Whether your company is subject to stringent cybersecurity regulatory requirements or you want to strengthen your overall security, encryption as a service is an effective way to protect sensitive data at rest and in transit.

The thing is, many businesses need help properly encrypting all the data on their machines, servers, and the cloud. And this is exactly where encryption as a service comes into play. The good news is that companies can outsource data encryption‘s complexity to a team of experts using encryption as a service.

Encryption has long been used to safeguard sensitive information. Historically, militaries and governments used it. Encryption is used in modern times to protect data stored on computers and storage devices and in transit over networks.

But let’s start with the very beginning and take a closer look at what encryption as a service is.

Encryption as a Service Explained

Encryption is the process of converting information into a secret code that conceals the true meaning of the information. Cryptography is the science of encrypting and decrypting information.

It is common to refer to unencrypted data as plaintext and encrypted data as ciphertext. Encryption algorithms, or ciphers, are formulas used to encode and decode messages.

It is the key that determines how effective a cipher is. Furthermore, the key is what makes the output of a cipher unique. 

When an unauthorized entity intercepts an encrypted message, the intruder has to guess which cipher the sender used to encrypt the message and what keys were used as variables. 

The time and difficulty in guessing this information make encryption such an effective security tool.

Why Is Encryption as a Service Important?

To put it mildly, if hackers can infiltrate your organization’s network, they will literally have the keys to the kingdom. Encryption as a service ensures that data is always encrypted; even if hackers breach your network, all they’ll find is indecipherable data.

As a result, encryption as a service is critical in securing a wide range of information technology (IT) assets. It includes the following features:

  • Confidentiality in encoding the message’s content.
  • Authentication in validating a message’s origin.
  • Integrity in establishing that the contents of a message have not been altered. 
  • Nonrepudiation in preventing the sender from denying sending the encrypted message.

How Does Encryption as a Service Work?

Encryption as a service prevents cyber criminals or unauthorized parties from stealing or eavesdropping on your data, such as unencrypted passwords sent over WANs to collect information. 

Here’s a little visual for you on how encryption as a service works:

how encryption as a service works

Let’s take a practical example to explain this. Each time someone uses an ATM or buys something online with a smartphone, encryption protects the information being relayed. In addition, encryption is commonly used to protect data in transit and at rest. 

In other words, EaaS prevents cyber criminals or unauthorized parties from stealing or eavesdropping on your data, such as unencrypted passwords sent over WANs to collect information.

Any encryption system has three major components: 

  • Data;
  • Encryption engine;
  • Key management

All three components of laptop encryption run or are stored in the exact location: on the laptop.

In application architectures, however, the three components usually run in separate locations to reduce the possibility of any one component being compromised.

The sender must decide which cipher will best disguise the message’s meaning and which variable to use as a key to making the encoded message unique at the start of the encryption process. The most common types of ciphers are classified as symmetric or asymmetric.

Symmetric ciphers employ a single key, also known as secret key encryption. Because the sender or computing system performing the encryption must share the private key with all entities authorized to decrypt the message, the key is sometimes referred to as a shared secret. 

Asymmetric encryption is typically much slower than symmetric key encryption. The Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), designed to protect government-classified information, is the most widely used symmetric key cipher.

Asymmetric ciphers, also known as public key encryption, employ two distinct but logically related keys. Because it is computationally difficult to factor in large prime numbers and reverse-engineer the encryption, this type of cryptography frequently uses prime numbers to generate keys. 

The Rivest-Shamir-Adleman (RSA) encryption algorithm is the most widely used public key algorithm. RSA allows you to encrypt a message using the public or private key; whichever key is not used for encryption becomes the decryption key.

Today, many cryptographic processes encrypt data with a symmetric algorithm and securely exchange the secret key with an asymmetric algorithm.

What Are the Benefits of Encryption as a Service?

Encryption’s primary goal is to protect the confidentiality of digital data stored on computer systems or transmitted over the internet or any other computer network.

  • Encryption Increases Customer Trust 

A recent survey reported that 53% of respondents said they were more concerned about online privacy than a year ago. However, encryption may not be a mandatory regulatory requirement for most companies. 

