Definition: File encryption describes the process of protecting individual files or file systems. This process involves encrypting files or folders with a unique key and makes them available only to the keyholder. The purpose is to prevent malicious or unauthorized parties from accessing files.
File Encryption explained
At all times, data must be protected against exposure and unauthorized access. TLS protocols protect data in transit, but do little to protect data retained on a machine. File encryption protects this data by encrypting all files before they are stored on a computer's hard drive or mobile devices. The use of strong encryption means that it is impossible for anyone to read the data without access to the appropriate encryption key.
File encryption protects data at rest via cryptography. To access the sensitive files, the respective cryptographic key is required. File encryption is useful when a user needs to securely send individual files over the internet or save them on portable media. A file in transit is also known as data in motion.
Cryptography, the practice of encrypting and decrypting sensitive data, takes two forms: symmetric public-key cryptography, and asymmetric cryptography.
File encryption for Cloud-based data
Companies are increasingly transferring sensitive data and critical applications to the cloud. While cloud-based deployments provide many advantages over traditional on-premises data centers, they also raise security concerns.
Using file encryption in the cloud makes cloud data breaches much more difficult. Even if an attacker gains access to an organization's cloud-based data storage, they must also have access to the corresponding cryptographic keys in order to extract any value from the data. A file encryption solution with secure key management proves even more difficult to intercept data as it secures keys and provides centralized key management.
File Encryption and the Regulation Landscape
The regulatory compliance landscape for data protection has become increasingly complex in recent years. Previously, organizations were mostly required to follow industry-specific regulations such as HIPAA and PCI DSS. Following the adoption of the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), numerous governments enacted their own data privacy legislation, such as the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). Although these laws vary very much in detail, they all have a common focus - protecting consumer data.
They also place the same key requirement on all organizations:
- Protect their consumers’ data,
- Restrict access to sensitive data based on role requirements within the organization.
File encryption enables an organization to achieve both of these requirements. Encrypting files and limiting access to decryption keys based on role requirements ensures that no unauthorized individuals have access to sensitive data.
File encryption enables an organization to protect itself from a variety of potential attacks and reduce its cybersecurity risk.
A recommended solution such as the UTIMACO u.trust Data File protects personal, sensitive and business-critical data from unauthorized access.