What Everyone Needs to Know

Encryption is the conversion of data into an unreadable form that helps prevent unauthorized use of such data. Encryption helps ensure confidentiality and keep information secret from those not entitled to see it. To encrypt data, you need software that uses a key or password to scramble the data, and you need that same key or password and compatible software to decrypt it as well. Most business websites encrypt their data with what is called public key encryption technology. When you see a website URL that starts with https://, the site is using public key encryptions.  Encryption is used to help identity an entity such as a website, server, or user.  It is an effective way to protect confidential email, voice, or video communications. Lots of messaging services already include encryption (such as WhatsApp, iMessage).  Email communications are typically not encrypted by default but most email solutions either have options to encrypt emails or are compatible with technology to encrypt them.  Google's email and Microsoft 365's email solutions both have options for encryptions from Google and Microsoft as well as from third parties.  Encryption is also particularly useful to protect stored data such as USB storage keys, hard drives, laptops, smartphones, servers, and backup files. , The legal aid community is moving to more encryption of data in transit (e.g., email, voice calls, video calls, web meetings, chat, and data at rest (e.g., hard drives, desktops, file servers, backups) to help protect the data against accidental, intentional access, or dissemination of data in an unauthorized manner.

What IT Needs to Know

When thinking about encryption, you need to protect the data at rest and the data in transit. Data at rest means data that is housed physically on computer data storage in any digital form. This includes servers, desktop computers, laptops, smart phones, usb keys, and tablets.  Data in transit is data actively moving from one location to another, such as across the internet or through a private network. This includes email, web, collaborative work applications such as Teams, and remote access technologies.

 

When possible, use services that already include encryption (e.g., web applications that use HTTPS instead of HTTP Messaging applications with end-to-end encryption). If your technology does not include encryption built in, find third-party tools for encryption, on an application-wide or a per file/per communication basis.

Solutions to Consider:

  • Proofpoint (email security and protection): Website
  • Office 365 (Built in tool): Website
  • BitLocker for Windows: Website

Resources

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