As a business owner, you’ve probably heard about end-to-end encryption, and you may have even rolled it out with or without knowing it. But what does it mean, and how does it help protect your most valuable asset: your data? Here, we cover the key topics: what it is, how it works, and why it plays such an important role in data security for companies of all sizes.
What is end-to-end encryption?
End-to-end encryption (E2EE) is a method of securing data and ensuring it can only be read by the intended sender and recipient. With E2EE, data is converted from something a human can read to “ciphertext,” a random jumble of encoded text. It stays this way as it travels from the sender’s system or device to the recipient, and it can’t be intercepted or tampered with by third parties in the process.
In a nutshell? With E2EE in place, your data is only accessible by authorised users.
How end-to-end encryption works
There are many types of encryption, all of which play a part in data security. But E2EE stands out for using different keys to encrypt and decrypt. This is known as asymmetric encryption, and it makes sure that only the “endpoints” — i.e. the sender and receiver — have the ability to decrypt and read messages. While the data may pass through a server belonging to an Internet Service Provider (ISP) or telecommunications company to get to its destination, those intermediaries can’t “eavesdrop.”
Even if a third party manages to gain access to one key, they won’t have enough information to decrypt the message. To compare, symmetric key encryption uses a single key, which is easier for cybercriminals to decode.
What end-to-end encryption covers
Here are the ways end-to-end encryption protects data:
- Keeps communication private. Imagine you stored your most valuable data in a safe. Think of E2EE as the padlock on the safe. Unless you have the key to unlock — or decrypt — the safe, you won’t be able to access or read the data. For businesses, this offers peace of mind if you have employees working remotely or using cloud systems to communicate.
- Prevents data tampering. Thanks to its asymmetric key system, E2EE mixes up data and makes sure it isn’t legible while it’s in transit. This means nobody can alter the data while it’s on its journey. So, if you’re a recipient, you can rest easy knowing you’ve received the message exactly as you were intended to receive it. To put this into context, apps like WhatsApp use end-to-end encryption to protect data. As a user, you can trust in the integrity of any text you get.
- Boosts compliance. Some industries, like healthcare and financial services, have to implement encryption-level data security as part of their regulatory requirements. This keeps sensitive data like patient records and credit card numbers private. E2EE not only helps companies to protect any data that passes between browsers and servers, but it also allows them to stay compliant.
What it doesn’t cover
You’re probably wondering: Can end-to-end encryption be hacked? When implemented correctly, E2EE is unbreakable based on available algorithms and computing power. But it has a couple of limitations.
Firstly, it doesn’t seal metadata. E2EE protects the data inside a message, but not the data about a message. Known as metadata, this information may include the date, time and location where the message was sent. It may also list the names of the participants in the message exchange.
Like all types of encryption, E2EE can’t help if someone physically steals or otherwise accesses the device you use to communicate. Even with E2EE in place, they’ll be able to read, write and send messages. For that reason, it’s important to add extra layers of security to your devices. Enabling PIN codes or facial recognition to log in is a good first step — that way, if your device ends up in the wrong hands, it’ll be challenging for that third party to get into it.
It’a also essential to protect your devices with endpoint protection software. ESET Protect Complete defends against a range of cyber attacks that hackers use to tap into devices, like malware, spyware and ransomware. It safeguards WiFI networks, webcams and cloud email, collaboration and storage systems. Finally, it seamlessly encrypts your data and protects your company and its clients from data breaches with the help of Endpoint Encryption.
Collect more data security keys
E2EE is the most secure way to send and receive confidential data, which is why many companies are making the switch. But it’s just one piece of the data security puzzle. As a business, you want to protect your data and your services with a complete antivirus solution, like ESET Protect Complete.