Clicking an unsubscribe button on an email is easy to understand. But what does data encryption and hashing have to do with unsubscribes, and why should you care?

Understanding why acknowledging unsubscribes is important to your email marketing campaigns is relatively straightforward. But some of the benefits that UnsubCentral provides, like data hashing and encryption, can be a bit more of a challenge to unpack, even though they are critical to what we have to offer.

Data encryption and hexadecimal hashing may seem like scary words, but the reasoning behind them is what keeps your data safe from prying eyes. What do these terms mean, how are they relevant to your email and affiliate marketing campaigns, and what role does UnsubCentral’s email compliance software play in the relationship between you, your partners, and your customers?

What is Hexadecimal Hashing?

Hexadecimal hashing is a one-way encryption process, and data that has been hashed into MD5 or a SHA format cannot be reversed or “unencrypted,” even by the person who originally performed the hashing. However, an email address or phone number for example hashed will always result in the same character string. Furthermore, two lists of email addresses or phone numbers that have been hashed following the appropriate standardization can still be compared with each other to determine if there are any matching records.

Hexadecimal hashing is a non-proprietary industry standard implemented for data security. Other uses include masking passwords in the Unix operating system, and verifying that downloaded files have not been modified or corrupted.

There are many kinds of hashing methods available on the market, but the National Institute of Standards and Technology recommends SHA-2 encryption. Below are three common types of hexadecimal hashing that you might see:

  • MD5 – One of the most widely used hash algorithms, MD5 (or Message Digest) is a cryptographic function verifies data integrity. In spite of its popularity, it is not collision resistant and is the least secure form of hexadecimal hashing.
  • SHA-1 – Designed by the National Security Agency in 1995, SHA-1 (or Secure Hash Algorithm) secures data by producing a 40-digit hexadecimal number. While it is the basis for later developments in data security, it is no longer considered safe to use due to advances in cyber-attacks. Most organizations recommend removing SHA-1 from devices and replacing them with more elaborate encryption, like Microsoft did earlier this year.
  • SHA-2 – The successor to SHA-1, SHA-2 implemented significant changes that makes it the standard in hexadecimal hashing. While about 20-30% slower to calculate than its predecessors, the NIST recommends using SHA-2 encryption for anyone looking to secure their data. The most common instances of this are SHA-256 and SHA-512, which share similar structures but use 32-bit and 64-bit words respectively.
  • SHA-3 – Released in late 2015, SHA-3 represents the cutting edge of hexadecimal hashing. While it hasn’t been widely implemented due to the reliability of SHA-2 hashing, it is likely to replace it in the future as hackers develop newer and more insidious ways of bypassing vulnerabilities.

Why is Hashing and Data Encryption Necessary in Unsubscribes?

Keeping your data secure is important – especially when it contains contact data. When maintaining email compliance, hexadecimal hashing ensures consistency between scrubbed email suppression lists, as well as a layer of security that is critical for the integrity of your brand.

While some favor MD5 and SHA-256 encryption, the industry is gravitating towards SHA-512 encryption as the preferred standard.

Regardless of what kind of encryption is being used, UnsubCentral has the tools and capabilities to scrub email opt-in and unsubscribe lists together and provide partners with the information they need. How do we manage data encryption in unsubscribes?

How UnsubCentral Makes Sharing Hashed and Encrypted Files Easy

Companies need to acknowledge unsubscribe requests in a timely manner. This isn’t just a good business practice – it’s the law, and failing to do so can be expensive.

A good unsubscribe ecosystem rests on four core pillars: automation, centralization, speed, and flexibility. Hexadecimal hashing is a great method of protecting data, but is only valuable if that information can be processed appropriately.

Consider email compliance for affiliate marketing. Email list scrubbing between two platforms presents multiple problems that must be addressed:

  • Can a plain text list be scrubbed against a hashed list?
  • Can an affiliate email marketing campaign honor your hashed lists without the proper tools?
  • Are partners hashing data on their own and creating matching problems?

Questions like these are easily resolved by UnsubCentral’s robust capabilities.

Unsub Defender, our in-house scrubbing tool, can compare hashed vs non-hashed data and deliver the results in seconds, letting you and your partners have access to the data you need, when you need it. As cybersecurity compliance grows in complexity, UnsubCentral is staying one step ahead by predicting and implementing cutting-edge trends.

UnsubCentral makes email marketing for affiliates simple by using dozens of ESP integrations like Marketo, Salesforce, and Hubspot, and with new integrations like Sendgrid, this list is only expanding.

What should I be looking for when considering an unsubscribe ecosystem that is the right fit for my company? Adaptability. UnsubCentral is a leader in unsubscribe compliance for affiliate marketing, and will continue developing new tools to maintain this position. Contact us today or schedule a demo to learn more about what we have to offer.