Encryption and Its Importance in the Cloud Industry
What is Encryption?
Encryption was formerly used mostly just by the military, but since the invention of the internet it is used constantly by businesses for both online and offline security. The main reason for this is because of the high use of debit and credit cards. Every in-store purchase with any type of card is sent over a secure connection to the issuing card company for verification.
Encryption has become a household word. Consumers take for granted that businesses encrypt data during transmissions, but few know what methods are used and how it works.
Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) has become the encryption standard used by anyone sending private information over the internet. It was first adopted by the U.S. government and is now being used worldwide. It officially replaced DES as the government standard in 2002. The algorithm associated with AES is a symmetric-key algorithm, which means that the same key used to encrypt data is also used to decrypt it at the other end. Users normally do not need to know this key, that is all part of the software responsible for the encryption and decryption.
The cryptographic module, originally called Rijndael, was developed by Joan Daemen and Vincent Rijmen, Belgian cryptographers. The word Rijndael is a combination of the two names.
Experts say it would take hundreds or even thousands of years to decipher and AES encryption. So, it is safe to assume a new, tighter algorithm will be invented long before the current encryption methods are violated.
Encryption and Business
The internet is the “cloud.” Any information sent through the cloud, either directly from a home computer or at a point-of-sale at the grocery store, must pass through the cloud, which makes it vulnerable to hackers. This makes encryption vital for businesses.
The Importance of Encryption in the Cloud Industry:
- Secure transactions. Any business wanting to accept payments online must use Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) to encrypt customer credit card information during transactions to prevent interception by hackers. SSL uses the public and private key system to establish a secure connection between the customer and the web site.
- Security after a transaction. Credit card thieves were not created by the invention of the internet. The internet has made it easier for them, but credit card theft has been around for nearly a hundred years. All the thief needs is the card number and the CVS – which are two items a customer must supply in order to complete a credit card transaction online. If this information is not encrypted and stored on a secure computer, or deleted after the transaction is complete, unscrupulous employees can steal the customer’s identity.
- Confidential files. Passwords go a long way in protecting confidential files, but a determined hacker can crack a password with very little effort. Encryption is an added layer of protection.
- Email security. The second the send button is hit an email becomes public property. An experienced hacker can intercept the email, plus it can be stuck in cyberspace for months, if not longer. Encryption ensures sensitive emails and attachments can not be read by just anyone.
- Virtual private networks. These networks are set up by companies to allow employees remote access to the company’s private network – thus enabling people to work from home. Without proper encryption a hacker can access any material or data the network contains. This could be employee records, trade secrets or any other type of confidential information.
- Wireless LAN. LAN stands for local area network. The use of this technology has soared over the past few years due to convenience and low cost. Many households use this type of connection to access the internet. Without encryption, anyone within range of the owner’s computer can piggy-back on the service, costing the owner more bandwidth, as well as see everything stored on his computer. The basic security used to prevent this is Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP). This type of encryption is usually provided by the internet service provider. The user simply has to input a private access key.
The encryption method a company or individual uses is determined by the level of security required. The average person wants to protect his identity. That means any information that could be used to obtain a credit card, take out a loan or other such activities must be protected. All a thief needs is a few pieces of personal information and he can apply for a credit card – costing the victim thousands of dollars or more.
Businesses generally need higher security, because they not only have to protect their own interests, they must protect their customers, as well. This makes encryption one of the most important factors in the cloud industry.
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