How encryption can enhance your company’s security strategy
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How encryption can enhance your company’s security strategy

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The volume of cyberattacks worldwide has continued to rise in recent years, making the stakes higher than ever for defending against them. Francesco Basso, product manager at European certification authority Actalis, writes about a range of options that businesses can take to protect themselves.

It’s no secret that cybersecurity has become an increasingly prominent and critical challenge for all businesses, no matter their sector, size or location. Cybersecurity rules and regulations have become central to operations as the rate of cyberattacks has continued to increase.

Global cybercrime will cost $10.5 trillion annually by 2025, according to estimates. These attacks have significant consequences, leading to personal security risks and reputational damage. The stakes are higher than ever, putting the pressure on businesses to implement cybersecurity strategies and tactics using the range of digital solutions available to them.

But irrespective of the specific tools or approaches, the most effective cybersecurity strategies have encryption technology at the heart. Encryption facilitates the secure transfer of and access to sensitive data by converting it into code that only the intended recipient can decipher, thereby protecting it from malicious parties.

Here are a few of the key encryption-based offerings that businesses can use today.

Three pillars of encryption

When it comes to website security, SSL certificates have a critical role to play. As well as providing server authentication so users can verify the authenticity of a given website, these certificates ensure online transaction security through the transport layer security (TLS) protocol. TLS is a standardised solution that guarantees full encryption throughout a user’s session on a website, ensuring that all the data transferred between the user and the website is kept secure. This is verified by a padlock icon displayed in the browser bar.

Businesses can choose between three categories of SSL certificate: extended validation (EV), organisation validation (OV) and domain validation (DV). While all three offer the same level of encryption, they have different characteristics in terms of vetting and verification. They also have slightly different applications. For example, DV is more suited to blogs and small personal websites, whereas EV is recommended for large e-commerce websites. There are also several types of SSL certificate available – such as single-domain, SAN and wildcard – the use of which depends on how many domains and subdomains need to be protected.

Then there’s email security. Email communications are a common entry point for cybercriminals, with the FBI finding that global ‘business email compromise’ attacks had resulted in more than $43 billion in losses between June 2016 and December 2021.

As such, obtaining S/MIME certificates is a crucial step in safeguarding the integrity and security of business emails. These certificates provide powerful protection against email hacks, with end-to-end encryption and a digital signature. This ensures that email material can’t be accessed by third parties, while allowing recipients to easily confirm the sender’s identity.

Finally, we come to software security, which is where code signing certificates come into play. These are essential in protecting against harmful malware attacks, allowing users to implement digital signatures on software or application components to confirm their origin, guarantee authorship and ensure that code has not been altered. They work by connecting the identity of an IT organisation to a private key, which the software developer or distributor uses to sign the code. End users then get access to a public key that allows them to verify the identity of the signing party, thus ensuring the software is reliable.

When using code signing certificates, businesses must remember to limit the number of personnel who are able to access the machines used for the code signing process. The fewer people with access to the private keys, the lower the chance of error or misuse that could compromise the protection.

It’s recommended to keep close track of all code-signing operations to prevent the signature of unapproved or malicious code, and store the keys with security-compliant tools to reduce the chance of attacks. It’s also recommended to scan for viruses before signing any code and add a time stamp to the signed code. Finally, don’t sign all software with the same certificate and be sure to change keys frequently. These best practices will help to ensure superior protection against malware attacks.

Picking the right provider

There are several factors to keep in mind when it comes to selecting an encryption solution provider. For example, choose one with experience in implementing all categories and types of SSL certificate, as well as the knowledge to help you pick the best option for your specific business needs.

A security partner that enables clients to request and issue their own certificates with a certificate signing request (CSR) is also important, providing increased efficiency and flexibility by reducing the reliance on external teams for certificate implementation. Some providers even go a step further by offering services that deliver certificates automatically.

In terms of email security solutions, consider vendors with corporate S/MIME certificate options that can configure the technical signature method to a company’s specific regulatory framework. The ability to tailor the solution in this way can help ease adoption. If you want to test the effectiveness of S/MIME certificates on your personal email, look for a vendor that offers free options for this use.

Ultimately, encryption technology offers valuable protection in a hostile cybersecurity landscape in which sophisticated cyberattacks are a constant threat. By using encryption solutions within their wider security strategies, businesses can thwart malicious attackers, and protect against damaging financial and reputational consequences of hacks. It may only be one piece of the puzzle, but the wide-ranging applications and benefits of encryption make it central to any cybersecurity strategy.

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