This week technology giants Apple and Google have joined an army of various tech companies and cryptologists in urging US government to resist plans to build ‘back doors’ in their operating systems. These plans aim to make encrypted data accessible to third parties under law enforcement but critics are concerned that this could penalise the security of classified data and jeopardise the safety of many vulnerable businesses.
Apple and Google have joined allies in signing a letter that will be sent to the Obama administration protesting against the FBI and other surveillance agencies who have initiated this idea. The document will state that encryption is the “cornerstone of the modern information economy’s security” and there is certainly weight behind this claim.
In October last year, both companies made the decision to automate their encryption, meaning that with iOS8 and Android update plans, any data would be encrypted by default. This means that the companies themselves would no longer even be able to access any records, data, emails, photos or recordings stored on devices.
Opposing surveillance agencies are arguing that this is handing ‘bad guys’ the loop hole in the law that they need to store and exchange potentially dangerous data right under the government’s nose. Recently re-appointed, British Prime Minister David Cameron is backing those supporting virtual back doors in a bid to intercept data.
However, with the incidents of cyber-attacks increasing at a rate of knots and the rise of cloud-based technology, encryption and secure privacy has become all the more important.
So what exactly is encryption?
In technical terms, encryption is the process by which electronic plaintext is translated into cipher text using mathematical algorithms that have origins in Egyptian scribe. This text is then hidden behind a unique key/password in order to protect the content from third parties and unauthorised access. In layman’s terms, this means any data or information that you store or transfer on a device is safe from hackers, prying eyes and potential viruses. It may seem like a load of gobbledygook but cipher text could be the difference between make and break for you and your business.
There are various different types and methods of encrypting and it’s really up to you to choose the right one for your business and level of security.
- Full disk – encrypts an entire disk of data e.g. laptops, desktops and mobile devices.
- Individual file – does exactly what it says on the tin and translates single files.
- Data transit – encrypts data during transfer e.g. from your device to the cloud via the internet. This method cannot guarantee encryption when the information reaches its destination so beware of this one.
Why you should be using encryption:
As we mentioned earlier, the number of cyber-attacks is forever on the up and running head-to-head is the increasing popularity of cloud software. Cloud technology allows data to be stored in a central server and can be accessed from anywhere that provides an internet connection. This is great as it is an economical and efficient way of storing and updating records but it can also leave your data more vulnerable, which is where encryption steps in to save the day.
Standard passwords and firewalls just aren’t enough to stop skilled hackers in their tracks these days but ensuring your data is encrypted will give you peace of mind in knowing your precious documents are protected. Encryption can prevent the loss of digital assets such as software, avoid potential exploitation of stolen records and fend against fraud and identity theft to keep your business and its reputation in order.
Remember – never keep your encryption key in the same place you store your data or exchange the unique passkey via email.
So, would weakened access points purpose-built for surveillance activity not make the very concept and function of encryption entirely redundant? Or should Apple and Google listen to their critics when they say new access could reduce crime and allow agencies to track data and conversations before any destructive consequences?
We would love to know what you think! Comment below or tweet @pandlecloud to join in the debate.