In light of the erosion of trust we’ve seen recently, advertising that your business adheres to specific encryption standards could give you an edge over your competitors.

  • Encryption Increases Data Integrity

Since data is constantly changing, encryption does not guarantee the integrity of our data at rest, but it can be used to verify the integrity of our backups. Additionally, we can maintain the integrity of our data using digital signatures. 

This prevents hackers from intercepting communications and tampering with the data, which the recipient can quickly check.

  • Encryption Helps Remote Workers

According to a report by Shred-It, 86% of C-level executives believe that working remotely increases the risk of a data breach. Furthermore, since many remote workers store confidential data on their devices, companies need more control over how it is shared and accessed.

Almost half of the respondents to an Imation survey said either they or someone they knew had lost or stolen a device in a public place, and many did not use encryption to protect their devices. 

To prevent cyber criminals from intercepting public Wi-Fi connections and distributing malware, all confidential data must be encrypted, and remote workers must use virtual private networks (VPNs).

  • Encryption Saves You from Regulatory Fines

Regulations such as the GDPR do not explicitly mandate encrypting data. However, specific “security measures and safeguards” must be implemented to maintain the privacy of EU citizens’ information. In contrast, HIPAA demands that all confidential data remain encrypted; hence why organizations which lose a portable device or drive with unencrypted ePHI may be subject to fines.

How About the Drawbacks of Encryption?

While encryption has some significant advantages, there are some disadvantages too. 

For example, encrypting your files containing personal data may increase their security, but it will also make it nearly impossible for your employees to complete their work.

File systems are locations where employees are constantly creating, moving, modifying, copying, and sharing data (in spreadsheets, documents, ppts, and other formats) that they are currently working on. Adding encryption to this could result in an untidy and difficult-to-manage work environment.

Types of Encryption as a Service

  • Encryption as a Service (EaaS)

As previously mentioned, EaaS is a subscription model that allows cloud service customers to benefit from encryption’s security. Customers who lack the resources to manage encryption can use this approach to protect data in a multi-tenant environment and address regulatory compliance concerns. Full disk encryption (FDE), database encryption, and file encryption are the encryption options available in cloud computing.

  • End-to-end Encryption (E2EE) 

End-to-end Encryption (E2EE) prevents an attacker from viewing data sent between two parties. While Transport Layer Security (TLS) provides an encrypted communication circuit between the web client and web server software, it typically does not extend to the transmitted content. Several messaging apps already offer this type of encryption, such as WhatsApp, Signal, and Facebook Messenger’s Secret Conversations option.

  • Field-level Encryption

A website can be encrypted in specific fields by using field-level encryption. Credit card numbers, Social Security numbers, bank account numbers, health-related information, wages, and financial data are just some fields that can be encrypted. All data in a given area will automatically be encrypted once selected.

  • FDE

FDE is encryption at the hardware level. FDE automatically converts data on a hard drive into a format that no one can understand without the key to undoing the conversion. 

It is only possible to access the data even when the hard drive has been removed and placed in another computer with the necessary authentication key. When computing devices are manufactured, FDE can be installed during manufacture or added later by installing a particular driver.

  • Homomorphic Encryption 

The conversion of data into ciphertext that can be analyzed and worked with as if it were still in its original form is known as homomorphic encryption. This encryption method allows complex mathematical operations on encrypted data without jeopardizing the encryption.

  • HTTPS Encryption

Using HTTPS enables website encryption by running HTTP over the TLS protocol. A public key certificate must be installed to allow a web server to encrypt all the content it sends.

  • Link-level Encryption

In link-level encryption, data is encrypted when it leaves a host, decrypted at the following link, which may be a host or relay point, and then re-encrypted before sending it to the following link. Encrypting the data is repeated until it reaches the recipient with a different key or algorithm.

  • Network-level Encryption

It applies crypto services at the network transfer layer, above the data link level but below the application layer. Network encryption is implemented through Internet Protocol Security (IPsec), a set of open Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) standards that, when combined, create a framework for private communication over IP networks.

