When you send your sensitive data across the internet, the last thing you want is for hackers to breach your security measures and gain access to your information.  I explore what data encryption is, what the risks are, and if you should trust it?

In the modern world, getting hacked is the most common global fear when it comes to personal safety. However, many people believe that their data is completely safe if they encrypt it because encryption is designed for the very purpose of keeping data safe, secure and out of the hands of anyone who might have a malicious motive to obtain it. But how safe is your encrypted data really? Can encrypted data be hacked?

1. What is data encryption?

Data encryption is a way to keep data secure by encoding the information in order to ensure that it can only be decoded or decrypted by utilising the right encryption key. When someone tries to access the data without the correct encryption key, it appears as scrambled text and cannot be correctly read or understood.

Encrypting data is used as a security measure to protect sensitive data from being accessed by parties that do not have the right to access it, such as malicious parties or those who might use the data for underhand and nefarious means. It is used to protect data at various security levels including personal data such as bank transactions as well as official government intel. Encryption can take place in the form of symmetric and asymmetric keys and the form used will differ depending on the reasons for the encryption and how it will be used.

2. Can encrypted data be hacked?

The simple answer is yes, encrypted data can be hacked. However, the situation is not as straightforward or as simple as that. Truthfully, hacking encrypted data is extremely difficult, time-intensive and involves a huge amount of technical knowledge on the hacker’s part. It also requires extremely advanced software to decrypt any data when hackers do not have access to the decryption key, although there has been a progression in software development used for these means and there are some hackers out there with that capability.

3. How do hackers decipher encrypted data?

There are several ways that hackers can breach security to procure your encrypted data. One of the most common ways for hackers to obtain sensitive data is to steal the encryption key or intercept the data before it is actually encrypted or after it has been decrypted. However, when this is not possible, the hackers are able to add an encryption layer which is performed by using an attacker’s key.

Hackers tend to approach symmetric and asymmetric encryption differently. In attacks on symmetric encryption, they may launch a cypher-text attack to crack the code by brute force or employ the plain text method. Asymmetric encryptions can be more vulnerable to attack but are often strengthened in order to deter hackers from mathematically solving the algorithms.

4. How to keep encrypted data safe from hackers?

It may be concerning to know that there is the potential for encrypted data to be hacked, especially if your data involves highly sensitive information, such as financial records or access to your bank account and credit cards. Previous high-profile data breaches have sent many people’s blood pressure soaring. But the good news is that there are ways to maximise your security against hackers.

a. Frequently run the latest updates on your system

When the bugs in your code have not been patched with the latest fixes, that can be an open invitation for hackers to breach your system. Schedule regular system updates to ensure that your system does not have vulnerabilities that hackers can take advantage of. This makes it harder for hackers to access your system and steal any keys they could potentially utilise to decrypt your data.

b. Use a virtual private network (VPN)

VPNs add an extra layer of encryption to your data, providing another buffer of cybersecurity against attack by hackers.

c. Store your decryption key securely

Storing your encryption and decryption keys in a password-protected file or even offline can be one of the most effective ways to deter hackers from stealing any of your data. Due to the fact that actually deciphering encrypted data without the correct key is so difficult and lengthy, hackers will try and steal the key more often than not, rather than pursue the labour-intensive process of cracking the data themselves. If you protect your key, you will have a significantly improved chance of protecting your data.

d. Use a cyber security specialist

Whether you are an individual who wants to keep your data safe, a small business concerned about your cyber security or part of a large corporation that regularly transmits sensitive data across the internet, using a specialised firm for advice and tools to keep your encrypted data safe is an excellent idea. Professionals will boost your security to the maximum, ensuring that there is maximum deterrence for hackers if they are considering stealing your important data.

5. Should I still encrypt my data?

If you are doing everything you can to protect yourself against hackers and keeping your encryption and decryption keys safe and sound, then encryption is an excellent option for keeping your data secure. In some ways, encrypting data is a lot like locking the doors and windows of your house and setting your burglar alarm when you go out. It does not guarantee that somebody will not break into your home, but it makes it significantly harder for them and proves to be an excellent deterrent. When you are asking the question, can encrypted data be hacked, although the answer is that it can be, it is much more difficult to obtain access to your sensitive data than if you do not employ encryption.

6. Next steps

Contact us at IT Foundations to find out more about keeping your data safe from hackers and for all your IT solutions including IT support,  Microsoft 365 cloud migrations, business consultancy and of course data protection.  Our team of experts are here to help you.