Data is arguably an organisation’s biggest asset, which makes it a key target for cybercriminals. With 26 per cent of medium businesses and 37 per cent of large businesses experiencing cyber-crime in the last 12 months, according to the Government’s Cyber Security Breaches 2023 survey, data security and privacy are more vital than ever. Data breaches are a risk for every enterprise, regardless of size or industry.
With spiralling amounts of sensitive data travelling between employees, companies and third-parties, business continuity depends entirely on the safe and secure transfer of electronic files. As Gartner predicts that cyberattacks relating to third parties will increase in 2023 and beyond, it’s become a boardroom priority to minimise the risk of a data leak or compromise.
Despite advances in cybersecurity innovation, limited understanding and control over data can put organisations and their entire partner ecosystems at risk. As cyber actors’ intelligence grows and they make new approaches, strategies to secure data at all endpoints in the growing data estate are keeping CISOs and tech leaders awake at night.
In this climate, end-to-end encryption has come on the scene as a crucial safeguard for Zero Trust strategies that ensure secure communication and confidentiality.
Why take the risk of trusting anyone with data?
The shift to the work-from-anywhere world, vulnerabilities in VPNs, and escalating ransomware attacks all underline the importance of safeguarding files. Although it seems many organisations are taking unnecessary risks – a Secure File Transfer survey by Tresorit revealed that of 80 per cent of respondents say insecure email attachments are their primary method of sharing files.
To keep data in the right hands, it must be secured at rest – encrypted and restricted to only appropriate users – as well as in motion. Moving outside of the organisation’s secure walls and internal access restrictions, it must be secured at every step of its journey. While deploying cloud services to empower a remote workforce is usually based on trust, you can take it out of the equation entirely by using zero-knowledge end-to-end encryption.
What is end-to-end encryption?
Tresorit defines end-to-end encryption as a method of secure communication that ensures all encrypted information remains encrypted once it leaves the sender’s device and remains encrypted until it reaches the recipient. No third party has a chance of accessing the exchanged information.
While end-to-end encryption (or E2EE) in itself is nothing new, it’s sometimes ambiguous what vendors mean when they claim to offer end-to-end encrypted services. Organisations should be looking for the highest security and data protection standards for sensitive information based on client-side encryption coupled with zero-knowledge authentication and cryptographic key management. Together these form a truly end-to-end encrypted service.
Meeting the highest standards of end-to-end encryption
With many solutions providing only partial encryption, poor key management, or both, there are some key characteristics for security pros to be aware of to meet the highest standards of end-to-end encryption. These include:
· Architectural criteria: Information exchange happens between parties through a method in which the origin encrypts the information, and only the intended destination(s) decrypt the information without any intermediary decryption.
· Extended definition of parties: The parties can either be individuals or organisations. In the latter case, party refers to a system or components that are fully trusted and stay under the control of the respective organisation.
· Key exchange criteria: Exchanging encryption keys is done in a way that only the communicating parties gain access to the keys, ensuring no third party can access them.
· Key generation and management criteria: The keys used for encrypting information are generated by the sending party and are managed by the participating parties in a way that no third party can gain access to them, not even temporarily.
· Key backup criteria: The private keys of all parties are stored in a way that no one else can gain access to them (e.g., in an encrypted format).
· End-point authentication criteria: All parties can be sure that the public keys belong to the desired party, and a potential attacker cannot inject their own public key to execute a man-in-the-middle attack.
· Binary authenticity criteria: The parties can verify that they are running backdoor-free software from a trusted vendor.
The benefits of end-to-end-encryption
End-to-end encryption offers many benefits for businesses, such as safeguarding business interests, protection against surveillance and keeping communication platforms secure. With client-side zero-knowledge encryption, no one can see data until they are granted access. This keeps organisations in complete control of their company’s files by setting company-wide or role-based policies for file sharing, storing, and retention.
Beyond safeguarding data during transmission and storage, E2EE can enable compliance, providing activity logs alongside reporting capabilities that make security audits a breeze. Businesses will also increase their user productivity and user confidence in data. With integrations for Outlook or Gmail, all email attachments are easily replaced with secure sharing links. In using easy-to-use apps for all platforms and SSO support, security doesn’t get in the way of employees’ busy work schedules.
Through advanced link tracking and document analytics, tech and security pros can build a comprehensive picture of how users interact with sensitive files to ensure enterprise-wide data protection.
Building a security-first culture
End-to-end encryption is one key technology to be deployed as part of a proactive cybersecurity approach, which should include regular back-ups, to ensure that your company’s data remains secure and accessible at all times, wherever it is. Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) can also add an extra layer of security by requiring users to provide further information to access their accounts, which makes it harder for hackers to steal important data. Adopting antivirus software and password managers and carrying out regular security audits to include conducting regular vulnerability assessments will ensure that all files are accurate, up-to-date, and secure.
Employee education is also vital to mitigate the direct threats of targeting employees through phishing emails, one of the most common vehicles for ransomware. Organisations must build a culture of security by creating policies and procedures, providing regular training to employees, and encouraging best practices, which ensures that employees can identify and avoid phishing scams.
Trust in data is the basis for business success
By adopting a truly end-to-end encryption solution as part of a robust cybersecurity framework, organisations will build a culture of cybersecurity that will improve productivity, ensure business continuity, and impact the bottom line. Only by securely moving data inside and outside an organisation will the organisation and its supply chain stay safe and defend what’s theirs.