  • Quantum Cryptography

Quantum cryptography relies on particles’ inherently quantum mechanical properties for data protection. For example, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle suggests that the two main aspects of a particle, its momentum and location, cannot be calculated without shifting their values. 

This makes it impossible to replicate quantum-encrypted data, as any attempt to look at the content will cause a modification in the information. Thus unapproved parties trying to copy or gain access to the data will be revealed upon any alteration of said data.

Encryption vs. Decryption

Encryption is converting a readable message into an unreadable form to prevent unauthorized parties from reading it. Converting an encrypted message back to its original (readable) format is known as decryption. The plaintext message is the original message. The ciphertext message is the encrypted message.

The strength of the decryption keys required to convert ciphertext to plaintext is directly related to the type of cipher used to encrypt the data. 

Cryptographic algorithms approved by the Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS) or the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) should be used whenever cryptographic services are required in the United States.

Encryption Algorithms

  • AES

AES is a symmetric block cipher chosen by the US government to protect classified information; it is used to encrypt sensitive data in software and hardware worldwide. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) began developing AES in 1997 when it announced the need for a successor algorithm to the Data Encryption Standard (DES), which was becoming vulnerable to brute-force attacks.

  • DES

DES is an outmoded symmetric key data encryption method. Because DES encrypts and decrypts messages with the same key, both the sender and the receiver must know and use the same private key. The more secure AES algorithm has replaced the DES algorithm.

  • Diffie Hellman

Diffie-Hellman key exchange, also known as exponential key exchange, is a method of digital encryption that uses numbers raised to specific powers to generate decryption keys based on components that are never directly transmitted, making a would-be code breaker’s task mathematically overwhelming.

  • Elliptical Curve Cryptography (ECC)

Elliptical Curve Cryptography (ECC) generates security between key pairs by utilizing algebraic functions. The resulting cryptographic algorithms may be faster and more efficient, with comparable levels of protection using shorter cryptographic keys. ECC algorithms are thus an excellent choice for the internet of things (IoT) devices and other products with limited computing resources.

  • Quantum Key Distribution (QKD)

Quantum key distribution (QKD) is an encrypted messaging method in which encryption keys are generated using a pair of entangled photons transmitted separately to the message. Quantum entanglement allows the sender and receiver to determine whether the encryption key has been intercepted or changed before the transmission occurs. 

This is because, in the quantum realm, observing the transmitted information changes it. Once it has been determined that the encryption is secure and has not been intercepted, the encrypted message is permitted to be sent over a public internet channel.

  • RSA

Although the 1973 creation of a public key algorithm by British mathematician Clifford Cocks was kept classified by the United Kingdom’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) until 1997, Ron Rivest, Adi Shamir, and Leonard Adleman of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) first publicly described RSA in 1977. 

Many protocols rely on RSA for encryption and digital signature functions, including Secure Shell (SSH), OpenPGP, Secure/Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (S/MIME), and Secure Sockets Layer (SSL)/TLS.

Aside from having robust data encryption processes, you should also harden your user authentication methods. For example, multi-factor authentication should be used by businesses today to help prevent hackers from infiltrating their networks in the first place.

Multi-factor authentication requires users to enter something they know, such as a username and something they have (like an SMS message via a mobile phone). This additional layer of security, combined with encryption as a service, can significantly improve your security posture.

How Can Heimdal Help with Encryption?

With Heimdal’s Ransomware Encryption Protection module, you can take complete control of every process running on your endpoint – the encryption protection is the only security solution on the market that can map out the previously unknown malicious activity and prevent it from DoS-ing your sensitive files.

Furthermore, Ransomware Encryption Protection is a revolutionary 100% signature-free solution that protects your devices from malicious encryption attempts initiated during ransomware attacks.

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Wrapping Up

Now, if you’ve made it to this point, make sure you give yourself a big pat on the back because this wasn’t easy to digest.

As you can see, EaaS enables cloud service customers to benefit from encryption’s security without installing and managing encryption independently. 

It’s a new concept, but it’s important because it improves security by eliminating gaps when data must be decrypted in the cloud or at the database level. EaaS makes encryption more accessible without sacrificing performance – an idea whose time has come as businesses expand into the cloud. 

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