The average data breach costs a company $4 million dollars. Behind the price tag lies countless hours lost, administration and management strain and flagging credibility. Today, to avoid those risks, businesses and agencies are turning to enterprise-grade file sharing, where they see a lot of jargon. We’re here to help with some of that today, specifically, what does AES encryption mean?

However, if you are a manager responsible for the security of your data, note: not all file sharing is created equal. Employees using DropBox were floored when they reported a theft of 68,680,741 account records.

It’s reasons like this that there needs to be a professional alternative. Enterprise file sharing platforms typically use encryption during transfer and while the data is at rest. Keep reading for to answer the question, what does AES encryption mean? Also, you’ll get a basic guide on common encryption methods and why AES encryption is your file sharing friend.

Two Types of Encryption

The best way to understand encryption is by breaking down the methods of encrypting messages. Turning this year’s income statement into “8sl03k*#slx2” and other forms of gibberish typically use one of the following methods:

  1. Asymmetric key (public key)
  2. Symmetric key

An asymmetric key, also called a public key, uses two keys to encrypt information. First, a public key is used to encrypt the message and is typically available freely through open source websites or the greater real estate of the Internet.

The private key is then given to the receiver who uses that to decode the information. The process can also work in reverse. The sender could also use a private key to send the message and the receiver uses a public key to decode it.

The use of two keys makes asymmetric a strong encryption method, though it is slower than using a symmetric key which does not always make it ideal for agencies and businesses.

Symmetric cryptography, also known as private key, is a highly used method (the oldest, in fact) for securely sending data. Symmetric methods have the sender and receiver using the same key to encrypt and decrypt the information.

This generally creates a faster process, though it does require the sender to share the key privately and securely with the receiver.

A simple analogy is password-protected documents. The sender sets the password for the PDF, and then finds a way (usually calling or meeting the receiver) to convey the password for opening the PDF.

In both kinds of encryption the strength is known as bits. A 56-bit encryption uses a series of 56 binary digits 0 and 1 (bits) as the key. Basically, the longer the encryption the less likely the hacker can solve it, especially by brute force due to the immense number of possible key combinations.

Keep reading below…


BFG is an independent creative communications agency with world-class clients. BFG needed a branded file sharing solution immediately. SmartFile created a custom on-prem solution that enabled this marketing giant to safely exchange files.

Encryption Algorithms: Standards From Then to Now

Because of its simplicity, most industries use some form of symmetric cryptography in securing networks and data. Within symmetric systems, there are various algorithms, or ways to go about encrypting the information.

The original standard, Data Encryption Standard (DES), was mandated by most financial institutions including the Federal Reserve. However, in the early 21st century hackers were able to defeat the algorithm with relative ease. Thus DES was replaced by several new and secure algorithms.

Replacing DES in the financial sector, Triple DES (also known as 3DES) was commonly used by retail companies, banks, and even government agencies. 3DES uses three sets of 56-bit encryption to make a 168-bit key. However, several vulnerabilities now have cyber security experts leery.

In 2014, the Black Friday Target hack was traced down to a flaw in the 3DES encryption used for consumer credit cards and PIN numbers. This was the first in several hacks that have led experts to gradually convert 3DES encryption to AES. In retrospect, experts are saying that even though 3DES claims 168-bit key strength, the actual strength is similar to 112 bits.

Other DES replacements include BlowFish and its successor TwoFish. These algorithms are more common in open source platforms and e-commerce due to their flexibility. These encryption methods rely on breaking the message into small chunks then encrypting them individually.

One Encryption Algorithm to Rule Them All

Despite the many alternatives to DES, the most widely known and used algorithm is the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). AES was adopted in 2001 by the National Institute of Standards and approved for Federal Information Processing Standards. Used by federal organizations such as the NSA, AES is the industry standard for timely yet secure data encryption.

AES encryption handles “Top Secret” and “Classified” information using 192 or 256-bit information encryption. Overall, AES is the secure method for file sharing and data transfers. With few cons, AES encryption can range from 128 to 256 bits while still maintaining an efficient transfer speed.

What Does AES Encryption Mean for Your File Sharing?

In today’s world of cyber attacks, encryption must not only be present while files and data are at rest, but also during transfer. Confidential financial information, intellectual property or competitive intelligence can easily be intercepted, abused, hacked or modified without the proper security.

Furthermore, most consumer cloud storage isn’t secure enough for corporate use. So, when using the cloud as a manager or key stakeholder in a company, it is vital to take every necessary precaution.

When looking for a secure file sharing provider, make sure they have AES 256-bit encryption at least for file transfer.

Where Can I Find AES Encryption?

Being a manager or sysadmin means keeping the greater company machine moving, while staying secure. AES allows a wonderful marriage of speed and security, and can be integrated into cloud or on-prem networks.

If you are looking for a cloud solution for your firm, SmartFile uses 256-bit AES encryption for files during transfer. This means even the NSA will have a tough time getting into your data. If you want to be even more secure, SmartFile offers 256-bit AES encryption for files at rest for on-prem deployments.

In addition to AES encryption, managers can enhance their security with several other features. SmartFile’s platform also allows activity logs, so administrators can monitor when clients or employees are accessing information. This is especially helpful in detecting data breaches, ransomware attacks and even information abuse by clients and employees. A sudden suspicious increase in file activity may be indicative of rogue behavior.

So what does AES encryption mean? Coupled with security features, AES encryption is the ideal way to keep data safe. Employing a file sharing platform that has AES capabilities like SmartFile is taking out an insurance policy for your data. Managers can now avoid the price tag of a data breach, while maintaining a fluid and thriving enterprise.

Looking For An Encrypted File Sharing Provider?

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— Thanh Ly, Senior Database Administrator, Albert A Webb Associates

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About Victoria Shaw

I'm the Marketing Intern at SmartFile, and a Junior Marketing major at Anderson University. I enjoy crafting content while listening to musical theatre soundtracks and eating sushi (or chocolate). Thank you for reading my post! P.S. I graduate in just over a year, so if you need a high quality marketing team member, I'm your gal;)

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