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The importance of encryption in the era of personal data protection

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Encryption is the process of turning information into text by using an algorithm (called a cipher) in order to enable anyone to read it except those with a particular identification, usually referred to as a key. The result of this process is encrypted information, also known as ciphertext.

Therefore, encryption turns out to be a great ally in information security, as it protects any kind of data from undue access, especially personal data of an organization’s internal as well as external data subjects.

However, with the exception of information technology professionals, encryption is ignored by most people who barely even hear anyone mention it in a conversation or article.

Surely, Windows system users are unaware that it has an encryption system called Bitlocker. It has been available since Windows Vista and, afterwards, through Windows 7, 8, and 10. However, considering that we are in the Windows 10 era, it is important to note that Windows 10 Home Edition does not have Bitlocker.

With Bitlocker it is possible to enable encryption of a device or enable Bitlocker’s default encryption, as shown below:

TO TURN ON DEVICE ENCRYPTION

1. Sign in to Windows with an administrator account (you may have to sign out and back in to switch accounts).

2. Select the Start button, then select Settings > Update & Security  > Device Encryption. If Device Encryption does not appear, it is not available. You may be able to turn on standard BitLocker encryption instead.

3. If device encryption is turned off, select Turn on.

TO TURN ON STANDARD BITLOCKER ENCRYPTION

1. Sign in to your Windows device with an administrator account (you may have to sign out and back in to switch accounts).

2. In the search box on the taskbar, type Manage BitLocker and then select it from the list of results. Or you can select the Start button, and then under Windows system, select Control Panel. In Control Panel, select System and Security, and then under BitLocker Drive Encryption, select Manage BitLocker. Note: you will only see this option if BitLocker is available for your device. It is not available on Windows 10 Home edition.

3. Select Turn on BitLocker and then follow the instructions.

However, encryption is not limited to Bitlocker, although this is possibly the best known and most widespread encryption system in the corporate world, due to the use of Windows platform.

There are four other encryption systems that deserve a quick mention:

AES Represents the acronym Advanced Encryption Standard and it is a symmetric encryption algorithm, using a block cipher, which encrypts data one fixed-size block at a time rather than bit-by-bit, and being considered one of the most secure in the world, to the point that it is used by the US government to protect their confidential information.
Twofish It is a symmetric block cipher of 128-bit to 256-bit that implements rounds of encryption to turn plaintext into ciphertext. Unlike AES, the number of rounds in Twofish is always 16 rounds. Its advantage is to not be a patented technology, which greatly lowers the cost for those who will use it.
3DES Represents the triple data encryption standard, and is a symmetric key encryption system that uses three individual 56-bit keys, which ends up encrypting data three times, ultimately turning into a 168-bit key. Its downside is slowness and ease of decrypting and leaking data, since it uses shorter block lengths.
RSA Here we have an asymmetric algorithm, whose acronym represents an homage to Ron Rivest, Adi Shamir, and Len Adelman, using a public key encryption system to share data over a network considered to be unsafe. However, in addition to the public key which can be known to everyone, since it will be used to encrypt data, there is a private key that must be confidential and known only to the person who must be able to access the encrypted content, as it will be used to decrypt it. The RSA key size is impressive, ranging from 1024 to 2048 bits. However, this makes the system slower than the others.

Although some organizations are banning file transfers through devices plugged into USB ports, such as pen drives or portable hard drives, there are several encryption software options for these devices, as shown in the examples below:

Gilisoft USB Stick EncryptionThis tool encrypts the content and creates an access password. It will split your removable media storage into two parts after encryption, to protect the private and public sections.
DiskCryptorIt is based on Twofish, AES-256, Serpent, and combinations of other algorithms to encrypt users' data and devices.
EncryptStick LiteIt is based on AES-256 and its distinction is that it will keep your data protected in case of a system or hard disk failure.
USBCryptIt is based on a similar algorithm to AES, using key lengths of 128 and 256 bits, creating an access password. And it has one big advantage: it is free!
VeracryptThis tool is known for its flexibility, offering several encryption options so that you can encrypt data and devices however you like. And thus, like USBCrypt, it is also free.
Kakasoft USBThis tool is designed to provide a lock, password and encryption system for USB drives.
CypherixThis tool, in addition to encrypting any USB, hard disk, removable media and even memory card, can also encrypt files and folders.
ChallengerThis tool is considered one of the safest for portable devices, with the advantages of choosing multi-user, portable version on USB/SD card, availability for 32 and 64 bit operating systems, detecting corrupt encryption methods, running on outdated systems, having an advanced benchmark testing, and detecting program manipulation.
AxCryptThis tool is a multifunctional encryption system that can decrypt and compress USB drives, being equally possible to store and send data as well.

Large information technology (IT) companies likewise invest in encryption systems, such as IBM Security Guardium, which performs encryption and decryption with minimal performance impact and numerous other valuable services, and Dell Data Protection, which offers in addition to encryption, multifactor authentication and support for smart cards and cryptographic tokens. Similarly, antivirus companies also develop encryption systems such as McAfee, Trend, and Symantec.

Although the National Data Protection Authority (ANPD) has not yet had a more austere action in applying penalties on those who breach the General Data Protection Act (LGPD) in Brazil, the European Union regulatory bodies acting in the protection of personal data have penalized both public and private entities, and even individuals who disrespect the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). It is important to point out that the highest penalties are those applied as a result of failures in information security or leakage of personal data, for inefficiency or negligence in keeping such data.

Thus, encryption must be demystified at once as a system used only by large organizations, and its use should be encouraged by small and medium organizations as well. With the diversity of applications on the market, even the individual user can use encryption on their systems, free of charge or at a very reasonable cost.

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