THE END-TO-END ENCRYPTION STANDARD
If you’re not using end-to-end encryption for secure business messaging, you probably have one of two responses to the idea of the technology; “What is end-to-end encryption?” or “I know what it is, but why bother with all that unnecessary complexity?”.
Especially for businesses in regulated industries — such as medical, financial, and legal practitioners — end-to-end encryption isn’t simply a good idea; it’s a necessity. Whether you have end-to-end encryption could mean the difference between regulatory compliance and a massive fine or investigation. Businesses in these industries communicate highly sensitive information on a daily basis, and end-to-end encryption is the standard for keeping that information safe.
THE RISKS OF ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATION
Consider how much sensitive information you send and receive for business purposes on your computer and mobile device every day. More and more companies are using apps for employees to communicate with one another or to communicate with customers, patients, clients, and others. Many companies also have apps of their own that both employees and customers use. The problem is that many of these apps don’t have the features you need to protect user data and prevent the theft of critical information.
Without end-to-end encryption, any data transmitted over unsecure communication channels is vulnerable. Those platforms can include email, instant messaging, online storage, and social media. Unencrypted communication through these channels doesn’t simply put the message content at risk, but also areas such as login locations, times, phone numbers, and videos stored on a server. ID scans, bank records, patient charts, and client files are only a few of the areas that may fall prey to malicious actors without end-to-end encryption.
This problem can occur even in standard industries that are not regulated, but with regulated industries, the stakes are higher. If you work in the financial industry and transmit customers’ banking information over your internal network or within your app, not using end-to-end encryption could result in wide-scale identify theft. As a result, your company may be legally liable, subject to state or federal investigations, or face other issues. Let’s not forget to include the loss of trust among your customers or clients, whether they were or were not personally affected.
WHAT IS END-TO-END ENCRYPTION AND WHAT DOES IT DO?
End-to-end encryption is a form of technology that ensures that the information you transmit can be accessed only by the parties for whom you intended it. Encryption is the best way to thwart hackers and eavesdroppers from intercepting information as it travels across network nodes or over the internet. The issue, even with regulated industries, is usually that businesses have no idea how unsecure their methods of communication are. Due to that lack of awareness, end-to-end encryption is not as common as you’d expect even in the most sensitive of industries.
HOW END-TO-END ENCRYPTION WORKS
When you think about secure messaging, end-to-end encryption is the pinnacle of messaging security. Information that you communicate becomes encrypted using a key and then decrypted with the same key. That key is known only to the sending party and the recipient, so it stays out of others’ hands. Not even internet service providers (ISPs) or other parties involved in the actual transfer of the data can view the information or the key.
As a result, even if the encrypted communication becomes intercepted, the intercepting party won’t be able to decipher the information it has. Strong encryption technology is a large part of why the iPhone has had such success and why encrypted text and voice call apps have become increasingly popular with consumers.
You may wonder how end-to-end encryption is any different from regular encryption. With standard encryption, the data becomes encrypted until it passes through the service provider for transmission. At this point, the data becomes unencrypted. The contents of the communication could potentially be accessed at that point. Once passed through the service provider, the data is once again encrypted when it reaches the recipient. By contrast, end-to-end encryption keeps the communication encrypted at every step of the transmission.
INTEGRATING END-TO-END ENCRYPTION
Not many companies will have the resources and knowledge to incorporate end-to-end encryption into their desktop and mobile app communications. However, you can find software and apps that offer end-to-end encryption solutions without having to rely on any in-house resources. Essentially, what these apps do is turn your employees’ mobile devices into a secure sockets layer (SSL) server so that any web app can easily integrate with it. These apps can also help secure any sensitive information that you store in your phone or in the cloud. Security measures may include private keys, certificates, or licenses. For example, if you’re a physician who regularly checks patient charts and test results through a mobile app and shares that information with other physicians, end-to-end encryption will protect transmission of that information. In that example, this form of data encryption may mean the difference between a HIPAA violation and keeping a patient’s confidential medical information in the right hands
THE CONSEQUENCES OF DATA BREACHES IN REGULATED INDUSTRIES
While end-to-end encryption certainly can’t guarantee that a customer, patient, or client’s information will never be compromised, it certainly makes life much more difficult for those trolling for confidential data. The relatively small investment you make is worth the cost when you think about the consequences.
Consider this example: Since 2009, data breaches have compromised more than 29.3 million patient health records. Hospitals, doctors, and insurance companies have all been victims of data breaches. HIPAA compliance issues, lawsuits, and investigations and ongoing oversight by regulatory agencies are only a few of the issues that arose from these data breaches. The same is true in other industries, with businesses possibly facing hefty fines, lost business, and continual compliance monitoring once a data breach occurs.
In such an internet-dependent world, even businesses in industries that are not heavily regulated can’t afford to bypass integrating end-to-end encryption. Add the more sensitive information and higher stakes of business in regulated industries, and end-to-end encryption for business messaging becomes imperative.