05 Nov 2021 7 Scenarios in Which to Use Encryption Software
Not sure what encryption software is used for – or maybe just when to use each type? Discover common file transfer scenarios and which data encryption protocol best fits your needs.
By Ekron Dries
What is Data Encryption Software?
Data encryption software, also called file encryption software, solutions come in various forms: free or paid, robust or lightweight, and each uses one of a handful of encryption protocols. But all data encryption software does one thing the same: they scramble your data in a way that only you and other authorized users can unscramble.
How Does Data Encryption Software Work?
Data, whether files, PDFs, passwords, or media like videos and images, are encrypted using complex algorithms that rearrange the contents of the files. That’s not just moving letters around; most file encryption tools use multi-step algorithms and long keys (a unique, randomized string of bits that “locks” and “unlocks” the data) to create fully unreadable blocks of data. Authorized recipients have keys that allow them to decrypt the scrambled message and access the original data.
What is Encryption Software Used For? Encryption Software for 7 Scenarios
Encryption software is one of the most straightforward methods of protecting your data at rest and in motion. It’s used to protect the privacy and integrity of your internet connection, secure data as it’s moving, or to keep it unreadable while stored in a database.
1. Sending Low-Sensitivity Data via Email
Solution: Zip compress your file with AES encryption
Why: Files with low sensitivity can maintain security while still being easily accessible when you attach them as a secure file. ZIP compression with AES is the best of both worlds: it’s easy for recipients to open the file, but they still need a password.
When to use it: This method is best for documents that multiple people need to access but that still need some security.
2. Sending High-Sensitivity Data via Email
Solution: Secure Mail solution
Why: Secure Mail solutions give you the flexibility of email with the peace of mind of encryption. This type of solution typically sends your files as a link rather than directly attached to the email, which then allows you to track who accesses the file, when, and how many times. You can also typically close the connection to the data when users should no longer have access.
When to use it: If email is your go-to, but you need to ensure security – either to avoid unacceptable forwarding, meet compliance requirements, or limit downloads, a Secure Mail encryption solution could be for you.
3. Sending Sensitive Information Over an FTP Connection
Solution: Use Open PGP, an asymmetric encryption standard
Why: FTP, File Transfer Protocol, is an old file transfer method and no longer considered secure. Open PGP is one of the most-used encryption methods today, largely because it can be used to safeguard the privacy and integrity of the data you’re exchanging.
When to use it: If a trading partner wants you to send sensitive information over a standard FTP connection, you can easily secure it with Open PGP. You might also want to encourage your trading partner to opt for a more secure alternative to FTP.
4. Requiring Authentication via Password or Key
Solution: Transfer data with SFTP (SSH File Transfer Protocol)
Why: SFTP establishes a secure connection over SSH to provide your data with a higher level of protection during transfer.
When to use it: When you’re exchanging data over a secure FTP, SFTP gives you and your trading partner added security with the use of a password, a public key, or both. This authentication keeps the data being exchanged secure.
5. Requesting a Signed Certificate
Solution: Transfer data with FTPS (FTP over SSL)
Why: A step up from FTP, FTPS secures your data exchanges over SSL or TSL, and provides X.509 certificates to help authenticate your TLS connections. These certificates are a way to validate the data transfer’s trustworthiness, especially when it’s signed by a Certificate Authority.
When to use it: Companies that require a signed certificate can be satisfied with FTPS and the certificates it uses to authenticate connections. X.509 certificates include a company’s identifiable information, including issuer name, subject, subject public key details, and signature.
6. Sending EDI Files
Solution: AS2 or AS4
Why: AS2 and its newer version, AS4, are both secure, industry-standard protocols for sending sensitive data. Like FTPS, AS2 uses digital certificates, and also employs MDNs (Message Disposition Notifications) for receipt confirmation. These and other security steps keep data exchanged secure throughout the transfer.
When to use it: If you are a trading partner with a retail organization you will likely be required to use AS2. It’s a preferred method in certain industries including retail because it helps meet both regulatory requirements and trading partner needs.
7. Exchanging Data with a Variety of Trading Partners and Requirements
Solution: MFT (Managed File Transfer)
Why: Managed File Transfer is a robust data encryption software and transfer tool that can be configured to send data transfers using each of your trading partners’ preferred methods.
When to use it: If you need to exchange some files via secure email, others over SFTP, and still more with AS2, MFT is the centralized encryption tool that’s right for you.
Improve Your Encryption and Decryption
Streamline your everyday security tasks when you combine automation with your encryption/decryption tool. Learn more about the benefits in our guide, Why Automating Encryption and Decryption Makes Good Cybersecurity Sense.
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