There is so much in the news lately about data security, but what does that exactly mean? According to Wikipedia, “Data security means protecting data, such as a database, from destructive forces, and from the unwanted actions of unauthorized users.” In other words, it is keeping data – whether yours or your customer’s – safe from harm or harmful actions. Data security concerns not only companies but individuals as well.
A great security practice, if implemented properly, is encryption. If done correctly encryption can prevent anyone from accessing your data without the proper credentials. If not set up correctly, it could prevent you from accessing your own data.
Encryption definition. The process of encoding a message so that it can be read only by the sender and the intended recipient. Encryption systems often use two keys, a public key, available to anyone, and a private key that allows only the recipient to decode the message. – Dictionary.com
Encryption on a basic level is something you would see in a spy movie: writing in secret code that only you and your trusted cohorts could read. The same principle applies to data encryption. Encryption takes the data and transforms deciphered text into ciphered text that only those who have the key can read. How that text is ciphered is determined by the number of bits used to create the encryption key. The bit number selections are 128, 192 or 256 bits. These numbers specify how many cycles of transformation the data goes through until it is ciphered.
- 128 bit keys = 10 cycles
- 192 bit keys = 12 cycles
- 256 bit keys = 14 cycles
When selecting the bit number for your key, it is important to take into account that the higher the bit number the more resources used by your system. It is more time for calculation and could limit the flow of data. Also note that it is not just the number of bits used for the key, but also the algorithm used to cipher the data, that provides the robustness of the encryption.
There are two methods for encrypting a drive. The first is a software tool implanted into the firmware of the drive by the manufacturer. This is commonly referred to as hardware encryption. Although hardware encryption is effective at encrypting the data, it comes with a word of caution. Do not lose the key, or make sure the manufacturer is able to provide you with a backup key if needed.
The second method of encrypting data is software encryption. This is software you would purchase and load onto your drive. Software encryption typically gives you a higher level of control. You can choose the bit number for your encryption key, and some programs even give you the option of keeping a recovery file on another drive in case the key is lost.
Lost Encryption Keys
We often get requests to recover data from a drive that is encrypted and the owner has lost the key. That is a really tough request to answer. Unfortunately, we also need the encryption key to decrypt your data. Our engineers often are able to pull the data off the drive, but it remains encrypted. That may not be a comforting thought to someone who has lost their encryption key, but for those who invest time and money into encryption, aren’t you glad that even the data experts can’t crack your code?