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Encryption: Transport versus File

This morning I was asked if I recommended using transport encryption or file encryption to protect company files and data.

My answer:  “Use both of them, together!”

For starters, here’s a real quick summary of both encryption types:

  • Transport encryption (“data-in-transit”) protects the file as it travels over protocols such as FTPS (SSL), SFTP (SSH) and HTTPS.  Leading solutions use encryption strengths up to 256-bit.
  • File encryption (“data-at-rest”) encrypts an individual file so that if it ever ended up in someone else’s possession, they couldn’t open it or see the contents.  PGP is commonly used to encrypt files.

I believe that using both together provides a double-layer of protection.  The transport protects the files as they are moving…. And the PGP protects the file itself, especially important after it’s been moved and is sitting on a server, laptop, USB drive, smartphone or anywhere else.

Here’s an analogy:  Think of transport encryption as an armored truck that’s transporting money from say a retail store to a bank.  99.999% of the time that armored Brinks truck will securely transport your delivery without any incident.  But adding a second layer of protection – say you put the money in a safe before putting it in the truck – reduces the chance of compromise exponentially, both during and after transport.

One last piece of advice:  Ensure that your organization has stopped using the FTP protocol for transferring any type of confidential, private or sensitive information.  Although it’s an amazing accomplishment that FTP is still functional after 40 years, please please please realize that FTP is does not provide any encryption or guaranteed delivery – not to mention that tactically deployed FTP servers scattered throughout your organization lack the visibility, management and enforcement capabilities that modern Managed File Transfer solutions deploy.

Related posts:

  1. MFT Is the Unsung Security and Compliance Solution
  2. 800,000 Reasons Why MFT is Important
  3. Takeaways from Verizon’s 2011 Data Breach Investigations Report

More Stories By Frank Kenney

Frank Kenney is Vice President, Global Strategy and Product Management at Ipswitch, responsible for defining the company's vision and strategy and integrating his global perspective into the products, services and messaging. Frank brings an unmatched depth of experience and knowledge in the managed file transfer space to the team.

Most recently, Frank was a Research Director at Gartner, Inc., responsible for analyzing topics including managed file transfer, application integration, SOA, and business process management. He initiated and drove the Magic Quadrants on managed file transfer and SOA governance technologies. Before joining Gartner, Frank was Director of Creative Services and Content Distribution at the Executive Business Group.

Frank holds a degree in Music Technology from the Center for the Media Arts and has studied English and Computer Science at University of Tampa.

When not working, Frank can be found living the life of a frustrated musician and producer in his home studio in Tampa.