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RSA Conference, San Francisco: Thales, leader in information systems and communications security,has  announced the publication of its latest Global Encryption Trends Study. The report, based on independent research by the Ponemon Institute and sponsored by Thales, reveals that encryption continues to be viewed as a strategic issue and that organizations are increasing their investment in encryption across the enterprise in response to compliance regulations and cyber-attacks.

 

More than 4,000 business and IT managers were surveyed in the US, UK, Germany, France, Australia, Japan and Brazil, examining global encryption trends and regional differences in encryption usage. The report is now in its eighth year since its launch in 2005.

The results of the study show there has been a steady increase in the deployment of encryption solutions used by organizations over the past eight years. The percentage of overall IT security spending dedicated to encryption has also increased, almost doubling from 10% to 18%, demonstrating that organizations are prioritizing encryption over other security technologies.

Encryption continues to be viewed as a strategic issue with business leaders rather than IT or security professionals gaining greater influence over their organization’s encryption strategy. For the first time business managers in the United States became the more influential group in setting the encryption strategy, demonstrating that encryption is no longer seen as just an IT issue but one that affects an entire organization.

Perceptions about the most significant threats to the exposure of sensitive or confidential data are employee mistakes, forced disclosures triggered by e-discovery requests and system or process malfunctions. Combined, these concerns over inadvertent exposure outweigh concerns over actual malicious attacks by more than 2:1.

The top data protection priorities focus on identity and access management, data discovery, protecting data in use within business applications and protecting data in outsourced or cloud environments. The importance of protecting data in cloud environments rose significantly from last year’s survey ranking fourth in priority – up from 12th.

When it comes to buying criteria, performance is always the top concern. The next largest issue is key management with 38% of respondents saying they have a formal key management strategy. To support that strategy, the new Key Management Interoperability Protocol (KMIP) standard that allows organizations to deploy centralized key management systems that span multiple use cases and equipment vendors, has already established a relatively high level of awareness among IT and IT security practitioners. KMIP is perceived to be of increasing importance and is expected to contribute to encryption and key management strategies specifically around cloud, storage and application-centric deployments.

Hardware security modules (HSMs) are increasingly considered a critical component of a key management strategy. These devices are used to protect critical data processing activities and can be used to strongly enforce security polices and access controls.

Dr Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of The Ponemon Institute, says:“Encryption usage has emerged as a clear indicator of a strong security posture with organizations that deploy encryption being more aware of threats to sensitive and confidential information and making a greater investment in IT security. Regardless of an organization’s situation, it is clear that encryption and key management are becoming more widely deployed. For the first time this year our study shows that more organisations say they have an encryption strategy than not – another clear indication that encryption is now seen as a strategic issue.”

Richard Moulds, vice president strategy at Thales e-Security says: “Encryption is taking center stage as a strategic IT security issue, in order to mitigate the risk of data breaches and cyber-attacks and to protect an organization’s brand, reputation and credibility. However, key management remains a challenge that can rapidly escalate as the use of encryption and other uses of cryptography expand. The report highlights how organizations are responding and shows a 25% increase in spending on key management solutions as a proportion of encryption budgets. Thales high assurance encryption and key management solutions help our customers address this challenge by reducing risk, supporting business continuity and demonstrating compliance enabling them to pursue their data protection goals with greater confidence.