Encryption - Not just for Super Spies

March 18, 2019

There was a time when the word “encryption” called up images of secret messages sent by undercover agents to their handlers - the sort of thing that most of us encountered only in spy novels and movies. The online world has changed that. Now, many of us need to use encryption to keep sensitive data safe from hackers. In fact, you’ve probably taken advantage of encryption without even knowing it. 


Encryption is the process of altering data in a way that allows only a user with the right password to access it. What encryption options are available to you at GW? Good question.


There are two main types of encryption: encryption for data at rest (in hard drives, USB drives and other storage devices) and encryption for data in motion (email, apps or websites). For data at rest, there are two options: encrypting an entire drive or just individual files. 


For websites, the familiar padlock icon and https in the url are clues that the site you are on is encrypted and can be trusted with your information.


For email, the good news is that if you are sending an email from one GWmail address to another, your message is automatically encrypted. If you are sending sensitive data outside the GW system, you will need to employ an encryption service. Also remember that regulated data - data whose handling is governed by state or federal law - should never be sent by email, even if you encrypt it.


This document takes you step by step through the process of encrypting sensitive information.


In these days of security breaches and identity theft, encryption of sensitive data is more important than ever. Be sure you take advantage of the resources offered by GW IT. For help with any encryption effort, contact the IT Support Center at [email protected] or 202-994-4948.