Data encryption is essentially the translation of data into a secret code. It is virtually the most effective way to achieve data security. Mainly because to read an encrypted file, you must have access to a secret key or password that enables you to decrypt it, a password is decided and remembered by the user while the secret key has to be generated randomly and is associated primarily for use by the specific encryption software. Furthermore, a password can be used as a secret key but is regarded as being less strong than a randomly generated key.
The majority of unencrypted data is called plain text which is fundamentally readable data, whereas encrypted data is referred to as cipher text which in turn is the encrypted result of plain text.
There are two main types of encryption, the first being asymmetric and the second being symmetric encryption. As detailed explanations of both types of encryption can sometimes alienate an average user, a brief summary are as follows, asymmetric encryption (AKA Public Key Encryption) basically uses two keys to encrypt a plain text, effectively it takes plain text, scrambles it, and then unscrambles it again at the other end, using a different key at each end. In contrast symmetric encryption only uses a single key, which once someone else has the knowledge of renders your encryption useless, therefore making asymmetric the more secure option. Also, a good thing to realise among different people wanting to use encryption is that asymmetric encryption takes considerably more time to attribute than the symmetric encryption, especially with larger amounts of data.
There are lots of encryption software available to use, some are free, and some cost money. If you were to collate the most common and popular that we encounter in data recovery, the list would be something like this:
It is down to the individual user on which they choose and why. As all data has varying degrees of importance to the individual, and that should have a bearing on whether or not the data needs to be encrypted.
A few examples of the benefits and potential pitfalls of encryption are good to consider before making a decision. For instance, encryption requires a password to encrypt and decrypt files/folders. There are differing perspectives when considering this, the positive perspective would be encryption offers the most absolute means available to someone of ensuring their data is secure and kept safe, and can only be accessed by an individual who knows the password/key. Ultimately this is great if the data on a storage device is of high value or extremely sensitive.
The negative perspective is that people often use common or simple words/numbers when thinking of a password, they most likely do this because they are afraid of forgetting the password. So, the most obvious disadvantage of encrypting files is that if you forget the password that you used, you will never be able to decrypt and recover the data. But in the same instance if choose a password that is easy to remember and in turn potentially guess, your encrypted data is less secure as a result.
Encryption is at the forefront of some interesting debates of late, The Apple Vs FBI case and more recently the WhatsApp debate hinges on aspects related to encryption. These examples open up very delicate arguments for the pros and cons of encryption. And this is where it’s useful to attribute the whole debate to the future of data recovery and protection and how we here at R3 Data Recovery are looking to implement the use of encryption.
As of May 2018, the laws of data protection are changing. Which will result in higher penalties and more severe consequences for companies and establishments that breach data protection. Therefore, once we recover a customer’s data we have to ensure its security whilst it’s in transit back to a customer. The most effective way we believe is to encrypt all of our RM drives leaving the lab. That way if the drive gets lost or accidentally finds its way into the wrong hands we here at R3 and the customer have the only means of accessing the data.
In the end this has got to be considered a positive thing for everyone involved. Whether its sentimental, precious, critical, or just useful data, it is all those things only to certain people, and that can by why it is of great importance to keep that data protected in the most efficient way possible, and right now in the world of data recovery and data protection that way is though data encryption.
The hard drive failed on my MacBook Pro. Applestore advised they couldn’t recover the data when they fixed the laptop, and that the data would be lost (including my photos that had not been backed up). I described the issue with R3 by phone, and they were confident they could recover the data and confirmed the cost. It took just 16 hours from registering with R3 that I wanted them to look at the failed drive, to being notified what data had been recovered. I was kept informed of progress throughout, and all my files were recovered.
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