Encryption at rest overlaps with encryption in motion but focuses on protecting the data that is at rest. Data at rest refers to the data that does not move, such as that stored on a laptop. By contrast, data in motion is the data moving through a network, such as via email. As such, the best practices for encryption at rest focus on protecting the information you store on your devices.
The Importance of Encryption at Rest
The biggest reason encryption at rest is crucial for businesses of any size is that it protects against a data breach. Cyber attacks are prevalent and can impact any company, whether you are a startup with a few people or a multi-national organization. With encryption at rest in place to protect your important files, you reduce the risk of a data breach leading to hackers getting access to your information. You’re also preventing the destruction they could cause in case of a ransomware attack.
How Encryption at Rest Works
To start taking advantage of encryption at rest to protect your sensitive files, you must first understand exactly what this process does. It changes the format of the data, making it impossible to read without a specific encryption key. This means that even if an unauthorized person or hacker accessed your encrypted data, they would not understand what it says due to the encryption.
Determine Sensitive Data Requiring Encryption at Rest
Begin by figuring out which data on your servers and devices is the most sensitive and therefore at the higher risk. By figuring out what this data is, why it is sensitive, where you store it, and who has access to it, you can better understand what your encryption strategy needs to include. Additionally, simply identifying sensitive data makes it easier to organize it in a way that accommodates encryption.
In addition to figuring out which data requires encryption when you first enact this security measure, you will need a system to determine which data to encrypt in the future. You can do this by creating a policy that will systematically classify all of your company’s data. This way, you can ensure that data in rest requiring encryption always gets that additional layer of protection without extra effort on your part.
Check Your Current Security Measures
While you figure out which data is the most important, you should also analyze the security measures you already have in place. These measures will supplement the encryption. You should already have anti-virus software or a firewall in place, if not both. If you don’t, you must make this a priority along with encryption at rest. The more layers of protection you have, the more secure your data will be.
If you store your data at rest on a cloud server, do not rely too much on that server to protect your data. Most servers will offer storage without any explicit statement about security. Even if they do claim to include some sort of security measures, do not assume that this is enough. Instead, ask the cloud provider how they encrypt your data, who can access it, and how frequently it gets backed up.
Consider File-Level Encryption
For even more encryption at rest security, you should consider encrypting everything at the file level, no matter where the file is. This will ensure all data gets encrypted even if it changes location in the future. In other words, just because you copy a sensitive file to a USB drive, it will not lose its encryption, and both copies will remain protected.
Control Access for Encryption
One of the most important components of an effective encryption at rest strategy is to control who has access to your data security. By limiting access to the encryption key and other related security measures, you reduce the risk of accidents. This means you should minimize who has administrative access to the data you chose to encrypt, particularly in the case of highly sensitive information. Try a strategy such as a role-based access control to easily create various security levels as well as permissions.
Use the Hardware Security to Manage Keys
In the case of sensitive data stored on hardware such as drives, take advantage of the security modules built into that hardware. Many programs and hardware have their own system for managing encryption keys. For example, Microsoft Azure’s disk encryption has an Azure Key Vault so you can manage and control disk encryption keys. See if whatever program you use for encryption has a similar feature and take advantage of it so you can ensure that your keys remain secure.
Enable Two-Factor Authentication
Two-factor authentication is an important part of many areas of cybersecurity, including data encryption. Hackers will find it relatively easy to access your account if they only need a username and password. Multi-factor authentication is the simplest and most reliable method of changing this. If you require multi-factor authentication, users will need to get an additional code from their mobile device or another connected authentication device. They will use this code to access their account and the information connected to it.
Secure Your Workstations
In addition to securing access to user accounts via two-factor authentication, take the time to secure the workstations at your company as well. This is crucial, as most attacks will target end users, relying on the fact that end users have administrative status. Even with multi-factor authentication in place, a hacker may be able to access data unless you take extra steps, such as securing the workstations. Consider Privileged Access Workstations, as they reduce the opportunity for an attack at each workstation endpoint.
Remember that encryption at rest works together with encryption in motion. One of these types of encryption is near useless without the other in place as well. Think of them as two parts of your overall encryption strategy and ensure both encryption at rest and encryption in motion follow industry best practices.