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Network Data Encryption -- The Last Step in Security

What Are Computer Networks?

Computer data networks carry data between two or more computers, typically between a client and a server. In both the Microsoft and Internet models this means that data, files, printers and other resources can be used by multiple machines.

Data is Sent "In the Clear"

Data hauled without encryption is said to be transmitted "In The Clear." Most home and business networks use a local area network standard known as Ethernet. There are a number of different Ethernet standards in place today, some of which even provide wireless (or radio) connectivity. The Ethernet and Internet standards were not initially designed with encryption in mind, so almost all local networks are carrying data without it being encrypted.

What Does Network Data Encryption Provide?

Data can be encrypted a number of ways, and that encryption can use varying technologies. Individual files, archives of files, and even hard disks can be encrypted. These are typically done on the local machine and protect data from local user access. However, once decrypted files and disks can be accessed by anyone with access to the computer.

Network encryption is designed to encrypt all of the data passing over a network. This means that just before data is transmitted over the Ethernet connection it is encrypted in a fashion so that the intended recipient machine(s) can decrypt the data. Communications back and forth between the client and the server are therefore secure as the pass over the network.

VPNs and Encryption

Encrypting data while it transmits over the network is a good idea. Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) were some of the first non-military networks to use encryption. Their data passes over public networks and is subject to possible intercept. Using encryption for these types of networks is considered mandatory for any personal or business data.

A False Sense of Security

Most businesses not only don't need encryption on their local network, but doing so is akin to holding up a stone to try and stop the flow of water in a river.

  • Network encryption products only encrypt data while it is in transit on the network. A compromised computer still has access to all of the data it had access to before encryption was implemented.
  • The most common security compromise is created by Malware loaded onto the machine by the user (usually inadvertently). The compromised computer has access to network resources, even with encryption.
  • An external hacker is going to go after known vulnerabilities in existing services. Once one of those services has been compromised, so has the server, and so has a portion of your network. Step by step your entire network will be compromised -- with or without network encryption.
  • Due to interoperability problems with numerous products, it may be impossible to completely secure your network.

The Real Rules for Network Security

Mainstream Security Services has long advised companies to pay attention to the basics. Computer security is based upon good:

  • People -- Training
  • Processes -- Policies and Procedures
  • Technology -- Full in-band monitoring firewalls, IDS, DMZs

Find a company that is in the business, and has been for many years, to help implement a comprehensive security system.

See Also

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