SMBs are the target of more than half of all cyber attacks. And experts estimate that the annual global cost of cybercrimes could reach $10.5 trillion by 2025. You need robust security features that work well with your different applications and don’t break the bank to counter this threat.

Your business deals with files daily, so you need tried and true methods to protect sensitive information. 

What is file encryption?

To encrypt a file is to scramble its contents so that only the intended recipient can decipher the message. Data in the file is encrypted and decrypted only with the correct encryption key or password.

Encrypting data on a computer can prevent an attacker from reading specific files. File encryption is helpful when sending sensitive files over a not-always-secure channel like email. And it can also protect files that are already in use by an application.

When we’re talking about online file storage, zero-knowledge encryption is best. It ensures your safety from anyone, including the service provider.

Why do we need to encrypt files?

If you’re still not convinced that you should be using encryption, consider these facts:

Data Privacy

With encryption, only the intended recipient or owner of the data will be able to decipher the message or access the data. This safeguard eliminates the possibility of hackers, ISPs, spammers, and even the government viewing your private information.

Regulatory Compliance

Industry regulators and government agencies require organizations that deal with users’ personal information to keep that data encrypted. HIPAA, PCI-DSS, and the General Data Protection Regulation are just a few examples of regulations and compliance standards that require encryption.

Data Security

You can protect data at rest or in transit from unauthorized access using encryption. If the hard drive of a company-owned device is encrypted, for instance, the information stored there is likely to remain safe even if the device is lost or stolen. 

Additionally, encryption allows you to have open conversations without worrying about unwanted parties gaining access to private information.

Which files do you need to encrypt?

Generally speaking, there are two types of sensitive data that you should encrypt: 

Personally Identifiable Information (PII)

PII is any information that hackers can use to determine who you are. The Social Security Number and the date of birth are two such examples. To prevent identity theft, you must secure all the documents you possess that contain your personally identifiable information.

Confidential Business Information and Intellectual Property

Because of the potential financial reward, criminals frequently target corporate databases. It’s why a Russian attempted to hack Tesla, and the LockBit ransomware gang attacked Accenture.

When deciding whether or not to encrypt a file, it is helpful to ask yourself the following two questions:

  • Would you shred the printed version of the file before discarding it?
  • What dire consequences might ensue if this information were to be leaked or posted online tomorrow?

Exactly what information does every company or individual have that needs encryption? The following are the three files that you should always encrypt:

1. Customer Information

There are laws to safeguard personal information in the healthcare and financial sectors. These guidelines are relevant to businesses operating in these sectors. 

But there is a need to safeguard customer information in all industries, not just banking and healthcare. Companies like Target and Sony failed to adequately protect their customers’ personal data. Consequently, they discovered how damaging it could be to lose customer trust.

2. Trade Secrets

Many workers carry laptops with copies of confidential company documents or trade secrets. Traveling entrepreneurs and their laptops are common targets for data thieves.

3. Research Data

The information gathered during R&D is usually shared openly amongst employees. Even though not all organizations spend a lot of money on R&D, the ones that do should safeguard their data through file encryption.

4. Financial Data

You should treat company financial information as a closely guarded secret. Financial data should be encrypted and stored in a safe location to which only authorized personnel have access.

5. Personal Data

Sharing too much personal information online makes you a prime target for cybercriminals. Oversharing is more than just giving out your contact info, as most people believe.

Here’s a list of files you should encrypt:

  • Files containing information on your health, including insurance benefits and medical bills
  • Financial records, including bank and credit card statements and tax documents
  • Academic transcripts, masters theses
  • Documents associated with personal identifiers such as your social security card, passport, and driver’s license

Encrypting files is one of the best ways to keep sensitive information safe. When paired with other cutting-edge security measures, it provides unmatched safety for your private data.

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