Level 3 Communications

Chris McReynolds

Optical Encryption: What it is Today and Why You Need It Now

Security. Protecting an enterprise’s data – and that of its customers – continues to be top-of-mind for many businesses these days. With the average cost of a data breach rising to $6.7M annually worldwide, securing networks by every means possible has never been more important. The sheer number of cyberattacks and breaches proves that securing the network perimeter simply isn’t enough. 

With an increasing amount of sensitive and mission-critical data in flight round the clock, most organizations are actively working to develop an offensive strategy against the relentless and constantly evolving threatscape. Yet, while IT/security teams scramble to find promising new technologies, proven foundational security tools – such as optical encryption – are often overlooked in favor of the usual encryption tools. However, with the introduction of next-generation optical encryption technologies, that is changing.

Generally speaking, data can be most vulnerable when it’s in transit from one location to another. Most encryption services secure in-flight data by encrypting information in the upper layers (Layer 3 and above) as it is carried across global fiber-optic cables of the Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) model. Data encryption is a sophisticated algorithm that helps ensure anonymity and privacy, while making data theft or alteration very difficult for hackers. Once encrypted, data can only be decrypted using a key or password.

But, there’s a drawback. While adding a valuable layer of security, these traditional optical encryption techniques can bog down the performance of the network, and managing encryption keys and other associated processes can prove byzantine in complexity. 

So, how can businesses reap the security benefits of encryption without effecting their network performance or adding to the burden of already-strapped IT departments?

The Digital Transformation of Optical Encryption

Enter Level 3’s recently announced Encrypted Wave solution that encrypts data directly at the Optical Layer and incorporates customer controlled encryption keys via a simplified key management tool.

The solution provides tested, robust data security that compliments the encryption security at other layers, while adding almost no latency in the transport process.

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Boosting security without crippling network performance is just part of the solution story. Equally important is simplifying the encryption domain management system. This translates to encryption cards and associated keys that are known, managed and maintained solely by the customer-company via a portal, versus being managed and controlled by the provider. Not only does customer ownership/control simplify the process, it also increases overall security. How so?

Think of it this way: you use a locker in a gym facility. You want to leave valuables (data) in the locker, so you set a unique customized code on the lock. But if you share that code with the person at the front desk, the day and night shift trainers, and the facility custodian – how long before your code and the valuables in your locker are compromised? 

For many businesses, these new-wave optical encryption solutions usher in a much-needed new era of data protection. Improving business and customer data security means finding the right provider with solutions that both enhance your security posture while simplifying associated processes.