Your business needs cybersecurity. It’s important to make sure that your clients and employees are secure while using your application. So, how can you ensure that you can offer state-of-the-art data protection? Application level encryption, ALE, is a thorough way to encrypt sensitive data on your applications to keep it from being intercepted or hacked.
ALE isn’t always the easiest solution, but it offers many benefits when it comes to security. It helps your company meet compliance requirements and protect your data center. Let’s explore what ALE has to offer and how adding this type of encryption to your application can help boost your security.
What is Application Level Encryption?
According to a 2021 survey, nearly 60% of respondents believed businesses were deploying extensive encryption on their backup and archives. Customers want to see that you are protecting their applications, communications, and other business transactions while they are using your app.
If they are not well protected, it can sever the trust between the customer and the business. Application Level Encryption, also known as Application Layer Encryption, is a type of encryption completed inside your app. Essentially, you write a code on how to encrypt and decrypt data.
Then, you decide what cipher to use. You also get to customize where you get the encryption key and how to send the encrypted data on your app. ALE uses cryptography to secure data on your organization’s applications. It works well in conjunction with other encryption types such as Point-to-Point Encryption (P2PE), tokenization, and more.
This type of encryption also works to maintain compliance with PCI DSS and HIPAA. It keeps data unreadable. The only way to decrypt the information is to use the proper keys. You don’t have to worry about ALE slowing down your system performance.
You can program it to target only specific files, data types, or columns of data. If you know a data set contains sensitive information, you can program ALE to encrypt those. That way, only the information you need to be secured is affected, leaving your system plenty of power to handle other applications.
Problems With ALE
Although ALE can be a great way to encrypt data, there are some tradeoffs for excellent security. If you manage a large data ecosystem, figuring out a key management solution is a priority. Without proper key management, you can leave the system vulnerable to threats.
Many organizations store both asymmetric and symmetric keys within the application, which can be problematic. These keys may get hacked or otherwise compromised. So, you need to establish place key management protocols.
There are several ways you can tackle key storage. You can leave key management access restricted to a few administrators. These people would have multi-factor authentication to allow them access to the keys. Limiting key access would have fewer people accessing and managing the keys, offering better security.
You can also group keys by use. Then, you can designate a particular admin for each of those groups. Key grouping is another way to keep keys managed by a smaller number of people. Using automated key management is another solution, but it takes a lot of setup in the beginning.
You can program your system to rotate keys. In this management solution, an algorithm rotates keys periodically to keep them more secure. No matter which key management method you choose, managing keys is a bit of a hassle with this type of encryption.
ALE offers plenty of protection, but the key management system can be a headache. However, it is an essential part of this protocol working. How well your encryption works is based on how well you manage those keys.
How Does Application Level Encryption Differ From Other Types of Encryption?
According to the GDPR, companies should encrypt data. Yet, this set of guidelines doesn’t specify how. The cryptographic details are left for the consumer to choose from. There are many types of encryption solutions, but are they all created equal? How does ALE compare to other encryption protocols?
Application Level Encryption is one of the most secure types of encryption out there. Yet, you should weigh each option to decide the best encryption protocol for your specific needs. If you only need certain data types secured, other simpler protocols may be better for you. Check out the comparisons below to decide for yourself.
ALE vs. Field-level Encryption
Field-level encryption is client-side encryption where you encrypt data for a particular field, such as credit card numbers, social security numbers, bank account numbers, healthcare information, wages, or financial data. With field-level encryption, users can securely upload sensitive information to your web servers.
The data is encrypted close to the user and remains so throughout the application. Only applications that need the data will have the credentials to decrypt it. This type of encryption uses asymmetric encryption. You provide a public key, and your data is encrypted.
Then, the only way to decrypt that information is to use your private key. This type of encryption makes it easier for you to use applications and for them to use your personal information securely while preventing people who do not need access to your information from getting it easily.
The only downside is that if your private key is compromised, your information can be at risk. With ALE, your data is secure under most circumstances.
ALE vs. P2PE
Companies use point-to-point encryption (P2PE) to encrypt credit card payment information. The payment terminal encrypts cardholder information at the time of the transaction. It remains encrypted until the payment processor processes the payment.
If done correctly, the merchant never decrypts the cardholder information. For this method to work, you should protect the decryption keys. Experts recommend protecting those decryption keys with a hardware security module (HSM).
P2PE protects against device tampering, data breaches, and external threats. ALE offers similar protections but it is geared more toward files, messages, and computer data than card payments.
ALE vs. Disk
Full Disk Encryption (FDE) or File System (FS) encryption is the simplest encryption method. It uses high-performance, hardware-based encryption. In short, as the data is written to the disk, it is encrypted. The data is only decrypted as it is read off the disk.
