Encryption is a topic that most attorneys don’t want to touch with a ten-foot pole, but it is becoming a more and more important part of security. Encryption is an electronic process to protect data. It has now reached the point where all attorneys should generally understand encryption, have it available for use when appropriate, and make informed decisions about when encryption should be used and when it is acceptable to avoid it. Fortunately, easy-to-use options are available today for encryption. Most attorneys will need technical assistance to install and set up encryption, but it’s generally easy from there.
Encryption uses a formula to transform readable data into unreadable data. The formula is an algorithm (called a cipher), the readable data is called plaintext, and the unreadable data is called ciphertext. Decryption is the reverse process that uses a key to transform the encrypted data back to readable data. As long as the decryption key is protected, the data is unreadable and secure. Although the technical details of how encryption works are complex, it is not necessary for attorneys who use encryption to understand them.