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Data Encryption at Rest vs in Motion


June 26, 2023 ( Newswire) Information, or data, is often considered one of the most important resource a modern business may have. It is crucial to a company's day-to-day operation, and any sort of data breach could be a complete disaster to the company in question, be it from the reputational standpoint or the financial one. It is not impossible for a business to be forced to shut down completely after a major data loss event that was not contained or remedied in due time.

As such, proper security measures have to be set in place before any of these events happen to either prevent the data breach from happening or to mitigate the consequences of data loss. Of course, it would be far more preferable for any company to have potential data loss events prevented outright - and there is an entire industry that exists with a single goal of preventing data from being stolen or otherwise lost.

This is how we get to the topic of data encryption - the process of securing information at its base level by turning data into an unintelligible sequence of symbols that follows a specific algorithm (encryption). That way, encrypted data cannot be accessed or used until it is decrypted - turned back into its original form using a one-of-a-kind security key that is usually generated at the same time as the original data is encrypted.

Following this somewhat basic process makes actual important information completely useless for any perpetrator, even if they manage to steal said data in the first place. As such, its primary use is in cases when the information in question is sensitive in some way, shape, or form. It can be government-related information, financial information, customer's personal data, payment data, and so on.

This process itself may seem somewhat simple at first - but it has a surprising level of depth, including both different encryption algorithms and different data states that apply various restrictions and limitations on data in question. This kind of information about the basics of data encryption is necessary for quite a lot of people that are related to corporate decision-making, in some way or another. Knowing the limitations of a specific technology makes it a lot easier to implement in a more effective way.

For example, there are three main states that information may be in at any given point in time - in motion, at rest, and in use. Data in motion (data in transit) is information that is currently in the process of moving from one storage location to another. The origin and the target location do not matter all that much - it is the process of "moving" itself that is the problem for security experts.

Data in motion is considered the most vulnerable category out of the three, mainly because it is much more difficult to protect information that is not currently stationary. Data in motion is often the main target of most cybercrimes, and there are entire attack techniques that have been created for the sole purpose of intercepting such data - such as MitM, or Man-in-the-Middle, which is a self-insertion of the malicious actor into the data stream between the origin point and the target location.

Data at rest, on the other hand, is a type of information that is currently in its inactive state, neither moving nor modified in some way. It is considered the most secure data type out of the three, but it is also far more desirable by malicious actors - because the cybercriminal in question would be able to "choose" what data he's going to receive, instead of intercepting data at random intervals.

Data at rest is usually stored in some form of storage location, be it physical storage appliance, cloud storage platform, or even in some applications such as SharePoint. This particular data type is extremely vulnerable to the so-called "insider threat" - a possibility of data extraction being performed by someone that has the credentials of a high-ranking employee.

Data in use is also a different data state, even though it is rather self-explanatory. Data in use covers all information that is currently accessed, processed or updated by the system (or by end users). Data in use has its own share of vulnerabilities, such as the fact that a data piece being accessed at any given point usually means that it is not protected by most security measures at that same point in time.

Comparing these data states to one another in the context of data encryption is a somewhat difficult task, since different data states require different approaches and security measures to be used in order for the data in question to be protected properly.

For example, the topic of data encryption at rest vs in motion is going to bring completely polarizing results immediately, since encrypting data in motion relies on tightening the overall control over who can access data in the first place - which means improved identity management, tighter control over what can be done with sensitive data in the first place, or even implement something completely different, such as Attribute-Based Access Control.

Data at rest, on the other hand, would have to rely on better classification systems, better automatic encryption algorithms, and attempting to fix (or at least mitigate) the ever-present issue of overprivileged access from some users. All in all, this is a fairly extensive topic, and all of the information above barely scratches its surface - but it is also necessary for people to know about these things to a certain degree, since it ultimately leads to better data control, better decision-making and lower number of data breaches.

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