With digital payments becoming more and more prevalent, cyberthreats and data breaches have become a continuous concern for both individuals and businesses. The epidemic proportions of this issue is why security has become such a crucial consideration, particularly for businesses that handle sensitive customer information like addresses and credit card numbers.
IT professionals vigilantly work to protect this data and prevent breaches that could compromise customers’ personal information (all while avoiding the associated liability issues). Fortunately, though hackers and phishing schemes have become more sophisticated, so too have security measures like encryption.
What is Encryption?
You send private data across the internet many times per day. For instance, this occurs when your business processes transactions (both online and in-store). Data passes through a series of servers, routers and devices that anyone can intercept, including hackers, governments and internet service providers. You have no control over who sees — or steals — what. It’s simply the nature of the internet.
Encryption is what allows you to protect this data, scrambling it into an illegible series of numbers and letters during the journey to its destination (such as a bank). Here’s how the process works:
- First party wants to send data to second party
- Plain text is encrypted into cyphertext using an encryption key
- Cyphertext travels across the internet until it reaches the second party
- Cyphertext is decrypted back to plain text using the encryption key
- Second party is able to view the data sent by the first party
All of this happens behind the scenes in a matter of seconds using algorithms programmed into software. Chances are, your business sends and receives data that goes through an encryption process on a daily basis, and you might not even be aware of it.
Earlier forms of encryption used the same key on both ends to encrypt and decrypt data. However, this exposed data to risk since the key would be sent over with the data in order to decrypt it once it arrived at its destination.
The need for a more secure type of encryption emerged.
An asymmetric encryption method was developed called end-to-end encryption (sometimes referred to as point-to-point encryption or E2E encryption). With E2E encryption, the sender and receiver both have public keys, and the receiver also has a mathematically-related private key. Once the data is encrypted, it can only be decrypted by the private key at the final destination. Not even the sender can decrypt it. ProtonMail shared a helpful infographic that explains the process visually.
Why is this step important? The first model of encryption we discussed protects data during transfer from outside sources like hackers. However, the service provider(s) that your data passes through also carries the decryption key and can access the data traveling through its servers. If a company gains access to the data, they can potentially sell it to a third party. When you’re dealing with customer credit cards, you definitely don’t want this encrypted data to be intercepted and possibly sold.
E2E encryption offers more comprehensive protection, virtually eliminating the risk of service providers or anyone else intercepting the data. In theory, no one can read the data in plain text except the intended recipient. Even if the server where your data is stored becomes compromised, your data will remain safe because the hacker doesn’t have the decryption key and therefore cannot interpret the data. This makes E2E encryption the ultimate security mechanism to protect sensitive online data.
How Can Your Business Benefit From E2E Encryption?
The majority of consumers become hesitant to do business with an organization that has experienced a data breach, which can dramatically impact revenue and possibly threaten the survival of some businesses. In fact, 60% of businesses are forced to shut down permanently following a significant data breach. Keeping payment information secure with encryption offers customers vital protection, but it also aids the success of your business.
Fortunately, you don’t need to be a coding expert to reap the benefits of E2E encryption. In fact, you don’t need to do anything at all; yet you can still offer your customers this protection each time they do business with you.
E2E encryption occurs automatically within the software and point-of-sale terminals you use to conduct business (so long as it’s a built-in feature of that software). At Forte, our goal is to provide you with secure, reliable payment systems so you can rest easy knowing that the data belonging to your business and customers is safe.
Learn more about secure payment solutions like Forte Protect on our website today.