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Encryption for Exchanging Files

Encryption for Exchanging Recordsdata

You seal the envelope when you send a letter. You lock your car when you park at the big box store. You track your packages to make sure porch pirates don’t get them before you do. Your file exchanges should be no different. Learn the essentials on how you can keep your data secure both while it’s sitting at home or being delivered.

What is Encryption and How Does it Work?

Encryption is a method of keeping your information secure by encoding it in a way that only you and the recipient know how to “unlock” – hopefully. The success of an encryption method depends on three factors:

  1. How complex the encryption algorithm is (how difficult it will be to crack).
  2. The length of the key (a type of password made up of a randomized string of bits – the more bits, the more difficult it is to “lockpick”).
  3. How suitable your chosen encryption method is for the type of work it’s doing.

Related Reading: How Encryption Works: Everything You Need to Know

The stronger the stance you take around encryption, the better. When you protect your data, both when it’s in motion and at rest, you’re taking crucial steps to avoiding data hacks.

File encryption can keep your data protected, from accidental exposure, internal threats, and deliberate attacks.

Encryption Terms


An unencrypted, readable message. For example: this is plaintext.


The result of plaintext being encrypted. To continue our example from above, if we use a simple cipher (shift 7) on our plaintext from above we get: aopz pz wshpualea.

Now, a shift cipher like that won’t be too difficult to decode. It may take a person a few minutes to figure it out manually, but it would take even a basic computer mere nanoseconds. That’s where today’s true encryption comes in.


Most encryption methods used today do more than just swap out letters: they will substitute, permutate, and carry out other operations multiple times to completely conceal the message. Through encryption, data is rendered fully unreadable and inaccessible without a decryption key.


If encryption scrambles the message, decryption untangles the messy string of characters so that they are readable again. Most decryption requires two elements: the correct password and the decryption algorithm.

Hash or Hashing

This is, for example, when a website encrypts your password so that it’s not stored as plaintext. While encryption is a two-way function (you can encrypt and decrypt), hashing is a one-way function: once something is hashed, it cannot easily be reverse-hashed without a great deal of effort.

Why isn’t hashed data meant to be reversed? Encryption typically protects data in transit, while hashing is used to ensure data hasn’t been altered.

Salt or Salting

This concept typically is associated with password hashing. The salt is a unique value added to the end of a password to create a different hash value. This adds a layer of security of the hashing process, and is particularly useful when protecting against brute force attacks – this extra, unique value makes cracking the password pattern more complicated.


A key is a randomized string of bits used to encrypt and/or decrypt data. There are two primary systems used today:

  1. Symmetric: You use the same secret/private key to encrypt and decrypt.
  2. Asymmetric: You use key pairs, where one is private and the other is public. The public key is used to encrypt data, and the private key is used to decrypt data.


PGP stands for Pretty Good Privacy. This is a collection of algorithms that is used for hashing and data encryption.

Choosing the Best File Encryption Method for You

Choosing the right encryption method for you depends on several factors:

  • The sensitivity of the data you’re exchanging
  • How you’re transmitting the data
  • How large the files are, and whether they should be compressed
  • Whether the files should be encrypted at rest (even before the transmission), whether the connection or channel itself should be encrypted, or both
  • The encryption standards your trading partners support or require

The best file encryption software for your organization comes down to your unique requirements, and those of your trading partners.

File Encryption Options

Some common encryption methods include:

  • Encryption and Connectivity: By encrypting your data at rest with Open PGP, GPG, or ZIP with AES, and protecting your data in transit via SFTP, FTPS, HTTPS, and AS2.
  • Alerting: Receive notifications for pre-determined events and stay on top of file movement.
  • Automation: Schedule both time-based and event-based workflows to ease your manual workload and easily move files between internal systems, users, and trading partners.
  • DMZ Secure Gateway: Keep incoming ports closed to your private/internal network, and keep your file servers, passwords, and user credentials safely within your organization.
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