While regulations such as GDPR may not deem encryption an essential form of data protection, it is the most convenient and secure method of data storage and transmission.
In a nutshell, data encryption allows storing information in an incomprehensible form that is only accessible through a specific “decryption” key. Organizations deal with large amounts of data, making them the pinnacle of cybercriminal attention.
While it may seem like a complex ordeal, implementing data encryption is somewhat of an easy process and comes with several benefits such as:
- It protects data from unauthorized access and hack attacks
- Maintains data integrity by protecting it from tampering
- Helps you achieve compliance with various data privacy laws and regulations
- Eliminates the risks of data breaches during remote work
- Allows a secure data exchange through unsecured channels
While encryption may be beneficial, the dynamics of its relationship with GDPR compliance are explored within this article.
An Introduction to GDPR and GDPR Compliance
The GDPR is a legal framework outlining guidelines for collecting and processing personal information of individuals living within the European Union.
GDPR compliance instills a strict adherence to these guidelines in treating any European Union individual’s personal information.
The GDPR requires organizations of all sectors collecting data of citizens residing in countries falling under the European Union to comply with strict rules regarding data protection. For organizations observing GDPR compliance, some essential requirements are as follows:
- GDPR introduces new requirements for compliant consent
- Organizations are required to handle cross border data transmissions safely
- The collected data should be secured to ensure privacy
- Certain organizations are required to appoint a data protection officer to oversee GDPR compliance.
With the GDPR in place, individuals now have significant control over the use and storage of their personal information. Moreover, organizations are now more vigilant in ensuring data privacy and imposing cybersecurity measures to protect user information.
Since encrypted contents are incomprehensible by unauthorized third parties without a decryption key, organizations rely on encryption for data protection and privacy.
The GDPR compliance law is a method for signifying the importance of data privacy and security. While this law may seem strict in the long run, it can help improve cybersecurity and give people the right to the privacy they deserve.
Encryption under the GDPR Compliance.
Since GDPR is formed in recognition of the risk associated with processing, storing, and transferring personal information, it emphasizes implementing robust security measures.
As mentioned above, the law hasn’t made data encryption a required method for implementing data security.
The GDPR is somewhat vague in providing the means of implementing data security. All it gives is a controller catalog outlining specific criteria required for the implementation of data security.
Art 32(1) places the controller and processor of the data responsible for implementing relevant organizational and technical measures of ensuring data security.
It is upon the organization to implement suitable technical and organizational measures of protecting data in light of the GDPR controller catalog.
The listed criteria in Art32(1) of implementing possible technical and organizational measures for protecting data merely mention encryption.
In essence, the GDPR compliance to data security and privacy requires organizations to possibly evaluate every data risk involved and maintain the highest possible security measures to mitigate them.
No matter the situation, the priority stands in maintaining data security, integrity, and freedom. Organizations must implement robust encryption measures that guarantee the utmost data protection and privacy even with implementing data encryption.
Does GDPR issue a fine for not encrypting data?
Since the GDPR has not made data encryption a mandatory method for imposing data security, not implementing data encryption is not a violation of GDPR compliance.
However, data breaches are a common occurrence, specifically with such a thriving cybercriminal landscape.
Data breaches are one of the leading privacy issues. As per RedefinePrivacy, data breaches result in the exposure of 36 billion records within 2020 alone.
Amidst this, any organization falling victim to a data breach might be able to avoid GDPR fines if it implements data protection through encryption.
Any organization that is not compliant is exposed to risks and ultimately faces strict fines. British Airways was recently fined £20 million, estimating $27.8 million for data breach and violation of GDPR.
The organization was fined due to the breach of consumer data occurring due to insufficient security measures by the company.
As per the ICO investigation, it led to a compromise of various information, including login, payment card, travel booking details, and name and address information.
Best Practices to Maintaining Data Encryption
Since GDPR requires strict maintenance of data integrity and security, certain practices help ensure inviolable encryption.
Adhering to some of the best data encryption practices can help ensure your organization does not fall victim to data breaches or hack attacks. Some of the best practices that your organization can incorporate to achieve robust encryption standards are as follows:
1. Secure Your Encryption Key
The encryption key is the way to secure data, so it is crucial to secure it by all means.
It is best that you keep the key separated from the data and store it within a secure space instead of leaving it in plaintext on your PC.
Moreover, it is also best that you limit users’ access to your encryption key so you can guarantee its security.
2. Constantly evaluate your data encryption performance
Effective data encryption does not only entail that it remains inaccessible to third-party unauthorized users, but the information should also remain accessible to authorized users.
If your encrypted data remains outside your reach at all times or takes too long to load, then it is almost useless to you.
In such cases, consider using a different encryption algorithm that is easy to decrypt and does not hog up your CPU, so your information remains accessible at all times.
3. Ensure data security with storage and transmission
Organizations often maintain data encryption while transmitting data, in which case they either encrypt the complete information or merely transmit the data through a secure encrypted tunnel.
However, data encryption ensures data protection and security, which is also necessary when your data is stored within your PC.
Hack attacks and data breaches can also occur when you have your data stored, which is why it is best to encrypt all of your files or store the files within encrypted storage.
With data transmission, organizations can make use of VPNs that allow data security and privacy.
Data security and privacy are crucial even if it is not imposed through strict laws like GDPR.
Since encryption is the best possible way of maintaining data integrity and security, organizations should take it under consideration.
This would protect their customers and create a good impact on their reputation, build up the trust of their clients and customers, and protect them from data and financial losses.
Waqas is a cybersecurity journalist and writer who has a knack for writing technology and online privacy-centric articles. He strives to help achieve a secure online environment and is skilled in writing topics related to cybersecurity, AI, DevOps, Cloud security, and much more. Waqas runs the DontSpoof.com project, which presents expert opinions on online privacy & security.