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The cryptic confusion of encryption, good or bad?

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I’m sure you’ve heard the word ‘encryption’ thrown about on social media, articles & news – no doubt followed by the words ‘ransomware’, ‘extortion’ and ‘data loss’. With that in-mind, it’d be a reasonable assumption that encryption can only be bad, right? Wrong.

Encryption itself isn’t bad, it’s the context and how it’s used that defines whether it will save or destroy your data. In-fact, we use encryption to secure remote devices and prevent data loss.

So that we’re all on the same level and we all understand what encryption is, here’s the oxford dictionary definition of encryption:

The act of putting information into a special code, especially in order to prevent people from looking at it without authority

via Oxford Learner’s Dictionary

How is encryption used for malicious purposes?

The most common way encryption is used for malice is within ransomware.

Ransomware is a special kind of malware that infects your PC and encrypts the majority of your system, usually only allowing you to boot the device and access the internet. The rest of the files on your system, including documents, pictures, videos, archives (everything!) are encrypted, meaning you can’t open, read, or modify them. They’re rendered useless.

The ransomware then leaves a single notepad or XML document on the desktop which contains a message stating that you’d been hacked and that in order to release your files you’ll need to send an amount of Bitcoin to the hacker’s bitcoin address.

Thing is, even after paying up, most users are still left with encrypted, unusable files.

You can identify what ransomware you have by looking at the encrypted file-extension of your files, as many of the ransomware variants have a similar name to their extension. As an example, if you had the ‘Locky’ ransomware, your files would likely be ‘myfilename.docx.locky’, or ‘myfilename.locky’.

The best way to prevent ransomware is to use an antimalware/anti-virus solution that includes ransomware protection, like Avast or MalwareBytes.

If it’s already too late and your device is infected, take a look at Kasperky’s ransomware decryptors – these handy pieces of software can decrypt many of the common ransomware variants.

How can encryption be used to benefit your business?

After reading the above, I can understand some unease about using encryption for your business, but trust us – it could save your business data.

The most common way that we use encryption as a business benefit is to enable BitLocker, which is Windows 10 Pro’s built-in drive encryptor. By encrypting the drive of a laptop, you can secure the data and make sure prying eyes can’t see it.

This means that if your device is lost or stolen, a special password and recovery key will need to be inputted in order to unlock the drive. Without it, the data on the drive can’t be accessed at all – this stops hackers and data thieves from being able to read, use, or leak your data.

On-top of this, for extra security and protection, you can encrypt your devices through Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365) too.

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