As an LA RIA, there’s pretty high chance you come face to face with sensitive data, personal details, and financial information on a daily basis. And as a RIA, it’s your obligation to protect the interest of not only your firm but also of your clients. While paperwork was once the norm, more and more RIAs are choosing to manage their entire database electronically. But, what happens if your system becomes compromised?
Due to the critically sensitive nature of such data, encryption is often thought of as the first “go to” security protocol. Using software and an unlocking key, encryption scrambles and unscrambles data making it unreadable by anybody other than the key holder. All of this sounds incredibly reassuring.
But, while encryption software certainly has it place in the IT toolkit, it also has a number of down sides. It certainly makes supporting machines with it on it that much harder and time consuming to deal with. So, is it worth installing such software onto an entire network full of workstation or do the disadvantages outweigh the benefits
Here are five things to consider before implementing any encryption software:
1. It can reduce a workstation’s performance and productivity
While instances of affected performance are rare, it is certainly something that RIAs need to consider before encrypting their workstation. Keep in mind, you’re adding a layer of software in between the underlying operating system and the applications.
The introduction of any software can adversely affect the speed and performance of a computer, so imagine for a moment that this particular program contains the secure information you need to access in seconds. RIAs need to be able to think on their feet, and handle data very quickly and efficiently; a slower workstation definitely wouldn’t be a good thing.
2. It can be more complicated than it needs to be
The process of encryption can be simple if done correctly, but left in the hands of an inexperienced IT user, can cause a myriad of problems. When not implemented correctly, encryption software can lock users out of their workstation indefinitely, delete files permanently, or scramble documents that did not need to be protected. In short, encryption software can turn a desktop into something of a nightmare.
3. It can render files inaccessible
Computer software can go wrong, but what happens if your workstation is protected by encryption and the system is either corrupted or fails? There is a good chance that the encryption key will be lost forever, which will render your files forever inaccessible. As most workstation hard drives aren’t backed up, the details contained within those workstations will be lost forever. It’s a scary thought for any Investment Advisor.
4. It can delay system upgrades
Since encryption software is integrated with hardware and operating systems, it becomes significantly more difficult for workstation users to upgrade certain programs or install new software. This can be inordinately frustrating if you like to be kept abreast of the latest technology, as well as potentially proving detrimental to your professional image or the needs of your clients.
5. It provides a false sense of security
Sometimes the installation of encryption software can be enough to render you rather blasé about security; you may become less alert where other security issues are concerned, or assume that just one firewall is enough, for example. It is important to remember that many encryption processes provide nominal protection that could be broken by a determined hacker. In addition, the encryption of a workstation’s hard drive will do nothing to protect files once they have been transferred to clients, or via an unencrypted USB device – a fact you may not even have thought about.
So? What’s the solution?
First, know going in that encryption software is NOT for the faint of heart. It’s something that you will have to constantly manage. And it’s something that will increase the time and effort needed to manage any aspect of your workstations. It’s not undoable, it just makes things that much harder to deal with. This means it WILL increase your support costs. Almost anything you have to do with a workstation will now take two to three times as long – upgrades, patches, etc. And forget about easily setting up a replacement workstation. Encryption software makes transferring files from one hard drive to another a non-starter. Don’t get me wrong, there are ways around it. It’s just (significantly) more time intensive (are you sensing a theme here yet?).
So, there you have it. There are many upsides to encryption software. It certainly does tighten up security. No question. Is it worth it? Only you can make that call.
Are you using encryption now or considering it? We’d love to hear how it's working (or not working) for you. Let us know what you think in the Comments box below.
And to follow-through on the concepts introduced here, be sure to download your free guide, Investing in High Net Worth Clients: The LA Investment Advisor's Guide to Using Technology to Manage and Grow Your Firm.