed that the organizations being reported, investigated, and fined tend to be processing too much personal data, leaving their data unsecured, or both.
Breach by Security Researcher
A Berlin-based app, TVSmiles, suffered a breach when a security researcher uncovered an unsecured Amazon S3 bucket containing nearly 3 million users’ personal data. This breach tipped the scales towards new personal data protection guidelines in Germany, and showcased how even a relatively small database can contain massive amounts of data – all ripe for the plucking if unsecured.
Poor Outcomes in Healthcare
Hospitals, clinics, and public health groups collect and store huge amounts of very sensitive personal data, which makes them prime targets for hacking attempts. Two recent events include:
- A US health insurance company was hit by the second-largest HIPAA violation penalty due to security noncompliance. After their investigation, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) determined that the company “failed to implement sufficient hardware, software, and procedural mechanisms to record and analyze activity related to information systems.”
- Human error led to a data breach wherein the personal information of over 18,000 Covid-positive Wales residents was posted online by Public Health Wales – and was left up for eighteen hours.
Encountering Turbulence due to Data Breach
EasyJet confirmed in the spring of 2020 that the personal data of nine million customers was compromised. They also revealed that customer data wasn’t the main target – it was merely an unlocked room on the way to the crown jewels. While the reason for EasyJet’s data breach has not yet been revealed, it’s clear their cybersecurity was lacking in a critical area.
How can file encryption software help? By ensuring that the data you’re transferring or storing is secure and accessible only to parties with the appropriate decryption key. In some of the cases above, file encryption software would have been an additional security layer in place to guard against data breach, and to comply with software requirements outlines by requirements like HIPAA and the GDPR.
The Best File Encryption Software
The best file encryption software for your organization comes down to your unique requirements. However, you should keep the following in mind during your search:
- What requirements or regulations does your organization adhere to? Do those dictate certain standards you must meet?
- What are the risks if your data is exposed? How sensitive is it? Some personal data protection requirements differentiate between low-risk and high-risk data, which can in turn affect fines if your data is breached.
- Do your trading partners rely on specific encryption standards or formats? Will it expedite or simplify your file transfers if you choose the same methods?
- Are you exchanging large files or large amounts of data? Some file encryption software will have automation features, accelerating your process (and reducing the risk of human error), and some software options handle big files better than others.
One flexible, jack-of-all-trades software solution is managed file transfer (MFT), which encrypts and automates all your file transfers. Most MFT solutions will encrypt files in motion and at rest with the encryption standard of your choice, including leading technologies like Open PGP, AES, SSL, and SSH. Organizations often choose MFT solutions like GoAnywhere MFT for the added benefits that help with compliance and cybersecurity. GoAnywhere, for instance, tracks your file transfers to simplify auditing and reporting, offers refined security settings to limit unauthorized access, and automates workflows – including to 3rd party applications – all from one centralized tool.