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As we work with technology on a daily basis it is tempting to assume our data is safe.  But then major incidents happen -- like millions of people's identity records being "misplaced" or a worm like Conficker spreading fear -- and we are reminded once again that our data is highly vulnerable to internal and external threats.

In order to prevent data loss through hacking or careless handling of storage media, local governments and organizations are mandating new security measures such as encryption.

Encryption is growing in popularity because encrypting data renders it unusable to thieves even if they have the physical data asset (like a tape drive with millions of customer records) or can hack into a network. A company only has to protect the encryption keys and not the business data itself.

However, there is an important distinction to make when attempting to implement an encryption strategy. Data actually exists in two different states. Data that is stored on a medium such as a tape or disk is called data at rest. On the other hand, data that is traveling between two devices or systems -- such as between a mainframe database and a notebook PC over the Internet -- is called data in motion. 

Different encryption approaches are needed to protect these two different kinds (or states) of data, even if it is the same information. For example, if I am storing a driver's license record on a disk, this requires one type of encryption. If I am sending that same record from one place to another, a different type of encryption is needed.

The first type of encryption, for data at rest, is typically handled by the hardware system on which the data is being stored. Consequently, hardware vendors provide a number of encryption solutions. The caveat is that this hardware-based encryption does not protect data in motion.

Fortunately, many vendors such are beginning to provide encryption solutions for data in motion that apply to specific software systems. So in the case of a protected system, the data is sent to the recipient in encrypted form and the data is deciphered at the receiving end. If the data is intercepted in transit, it will be meaningless to the thief.

Along with other types of security measures, encryption for data at rest and data in motion will help organizations to maintain and in some cases restore the confidence of the public.

About the Author

Bruce Beaman is Senior Director of Adabas and Natural Product Marketing for Software AG www.softwareag.com

More by Bruce Beaman



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