If it’s October, it must be National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, held every year to shine the spotlight on industry best practices that protect the privacy and confidentiality of your data. One of the most effective ways to secure your confidential information is by encrypting data from end-to-end, but this goes beyond enabling HTTPS on your government website. In this article, we’ll share our best encryption tips for managing data like an expert (and for celebrating National Cybersecurity Awareness Month like a pro).
Don’t leave your keys in the front door.
One of the most comprehensive specifications for the encryption of electronic data was established by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in 2001. The Advanced Encryption Standard, or AES, uses symmetric block cipher to ensure data is encrypted both in transit and at rest (common targets for cyber attacks).
This has become an industry-leading standard in large part due to the conversion of a 48-character string into a 256-bit private encryption key that only you have access to – but beware of laziness. If the encryption key is stored in the same location as the encrypted files, the protocol is moot. Safeguard your encryption key in a separately controlled area to better protect your sensitive data.
Know what regulations affect your industry.
While there are many protocols and best practices that secure data at large (and which we recommend at minimum for responsible data management), some industries mandate their own level of encryption standards. The government also imposes regulations on high impact data that might catastrophically impact and/or damage an organization’s assets, operations, or individuals if compromised.
Take HIPAA, for example. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 is legislation specifically designed to provide privacy and security for sensitive medical information. Healthcare organizations that do not know whether their endpoints are complying with these rigorous policies, or who ignore the encryption protocols, are leaving themselves exposed to significant risk and prosecution. Are you familiar with the regulations that affect your industry? These evolve over time, so consult a leading security compliance provider to stay on top of assessment and accreditation.
Add layers to your encryption safeguards.
We’ve already discussed the importance of storing encryption keys separately from the data and systems they unlock, but extra security measures should be taken. For instance, these data centers should be located far apart and not connected by a redundancy circuit. You can further protect your stored, encrypted data by controlling access with biometrics, layering additional credentialing protocols, forcing password refreshes, planning for system backups and disaster recovery, and controlling connections to the Internet. Which brings us to our final National Cybersecurity Awareness Month encryption tip:
Wi-Fi is great…until it’s not.
This one goes without saying, but given the prevalence of public Internet accessibility these days, we’re going to say it anyway: don’t use public Wi-Fi without using a Virtual Private Network (VPN). It’s tempting to quickly switch to Wi-Fi while waiting for your Frappuccino, or to power through some emails on your next flight, but without a VPN to encrypt traffic between your device and the server, you’re making life for a cybercriminal much easier. Lacking a VPN, but still need to connect? Use your mobile network when security is important (and if you have a government-issued phone or access to systems and data from your phone, security is always important).
It may be National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, but encryption is important year-round. By following these best practices, you’ll better protect the information, data, and systems that power your organization’s mission. But don’t stop there: review your security program with the government-certified data specialists at GovDataHosting today.