Office employees working from home was hardly a new concept when the first lockdown was announced, but the prospect of an entire company workforce sitting at home on their laptops posed a challenge to even the most prepared organisations.
Though the powerful computers, cloud-based technologies and fast internet connections of 2020 have managed to maintain out of office work productivity, remote working has posed a number of problems for businesses. Issues such as staff morale, team-building and time management, have made running a company difficult during a painful economic environment.
One of the biggest problems with remote working is cyber security. Isolated from the security defences that the office usually provides, such as blacklisted IP addresses and firewalls, workers are far more exposed to cyber attacks.
Unfortunately, many employees aren’t capable of maintaining water-tight security on their own as they may use public wifi, opt for convenience over safety, or find it hard to understand basic security procedures. There are many steps that a business can take to improve the online security of its remote employees – and end-to-end encryption is one of them.
What is end-to-end encryption?
Encryption is a pretty basic idea; it’s a process that turns information into something that cannot be read. What makes end-to-end encryption, sometimes known as E2EE, so special is that it applies encryption to messages in a way that only the device receiving it can decrypt it. In effect, it stops potential listeners such as telecom providers, internet providers, and even the provider of the communication service, from being able to access the cryptographic keys required to decrypt the message.
How does end-to-end encryption work?
Networks that allow end-to-end encryption provide their users access to a public key and a private key. A public key can be easily shared around and used by anyone, while a private key that’s provided by the application is secret. These keys and the process of encrypting data are all taken care of automatically by the application without user input.
If Person A wishes to communicate privately to Person B, Person A sends a message to Person B. This information is encrypted using Person B’s public key, turning it into an irregular jumble of random characters, known as a ‘ciphertext’.
When Person A sends their end-to-end encrypted message to Person B via the public internet, it travels through many different servers, such as the server of their email host and their internet service provider. This is the stage where the data can be vulnerable to a malicious third party, but thanks to end-to-end encryption’s public key all they’d be able to see is an unreadable text of random characters.
When Person B receives the message from Person A, they can use their private key to decrypt the encrypted information, secure in the knowledge that only they are in possession of the key. If Person B chooses to respond to Person A, the entire process is repeated with Person B using Person A’s public key.
The benefits of end-to-end encryption
Sensitive data is protected against hacking or theft
In the event that a malicious party manages to intercept your message, the data will remain unreadable. End-to-end encryption is regarded as safer than other methods because it reduces the number of parties who may be able to interfere or break the encryption, as only the end user has the private key to decrypt the message.
Control over authorisation
The other primary benefit of end-to-end encryption is that you have control over who is allowed to read your messages and files. As no third parties can decipher the information being sent or stored, your email or ISP provider would literally be unable to comply with a request for your data from the authorities.
Where end-to-end encryption can be used to improve the cyber security of your business
The importance of video calling has turned from important, to simply vital, for businesses since lockdown. Talking to customers, conducting interviews, and even basic meetings between work colleagues, have now become part of the daily routine for many office workers now working remotely.
Zoom is a video-conferencing application that’s exploded in popularity the past year, both at work and socially. Unfortunately, Zoom doesn’t offer end-to-end encryption. Apple’s FaceTime and Jami do offer end-to-end encryption however and can keep all your sensitive information confidential.
The email was the bedrock of how most offices communicated even before the pandemic, so it’s no surprise that it’s even more important when working remotely. Emails are typically quite secure but it may come as a surprise to you that the two biggest email providers, Microsoft’s Hotmail and Google’s Gmail, are not end-to-end encrypted.
Along with emails, a business messaging chat tool is usually the most common way for people working at home to communicate with colleagues. Unfortunately, the majority of the most popular private messaging services, such as Slack and Microsoft Teams, don’t offer end-to-end encryption. Fortunately, a highly secure alternative called Signal offers this as standard along with a range of other security options while being completely free.
Transfer and storage
Transferring files is essential when working from home, but since your files can hold your delicate business software and information, it’s crucial to keep them secure. Documents, spreadsheets, presentations; there’s all manner of different files where companies store important data.
To be certain that no malicious party can get their grubby mitts on vital data when transferring files remotely, choose a method with end-to-end encryption. Nextcloud is a cloud storage and backup service that’s available on Fasthosts Virtual Private Servers. It offers end-to-end encryption and a range of unique capabilities such as a hardware Security Module for enterprise environments, secure sharing with other users without the need to enter passwords, and unlimited folder encryption.
If you’re concerned about your business’s level of security, you can read more about the subject in the security section of the Fasthosts blog.