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Research data that is obtained by a certain organization may need to be protected from rivals that may be in need of such data. The method that can offer best solution to protecting research data is encryption. Encryption is the process of altering texts and important data into a form that it cannot be read by any other human being unless the person who knows how to decrypt the data. This uses very complex keys or logarithms which may take so many years of computer work to break. Encryption may use either symmetric or asymmetric keys. Symmetric key encryption uses one key for both encryption and decryption. Those who are allowed to access the data may have the key for their use. Asymmetric key encryption makes use a different key for encryption and decryption. The two keys may have related codes and belong to the same pair. One of the keys should be kept secret while the other one can be made public (Fadia, 2009). This is used in an organization that has several employees. However, encryption has both advantages and disadvantages.
Advantages of encryption
One of the main advantages of data encryption over other methods of data protection is that it separates the security of the data from that of the medium through which the data is being stored. This means that users can use other unsecure means to carry out other activities on the same device. It therefore does not limit other unsecure operations on the device. Another very important advantage is that it maintains security of data while on transit. For example when data is being transmitted through various networks, encryption can ensure that the contents of such data are not accessed. Encryption therefore helps to secure against any access through the network of transmission. Encrypted data may travel to several places but it cannot be read out without the key (Menezes, Oorschot & Vanstone, 2001).
Another advantage of encrypted data is that it can be used with removable storage. This means that removable devices containing the data can leave the company but the security of the data will still be maintained. Compromising the storage devices cannot put the data at risk. It therefore protects the data that is at rest and also that is in flight because security does not only apply to within the premises (Kahate, 2008).
On the other hand, encryption has its own drawbacks that make it not applicable in some cases. One of its main disadvantages is that it is very complex process. The technology used in developing the encryption keys is very complex and this adds another task to the Information Technology department in an organization. This is because the security of the key as the security of the data. Losing the key also means losing the data.
Another disadvantage is that asymmetric key encryption can enable the employees to use the public key to pass the data to other people. This is unlike the symmetric key that makes use of a similar key for both encrypting and decrypting. Employees can sometimes log in to the computers and leave. This may let in other people to accessing the data (Kahate, 2008).
Encryption can be a very effective method of protecting data if well conducted. But for maximum protection of data, the best encryption method to take is the symmetric key encryption. However, the whole process requires to be carefully planned. Failure to plan it well, many activities of an organization may slow down due to the complex technology required in encryption. This can also result in loss of the encryption key which also loses the entire data. But with proper planning, encryption can function well especially for protecting research data.