This method of encryption offers few benefits when it comes to data security. They can protect against physical access to servers, but little else. If you are using your full disk encryption to protect your data, your system isn’t as secure as it needs to be.
This type of encryption lacks safeguards against advanced persistent threats, malicious insiders, and external attacks. It meets the minimal compliance requirements and doesn’t offer granular access to audit logs. You should probably upgrade your encryption to offer more wide-ranging data protection.
ALE vs. TDE
Transparent Data Encryption (TDE) is a technology used by Microsoft, IBM, and Oracle. It encrypts database files at the file level. TDE is a data-at-rest encryption. It works by encrypting databases on the hard drive and backup media. This protects people from stealing disks from your data center.
It does not offer protection during transit or while the data is in use. So, it is great at preventing unauthorized physical access to servers, but it doesn’t protect against privileged DB access or system access. It also offers little protection against backups, logs, and snapshots.
Meanwhile, application-level encryption protects against all of those. ALE provides database encryption that gives your access control to who and when the data is used.
ALE vs. SSL
Standard Security Technology (SSL) establishes an encrypted link between a server and a client. Certificate authorities use encryption to verify a website’s ownership. Typically, this is for websites, web browsers, mail servers, and mail clients.
SSL secures sensitive information. Instead of using plaintext to send your information between servers, this protocol uses algorithms to encrypt data during transit. This is a popular type of encryption that is used daily around the world.
However, it is still not as secure as ALE which stores your data encrypted for as long as you want it to be secured. You can use ALE in conjunction with SSL. This will ensure that your information remains safe.
ALE vs. TLS
Transport Layer Security, or TLS, is a popular security protocol that prevents eavesdropping between servers. Most mobile and desktop applications and websites use TLS. TLS only protects messages during transit.
People can still log into a physical server or database. They can look at backups, logs, and snapshots. TLS works fine for everyday use, for the most part, but ALE can beef up your security if you have particularly sensitive data you are dealing with.
ALE vs. E2EE
End-to-End Encryption (E2EE) encrypts data between devices so that only the sender and the receiver can see the messages. The correspondence gets encrypted before you send it. Once it is successfully delivered, it decrypts the message.
E2EE is more secure than application-level encryption. It protects against physical access to servers. It protects against man-in-the-middle attacks, privileged DB access, system access, backups, logs, and snapshots. ALE sometimes falls a little short when it comes to privileged system access.
This level of encryption is what the military uses. It is considered the most state-of-the-art encryption out there. With E2EE, no keys or secrets are available on the server side.
Why Use Application Level Encryption to Strengthen Your Security?
If your business is dealing with a lot of sensitive information, encrypting the file system and even TLS are not enough. Application-level encryption makes sure that data is encrypted before being sent via the network.
The data remains encrypted as it passes through all the services, and it is stored encrypted in the database. This type of encryption enables data to remain secure while it is not in use within an application. The lifecycle of ALE encryption is up to you. You can keep the data encrypted for as long as you like. This customization gives you control over when the data is used.
ALE is great at tackling most cyber threats such as the following:
- Physical disk access
- Adversarial system administrator
- Database-level leakage risks
- Leakage through logs, snapshots, and backups
This encryption also practices zero trust. According to NIST, this means that ALE is verifying all users whether inside or outside of the infrastructure. These structures continuously ask for authorization to verify whether you have access to an application, no matter your location or association with the application.
How Sekur Keeps Your Data Safe
ALE is a great way to prevent data breaches but key management can be tricky. If you don’t manage your keys well, you can compromise your cybersecurity. If you had the choice, though, wouldn’t you want the latest and greatest data encryption protocol to strengthen your data security?
At Sekur, we offer military-grade, end-to-end encryption. This encryption protocol protects even better than ALE because no keys are stored on the server. We have an encrypted Swiss-hosted email, VPN, and instant messaging private platform free from data mining.
You can communicate privately and securely with both Sekur and non-Sekur users. Since our servers are in Switzerland, you will have all the benefits of the Swiss privacy laws. All data is transferred in a multi-layered 2048-bit encrypted tunnel using our proprietary HeliX technology, so you can feel safe knowing all your communications remain within our Swiss server.
Give us a try with our 7-day trial and see how Sekur can offer your business an option for better encryption that is easy to use and set up.
It’s important to keep your data secure with encryption. But, there are a lot of encryption protocols available to use. Not all of them work the same. Some are more secure than others. Application Level Encryption is a tested, tried-and-true encryption method.
It’s not always the easiest to manage, but it gets the job done. Research thoroughly and weigh your options before choosing which encryption protocol you use for your business to ensure you give your clients and employees the best cybersecurity.