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The Importance of Data Security

Whether you own your own accountancy firm or you just like to do your shopping online, data security should be of paramount importance to you.  In an era of identity theft and internet fraud, never has it been more important to protect and secure your files.

From a business point of view, the risk is far greater than that of home users.  Banks of usernames and passwords are often stored in spreadsheets and networked either locally or on the internet.  All it takes is for one canny hacker or duplicitous employee to swipe a copy of this file and your company is in immediate jeopardy.  Luckily, there are ways to protect yourself from even the most malicious of assaults.

Encryption is a word often bandied around in the field of security, but what does it actually mean?  Encryption is the act of transmuting content into an unintelligible jumble of letters and symbols, using an algorithm.  The jumbled content can only be decoded and re-formed into genuine data by those possessing either the algorithm itself (the key) or a program that knows it.  The major benefit of encryption is that you can encrypt your data and then be fairly confident about sending it over unsecured networks, knowing that even if it is intercepted, the hacker can’t access the data without the ‘key.’  Most new Operating Systems or those optimised for business or professional use now come with an encryption/decryption feature.  There are also numerous third-party programs available to download which can accomplish similar tasks.

A shortfall of encryption is the attention it will draw to a file.  If somebody intercepts a large database file with deep encryption on it, it may as well be earmarked as valuable.  The latest innovations in data security try to include the safety of encryption and combine it with concealment. Steganography is a little known term to those outside of its field and the techniques seem alien and futuristic to most us. Steganography is the concealment of important data within unassuming files, mainly image or audio files.

To insert hidden text into image files, the software which performs the task will replace less important coding behind the image with your message.  As such, you may see a slight discrepancy in the quality or content of the image; the larger the message, the bigger the impact.  The same is true of audio files; you could potentially see a decrease in sound quality.  However, unless you were to compare the edited file with the original, it would be nigh-on impossible to discern that the file has been tampered with.  And even if you did find out, you would still need to have the key to decrypt the information. Steganography dresses encryption up and provides an extra layer of concealment and security to your data.

Unless you’re a canny programmer yourself, chances are that you won’t be able to defend yourself from a dedicated and concerted hacker.  Luckily, hackers don’t operate like this, only against organisations.  If you’re a home user, taking simple steps like firewalls and internet security will more than likely be enough to deter the poachers.  Hackers will only really test a defence when they’re sure of a prize, and as such companies dedicate whole departments to the protection of their data.  If you want one sure fire way to ensure that your details cannot be stolen from anybody outside the office, keep it offline.

Author Bio:- Andrew Morrell has been working in the file shredding business for many years and believes in the importance of business confidentiality. He currently works for Russell Richardson.

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