This article is part of a larger series on VoIP.
Data encryption scrambles text into unreadable characters neither humans nor bots can decipher. This prevents bad actors from stealing information without a decryption key.
There are two types of data encryption: at-rest and in-transit, which is also known as data in motion. Each type requires specific encryption techniques for optimized protection, which we break down in detail below.
Data Encryption At-rest vs In-transit
At-rest data encryption protects data during storage, whether on a mobile device, computer, tablet, data warehouse, or in the cloud, including commonly used cloud-based services and business websites. Hackers may try to steal a hard drive or data storage devices to access sensitive data, but without at-rest encryption, they’d just need to load the data on their own computer to read it.
Encryption in-transit protects data in motion, or while it’s being transferred. Data is more vulnerable during this time and therefore needs additional security protocols to keep it protected. For instance, many in-transit encryption services also include steps to authenticate the sender and receiver before decrypting the information upon arrival using Transport Layer Security (TLS).
This added security layer then helps to protect data when uploading or downloading a document or media file. It also can be used to protect your business when you send an email or when sending data packets using voice-over-internet-protocol (VoIP) business calling solutions.
It is worth noting that in both cases, encryption doesn’t necessarily make data theft impossible—it just makes it more complex and resource-consuming. That’s why data encryption at-rest or in-transit is just one of many security layers businesses can use to protect their information. However, both types of encryption have their drawbacks and risks if best practices aren’t followed.
At-rest Encryption Benefits, Drawbacks & Best Practices
|Data is most vulnerable in-transit, but still needs protecting in storage too||Can make it difficult to recover your own data|
|Protects data when repairing or discarding hardware||Hackers sometimes discover decryption keys|
|Secures all of your devices from in-person data theft attempts||Can be expensive|
The best practices when using at-rest encryption are:
- Use full disk encryption: File-level encryption only protects individual files, whereas full disk encryption secures everything on a hard drive.
- Store your encryption keys offline: Storing your keys on any device connected to the internet leaves them vulnerable to hackers.
- Beef up access protocols: Make it harder for hackers to access at-rest data stored in the cloud by ensuring strong access protocols, including best practices for username and password security and keeping login pages private.
- Protect your devices: Data encryption isn’t your first or only line of defense. Store and dispose of hardware appropriately to prevent bad actors from encountering your encrypted data.
In-transit Encryption Benefits, Drawbacks & Best Practices
|Data in transit is less secure and needs additional protection||It’s not always possible to hide metadata (sender, recipient, date)|
|Reduces the potential attack surface for hackers||Encryptions can give third parties too much security, protecting them from law enforcement and investigations|
|Prevents hackers from using data if they intercept communications|
The best practices when using an in-transit encryption service include:
- Proactively protect online data: Don’t wait for a data breach to start taking security seriously. Develop data protection policies for your business based on best practices, hire a data network security consultant to provide recommendations, and invest in cybersecurity insurance to protect your company from liability.
- Secure your networks: Use firewalls and network access control to ensure it’s safe to transmit data to and from your network.
- Automate protection: Set up spam filters, phishing blocks, and malicious file-sharing detection to further protect your data.
Businesses routinely store, use, and frequently transmit sensitive company and customer information in the course of daily operations. Often, the first applications that come to mind relative to data security and encryption may be your company’s website, video conferencing, and email communications. However, at-rest and in-transit data encryption also needs to be applied to all communication channels, including business calls and voicemails.
How Data Encryption Works With VoIP
All conversations happening over voice-over-internet-protocol (VoIP) channels must be encrypted to prevent bad actors from intercepting messages and using the information for malicious purposes. As we stated in our VoIP stats piece, web conferencing and VoIP based communications have become very attractive thanks to its lower overall cost. Examples of business conversations to encrypt include video chats and calls, text messages, voice calls, and even voicemails. Here’s how encryption at-rest and in-transit works for internet-based calling.
First, a phone call is initiated. A secure connection is made between the two parties to begin transferring information. When you speak, VoIP breaks your voice call into data packets and sends them to the other caller using a transport protocol called SRTP (Secure Real-time Transport Protocol). This protocol encrypts the messages with Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) to prevent interception and theft.
Once your message arrives safely at the end destination, it’s reassembled using the decryption key. Your data packets are unpacked, and the receiver hears your voice played as audio. All of this is going on during the milliseconds between when you speak and your caller hears you.
Unified communications as a service (UCaaS) uses a similar process to encrypt text messages, chat, video conferencing calls, and more. Encryption protocols scramble messages and make them unreadable during transit. The end-user receives and decrypts the data to use the information inside the message. When this data is warehoused, this is where at-rest encryption comes into play to ensure that it remains safe.
VoIP Providers Should Have Both Types of Encryption
While in-transit data is more vulnerable than at-rest, VoIP and UCaaS providers should have security features and encryption for both. You use these services to send and receive sensitive and confidential information, so they need to be stored somewhere safe. Your VoIP provider will also have access to usernames, passwords, and credit card information—if they can’t protect that data (or your customers’) with end-to-end encryption, then it’s at risk.
The government regulates some industries more than others. For example, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) protects the sharing of medical information.
Any company that stores or transmits this type of protected data must follow HIPAA guidelines, which include protocols like physical data protection, secure communications, and breach notifications. If you’re in the healthcare industry, you’ll need to use a HIPAA-compliant VoIP business phone system.
Using an unreliable VoIP service could leave you vulnerable to packet sniffing, DDoS (distributed denial of service) attacks, call tampering, and vishing (fraudulent voice calls or voicemail messages). Using a VoIP virtual private network (VPN) and end-to-end encryption of both at-rest and in-transit data will better secure your company’s information.
Secure VoIP providers offer networking monitoring, which alerts users of suspicious login attempts and unrecognized devices. These simple security protocols can help be a first line of defense to prevent hackers from even encountering your encrypted data.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Does GDPR require encryption of data at-rest?
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a European Union law that protects an internet user’s privacy and security while browsing websites online. However, it doesn’t necessarily require at-rest data encryption. Encryption is more than a regulatory compliance issue. It reduces the probability of a successful breach, protecting your business, employees, and clients. Protecting your data can also help you avoid costly fines and damaged trust.
How do I secure my VoIP network?
Choose a VoIP provider with extensive security protocols and end-to-end encryption in addition to other important VoIP business phone features. Furthermore, it’s your organization’s responsibility to safeguard passwords, monitor access, review call logs, deactivate inactive accounts, and use a VPN for remote staff.
What are the most secure encryption techniques?
Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) and Rivest-Shamir-Adleman (RSA) are two of the most common and trusted encryption techniques. AES encryption is used for in-transit and at-rest encryption, while RSA is typically used for transmitting data between two endpoints.
Data is one of your organization’s greatest assets. It empowers your business to make better decisions, solve problems, and lead your company to success. However, if misused, breached, or stolen, it also has the potential to be one of your greatest liabilities—which is why data protection and privacy are non-negotiable.
Data encryption is a must-have security protocol for all online business communications, including VoIP services. At-rest and in-motion data both require protection, and data encryption at-rest and in-transit is an effective way to secure it. Before choosing a provider, ensure it has the encryption standards your business demands, including specific industry regulations, such as HIPAA compliance.