Network encryption conceals and shields data flowing across networks. Encryption is essential to achieve robust data security. It locks away information with high potential value to cyber attackers.

What is network encryption?

Encryption converts information into an unreadable format. It then reconverts that information into its original form. Encryption allows information owners to keep data confidential and secure. It protects their plans or assets from unauthorized actors.

Network encryption applies to network traffic passing across the network edge. It conceals the content of data packets as they pass between internal nodes. Algorithms and secure keys reduce the risk of data breaches. Speed and user experience remain at levels demanded by network users.

How does network encryption work?

Network encryption models vary. All include the usage of an encryption key at the network layer of the standard OSI model.

Keys are cryptographic tools that apply encryption algorithms. These algorithms randomly generate a series of bits and apply this series to target data. This creates "hashes" that recipients can only decode using the original key. The more advanced a key is, the harder it is to decode its encryption algorithm.

Algorithms used to encrypt data are complex. But the data encryption process is simple.

Encryption applies above the network layer. This is the level required to secure internet-bound and internal traffic. Specialist tools scramble data packets via keys. This generates an unreadable string of letters, numbers, or symbols.

External observers cannot read encrypted data packets until decrypted at their destination. The destination is usually another node in the internal corporate network. This could be a different branch or a co-worker's device in the same office.

Both source and destination need the ability to decode encrypted information. Network-wide solutions are generally preferred to ensure that all nodes have these abilities.

Data encryption to and from external destinations operates alongside internal network encryption.

Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and Transport Layer Security (TLS) provide internet protocol security. They lie between the network layer and web servers, protecting internet traffic. Virtual Private Network services (VPNs) also apply encryption and IP anonymization.

Senders can also protect emails with end-to-end encryption. In this case, sender and recipient must use the same tools to process information in transit.

Why is network encryption important?

Robust network encryption has many benefits for modern companies. This makes it a non-negotiable feature of network-wide security strategies:

  • Reliable encryption is the first line of defense against data breaches. When mounting man-in-the-middle attacks, attackers must decode encryption keys. This makes the task much more difficult. High-grade encryption at the network layer protects all customer and corporate data in transit. This ensures it remains safe from external observers.
  • Encryption is a required ingredient of many networking security compliance regulations. Robust encryption on internal networks assures regulators. It helps meet standards demanded in sectors like healthcare or credit processing.
  • Encryption protects outbound traffic from interception. This guards intellectual property assets and confidential data. Email encryption is a safe way to communicate with third parties.
  • Companies operating comprehensive encryption policies suffer fewer data losses. They tend to record lower costs relating to litigation or data recovery operations.

It is critical to recognize that encryption is not cost-free. Encrypting and decrypting data consumes time and system resources. This potentially results in diminished network performance.

Encryption is also not a stand-alone solution. Users must consider the broader cybersecurity context.

Cyber attackers can gain insights by tracking and analyzing encrypted traffic patterns. Cloud or on-premises storage systems containing data at rest remain vulnerable to attacks. This applies regardless of internal encryption procedures.

Some companies neglect internal network encryption. Instead, they focus on perimeter defense and internet communications. This makes data flowing within network architecture more vulnerable. Attackers can access internal assets in many ways, despite perimeter encryption.

Security teams can become complacent, neglecting to scan encrypted files for malicious agents. Only around 22% of companies routinely inspect encrypted traffic. This allows attacks to slip through the net.

Create an effective network encryption solution

Encryption guards network traffic against attackers, making data breaches less likely. Companies can only achieve complete data protection by encrypting critical at-rest data. They must also protect sensitive in-transit data within and beyond the network perimeter. Network encryption is essential. But it is only an element of comprehensive data security strategies. Traffic monitoring, network segmentation, access management, and robust security policies are all required to reap the benefits of network-wide encryption.