The short answer is no, encryption alone cannot prevent you from getting hacked. Let’s look into how and why it can help you avoid cybersecurity threats anyway.
What is encryption and why is it important?
Encryption refers to the deliberate disarrangement of text, from a form that people are able to read and understand without assistance, into a piece of text that symbolizes nothing to the naked eye, requiring a specific set of values to turn back into something meaningful to the reader.
This set of values is called a cryptographic key and is something that the sender and the recipient of the encrypted message must agree on.
There are two types of cryptographic keys, symmetric and asymmetric keys, with each one used depending on the use case and context of the situation.
The importance of encryption lies in keeping private information from being accessed, viewed or manipulated by unauthorized users.
Hacking history and the current threat landscape
Technically speaking, hacking is not a new phenomenon: way back in 1903, morse code was illicitly intercepted.
The first notable case of hacking involving an electronic system took place 70 years later, when John Draper used a pre-existing technique called phreaking to make free phone calls. This technique exploited a vulnerability in the telephone system related to a specific frequency used by phone companies to allocate lines.
This allowed proto-hackers and practical jokers to manipulate the lines using natural sounds, whistles or specially designed boxes, including some made by Apple co-founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak.
However, despite Draper’s notoriety, there were other incidents of hacking in the 1960s, including a network penetration in 1967. The penetration allowed a computer club in Chicago to access an IBM network.
Various hacking techniques were conceived and deployed in the 1970s and throughout the early 1980s. A significant milestone took place in 1989, when the AIDS trojan horse infection became the first recorded instance of malware.
In 1994, Russian hackers managed to extract $10 million from American financial institution Citibank, while one year later saw the infamous IP spoofing attack by Kevin Mitnick against computer security expert Tsutomu Shimomura.
Fast forward to the present time, and hacking attacks are more widespread and diverse in their methodology than ever.
Some of the most common threats today include phishing, which involves the sending of email messages that pretend to be from a legitimate source; malware, a piece of malicious software designed to damage, disrupt or obtain illegal and unwanted access to a computer system; ransomware, preventing access to a computer system until a monetary ransom has been paid; as well as data breaches, meaning the unsolicited extraction of private data by an unauthorized party.
Breaking cryptography: how do hackers decipher encrypted data?
It is pertinent to ask whether encryption can be broken by malicious entities. While it’s still crucial to implement encryption as much as possible, the answer is unfortunately that it indeed can be broken.
However, this is far from easy or simple on the hacker’s part, requiring tremendous amounts of time and technical knowledge to achieve.
Moreover, in the event where the hacker does not possess the encryption key, highly advanced tools are needed for the encryption to be broken.
Hackers can break encryption to access the data using a number of different methods. The most common method is stealing the encryption key itself. Another common way is intercepting the data either before it has been encrypted by the sender or after it has been decrypted by the recipient.
Hackers deploy different approaches depending on whether the encryption is symmetric or asymmetric. In case of symmetric encryption, cypher-text attacks can be used to break the encryption, while with asymmetric encryption, they may try to mathematically solve the algorithmic puzzle.
According to a recent report by Zscaler , attacks on technology companies increased by 800% in 2021. The report also states that phishing attacks and malware infections increased by 90% and 212% respectively.
How to make your Data Encryption Strategy as strong as possible
Despite the possibility that your encryption may be hacked or otherwise breached, there are still a number of steps you and your organization can take to make it that much harder for any malicious parties to achieve this.
One of the easiest steps is often the most neglected one. Your system, including each and every device and piece of software utilized within it, must always be running with the latest updates and security patches available.
Keeping software updated minimizes the potential for hackers to exploit any known bugs or other latent vulnerabilities, while also preventing the theft of your cryptographic key, completely shutting malicious parties off from that attack route.
Secondly, a virtual private network (VPN) should be used to increase your organization’s level of protection. A VPN can enable the masking of IP addresses and physical locations, allow secure remote access to an internal network, and encrypt internet traffic.
We’ve previously mentioned that one of the ways hackers can attack encryption is through the theft of the cryptographic key itself. To prevent this from happening, the storage of the key should be password-protected or even in an offline location, with the latter adding a physical layer of protection that cannot be cracked by hackers in a remote location.
Finally, your organization can drastically increase its standard of protection by hiring an external cybersecurity expert, whether it be a single individual or a team of specialists with years of experience and technical know-how at their disposal.
One such company is Boltonshield, which specializes in cybersecurity, offering a number of bespoke packages to maximize an organization’s level of protection.
The customized packages are crafted in an unbiased manner and tailored to your organization’s requirements, as well as the specific needs arising from the industry it operates in.
Services include ethical hacking approaches, including penetration testing, vulnerability assessments, external and internal infrastructure testing, as well as web application testing.
Selecting the best technology for encryption
Tresorit can help you navigate the field of cybersecurity and encryption in particular by advising you on what technology solutions are most suitable to your organization.
Tresorit offers end-to-end encryption, encrypting every file and relevant file metadata through randomly generated encryption keys, and zero-knowledge authentication, where your password never leaves your device.
In addition, Tresorit offers cryptographic key sharing, guaranteeing that not even Tresorit can access the shared keys; as well as client-side integrity protection, where no file can be modified without the client’s knowledge.