Encryption for mobile data protection - New threats kindling executive interest

Executives' accelerating awareness of information security issues is helping vendors engage them in meaningful discussions about “boring” security technologies that previously flew under their radar, according to the regional head of storage company Imation Mobile Security.

Citing shockwaves after the recent resignation of Target's CEO and CIO – which came after that US retailer was savaged by an extensive hacker attack – the company's Asia-Pacific general manager Sven Radavics told CSO Australia that the market's realisation that firewall-based security is no longer adequate had meant “the conversations we're having are certainly a lot more interesting than a couple of years ago.”

“People are scratching their heads and saying 'I've done the firewall thing, and done the intrusion detection thing, and we have a security policy that was well thought out by experts and yet we are still seeing breaches',” he explained.

“The breaches just don't seem to stop. And that brings things home, and moves the conversation away from what many people thought was vendor hype, to realising that this is really happening.”

Conventional security defences are being tested regularly as malware authors find innovative new ways of taking on their targets. Recent Enex TestLab eThreatz testing found that the top eight detection platforms turned in erratic results throughout the year as the threat profile changed – requiring new approaches to data protection.

Such threats have created a strong opportunity for a company that has built its business on mobile storage devices, with Imation's recent move towards encrypted USB sticks piquing interest among those who are concerned about the increasing mobility of corporate data.

Citing the devices as something that is “effectively mobile device management” with the integration of remote wiping, tracking, and lockdown features, Radavics said market interest was driven by the growing awareness that smartphones, tablets and cloud services had completely changed the data equation.

“Just in the last few weeks I've found it a lot easier to talk about the more boring aspects of security, if you like,” he said. “The type of conversation has changed: we can sit down now and have a conversation and look at advanced threat protection. It's all becoming a little more real for people.”

“Although,” he added quickly, “super-fast, silicon-based cryptography is not boring.”

Read more: Many Australians working remotely but without BYOD policies: Imation

It is less the encryption technology, however, than its application to securing mobile data that is attracting the most attention from customers who have increasingly been dealing with data on USB sticks and portable hard drives as it walks out the door and never comes back.

A significant part of the defence is to add systems that monitor the usage of USB devices and the transfer of data to and from them. “That's still not something that is as widely deployed as it should be,” Radavics said.

“There are still a lot of people that dump a lot of data onto portable USB devices, because they hold a lot of data. With USB 3.0 it happens quite quickly – and in a lot of cases, such as when it goes through a cloud gateway, it's harder to track.”

While automatic encryption offers a strong measure of protection for data on mobile devices, the addition of biometrics to the storage keys offers additional promise by adding an identity element to the data protection.

Read more: IronKey Workspace review: Windows 8 PC on a stick

“When people don't need to remember passwords, there's an automatic lift in the quality of the security within the organisation,” Radavics said.

“With the recent release of [biometric-enabled] smartphones we've seen a sudden, large interest in our own biometric devices from a much broader range of the customer base.”

This article is brought to you by Enex TestLab, content directors for CSO Australia.


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Tags eThreatzSven Radavicsmobile securitymobile data protectionfirewall-based securityencryptionsecurity defneceshackerimationEnex TestLab

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