Encryption is the process of encoding data to protect it so unauthorized users cannot access it. For example, when using a credit card online, the payment processor encrypts the credit card information before it is sent across the internet so no one else can see it. When it comes to data, here are some things that a small business can do to protect itself.
Enhance the Encryption Your Business Is Already Using
Many business owners may not realize they are already using a simple form of encryption. Any file, computer, or system that has a password attached to it is using a simple form of encryption. Thus, for a small business to protect itself, the first line of defense is to overhaul password security. Simple passwords can easily be cracked so they need to be made stronger. Tech giant Microsoft recommends the following:
- Use eight characters or more.
- Use a different password for different files, computers, and systems.
- Change passwords often.
- Use the entire keyboard, not just letters and numbers.
- Don’t use common words in any language.
- Don’t use words spelled backwards, common misspellings, or abbreviations.
Any data that your business has stored on a desktop or laptop computer can easily be encrypted in a few simple steps. Strong encryption is built into Windows and OS X operating systems. Certain versions of Windows systems have BitLocker. To turn it on, go to Control Panel > System and Security > BitLocker Drive Encryption, and choose files from there. On a Mac computer, go to Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility. Once there, use the File menu to select folders to encrypt.
Many businesses use USB and external drives to store and share data quickly. Luckily, many brands of these types of products can also be encrypted. It is worth spending the extra money to purchase a more secure drive because if it is ever lost, a business owner can have peace of mind that no one can access sensitive information. IronKey, SanDisk, and Western Digital are a few companies that offer encrypted drives.
Email is an essential business tool, but its encryption is often overlooked. It is critical that a small business’ email system is secure. If a business is running on Microsoft Office 365, encryption services can be easily obtained by subscribing to Azure Rights Management. Azure can be tried for free, and once subscribed, it is very inexpensive.
Businesses that use Gmail already have their emails encrypted through Google; however, to make encryption easier and stronger, users can download the Chrome extension SecureGmail.
Encrypting Cloud Data
Business owners may be worried about how to encrypt any data stored on the cloud. Luckily, all cloud services use encryption. It is the industry standard. All data that flows from the cloud servers to your business computers and back is encrypted by default.