Across the hybrid, multi-cloud environments data storage needs are growing exponentially. At the same time, along with digital threats like data ransomware, theft and misuse, organizations are face with a greater number of regulations to follow.

Even without the regulations which highlight the need for data encryption, it is highly recommended.

A well-constructed data encryption strategy can go a long way in addressing the swath of data protection issues. Data encryption helps in keeping the organization’s data safe while being compliant with industry regulations along with providing additional security against unforeseen mishaps.  Along with the need to manage encryption keys, a good data encryption strategy identifies the need to block unauthorized access to company data as well.

Our security experts have enlisted below the five key areas of consideration for implementing a successful data encryption program.

Developing and communicating the Data Encryption plan

To define a plan for moving forward, a successful deployment requires strong collaboration from all the teams. For securing budgets and for driving plans from the top, relevant executives should be involved. It is also imperative database administrators should be involved along with team members who work with data systems, storage, and network or data security in the data encryption strategy.

During the implementation of a data encryption strategy, these stakeholders can help minimize the impact on performance and critical timelines.

A consensus on how encryption aligns with business goals and priorities needs to be established to level-set everyone’s understanding and expectations. The placement of teams and systems needs to be assessed. If needed, changes in the groups or the leaders should be done. Separation of duties needs to be defined from the beginning of the process. It is also the key to proper encryption and key lifecycle management.

Prioritizing Data of High Value for Encryption

It is imperative to understand what data does the organization has, how sensitive it is and where is it located when various data resources are deployed on-premises and over the cloud. Thorough data identification and a data mapping process will lead the organization on a path to success, however, the process can be complex and time-intensive.

To understand how the organization’s encryption strategy needs to work with established routines and adjacent technologies, the understanding of existing policies and access controls is necessary. Much of this work can be automated and properly categorized for encryption prioritization if data discovery and classification solutions are in place. For quick wins that can be leveraged for momentum and to build a case around return on investment along with its sensitive nature, organizations always want to protect their high-value enterprise assets first.

The definition of critical data depends on your business and industry. Many IT and security professionals view business-critical information and sensitive, regulated data as most in need of protection.

Any information that makes up or exposes an organization’s competitive advantage, such as intellectual property, trade secrets, and business plans qualifies to be business-critical information. While customer and employee information, such as personally identifiable information, government-issued identification numbers, and health records qualify to be sensitive and regulated data. Often, key provisions of many regulations revolve around the encrypting of sensitive data.

Exploring Encryption Techniques

Once the critical data of an organization is defined and a strategy is formulated, the organizations and the security personnel would need to think about what encryption techniques will be required to protect the data that is at rest and which is in transit. The approaches to data encryption can be categorized by where they’re employed in the technology stack, which consists of four levels in which data encryption is typically implemented: full-disk or media, file system, database and application.

Due to its broad protections that support most use cases, file encryption is an optimal approach for many companies. It is also easy to deploy and operate. The higher in the stack that data encryption is employed, the more complicated the implementation will be, which will have a greater potential impact on performance. However, in exchange, the organization and security personnel will have a greater level of data protection.

The end goal is to have a balanced approach.

The organization should also consider how they want to manage their encryption keys. According to our experts, the best practice is to have business takes control of all encryption keys, even ones that are used to encrypt the cloud data. To ensure the encrypted data is distanced from their encryption keys until access is securely granted the proper separation in duties and storage is enforced.

Choosing the Right Encryption Provider

When it’s time to choose the best vendor for the organization’s data encryption needs, the decision-makers need to be mindful of the criteria they have for product features and functionality and the kind of relationship they want when selecting a vendor. A solution provider with a broad product and services portfolio is better positioned to advise, support, and provide integrated solutions as the organization expands and chances are that interactions with a chosen provider will only increase beyond a certain point.

For the encryption product, choosing a vendor who can provide centralized key and policy management, which will simplify operations around data encryption and key lifecycle management and allow the business to easily scale in the future.

Thinking Past Deployment

Once the solution is implemented and performing, it should be monitored for any outliers or violations. While keeping an eye on business growth and shifts to adapt the encryption strategy, organizations will need to continue to prove alignment to business and strategic goals.

Moving more data to the cloud should also be considered.

A strong encryption strategy should acclimatize to business needs, so organizations need to develop an approach that considers changes in technology and the requirements of key stakeholders.

These are just a handful of key considerations to have in mind as organizations start or revive a data encryption strategy but it’s always advised to enlist the help of professionals to string a comprehensive data encryption strategy.

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