Data is considered “at rest” when it isn’t actively being used or accessed. Often, data at rest is stored physically and digitally on databases and computers. The term “at rest” means the data is not actively moving through any devices or networks.
Cybercriminals often target data at rest because it’s easier to acquire. That’s because when data isn’t in use, it’s more likely to be overlooked, lost, or insecure. For example, if someone is storing data on a USB drive, a hacker could easily steal the flash drive, and all information would be compromised.
For this reason, encrypting data at rest is incredibly important. Encryption is a way of transforming data into code that only specific recipients can decipher. This prevents outside, unauthorized users from being able to view, understand, and access sensitive information. Agencies, enterprises, organizations, businesses, and even individuals all have data that are in need of safeguarding.
Additionally, data at rest often consists of important and sensitive information. Database servers and cloud storage can hold large volumes of at-rest data, making them a valuable target for malicious attackers. Therefore, encrypting data at rest ensures organizations don’t become a target for hackers.
Examples of the three different data states
Data at rest is considered the first stage of the data lifecycle. The three stages of the data life cycle include:
Data at rest
As mentioned, at-rest data is stored in a device or database and is not actively moving to other devices or networks. Some examples of data at rest include information that is stored in the following ways:
- On a tablet or smartphone.
- In database servers or cloud storage.
- On a laptop or computer.
- On portable storage devices (e.g., solid-state disk drives, USB sticks, and external hard drives).
Additionally, data at rest often consists of important and sensitive information. Some examples of data at rest include:
- Electronically protected health information (ePHI)
- Financial documents
- Intellectual property
- Third-party contracts
Data in transit
Also known as data in motion, in-transit data is transported to another location, whether it moves between devices, across networks, or within a company’s on-premises or cloud-based storage.
Examples of data in transit include the transfer of data over:
- Public networks, such as the Internet.
- Private networks, such as local area networks set up for an office location.
- Local devices, such as computers, data storage devices, or other mediums.
Data in use
Data in use is regularly accessed for operations such as processing, updating, and viewing the data.
Examples of data in use include data that is:
Stored in a memory system, database, or application, such as your banking transaction history.
Processed by computing equipment, such as a central processing unit (CPU).
Data that is captured by an input device (such as your keyboard), transferred to a memory device, and then processed by a CPU.
Types of threats/vulnerabilities for data at rest
Data in motion and data in use are considered to be the most vulnerable types of data. This is because these types of data are often transferred over the internet through insecure channels, such as cloud storage or third-party service providers.
These potential locations may have laxer securities policies in place than the security of the corporate networks they’re arriving from. Additionally, data in motion is often the target of man-in-the-middle (MITM). MITM cyberattacks target data as it travels.
However, while an organization’s cybersecurity often protects data at rest, it’s still at risk. Many of the biggest data breaches in the past decade have involved data at rest. Malicious outside actors and insider threats often view data at rest as a high prize. That’s because it usually contains high volumes of information they can steal in big packets.
Another reason why data at rest is vulnerable is due to employee carelessness. It’s possible that data can be lost or stolen if an unauthorized person gains access to a work computer or device. Remote working has increased this threat as employees often take home company-issued devices, leaving them vulnerable to tampering.
How to secure data at rest
Many organizations use antivirus software and firewalls to secure data at rest. However, these tactics never guarantee that data is safe from inevitable cyberattacks.
Phishing attacks are social engineering attacks on individuals that are often used to trick users into handing over data, including login credentials, credit card numbers, or secure company data. Additionally, cybersecurity or encryption software doesn’t protect sensitive company data from insider threats.
When looking to eliminate the threat of employee carelessness, organizations often implement data encryption solutions. These security measures enable companies to encrypt employee hard drives so unauthorized users can’t access them without a key.
Generally, at-rest encryption relies on symmetric cryptography. Here, the same key encrypts and decrypts the data. Symmetric cryptography is often implemented when responsiveness and speed are the top priority, usually with data at rest.
What happens if you don’t adequately protect your data at rest?
Data in all three stages of its life cycle are subject to specific industry standards and regulations. These regulations ensure that crucial information is never lost, misused, stolen, or corrupted. Some common compliance regulations include, but aren’t limited to, the following:
Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS): If your business handles cardholder data, following PCI DSS best practices can help minimize the risk of a data breach. One such practice is the encryption of data file transmissions.
General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR): The GDPR safeguards the privacy of EU citizens. Encryption is mentioned throughout the GDPR as a preferred method of protecting consumer data and managing the risks associated with transferring data.
Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA): Companies in the healthcare industry use security protocols—including encryption—to meet HIPAA requirements for protecting sensitive health data.
If organizations do not comply with these regulations, they can expect to be charged high fees. For example, on average, organizations lose $5.87 million in revenue from a singular non-compliance event.
Additionally, the public often loses trust when organizations don’t successfully protect sensitive information. When organizations leak data, it can result in the following:
- Profit loss
- Customer dissatisfaction
- Reduced employee retention
- Public distrust
How WinZip Enterprise Uses AES to Keep Your Data Safe
WinZip® Enterprise uses AES encryption keys so that you can customize your company’s level of data protection based on your specific needs. Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) is an encryption strategy for any business that needs high-level security measures.
You can combine AES encryption with customizable password security requirements (e.g., letters, numbers, special characters, and capitalization) to make unauthorized decryption virtually impossible.
Although the encryption process is complex, WinZip Enterprise makes it easy for users to operate. Select the encryption level you prefer, set a password, and you’re done. In addition, with the solution’s lightning-fast processors, less time is needed to encrypt large amounts of your most precious data securely.
Explore how WinZip can help your organization better encrypt files at rest today.