Encryption adoption slows, but users believe it frees them from breach reporting

Adoption of data encryption technology is slowing and protecting back-end data more often than cloud applications, according to new research from Thales and the Ponemon Institute that also found many organisations believe encrypting data exempts them from the need to notify customers in the event of a data breach.

The firms' jointly published 2015 Global Encryption and Key Management Trends Study – now in its tenth year – found that some 36 percent of the 4700 polled organisations had developed an enterprise-wide encryption strategy.

That figure was only a slight increase on the 35 percent result in the 2014 survey, and represented a dropoff in growth from the 29 percent of respondents using encryption in the 2013 survey.

Slow adoption of encryption by cloud-computing users has previously been blamed on immature encryption key management – identified as a pain point by more than half of respondents to the Thales-Ponemon survey.

“Encryption usage continues to be a clear indicator of a strong security posture but there appears to be emerging evidence that concerns over key management are becoming a barrier to its more widespread adoption,” Ponemon Institute chairman and founder Dr Larry Ponemon said in a statement.

“Many organizations lack formal ownership and accountability when it comes to key management, which is very concerning when you consider the value of the data being protected and operational implications of losing or mismanaging keys.”

Nearly half of respondents to the survey believe that encrypting the data they store obviates the requirement to tell those affected by a data breach. This, even though respondents said their main reasons for using encryption in the first place relate to compliance with data protection mandates, addressing specific security threats and reducing the scope of compliance audits.

The biggest challenge with deploying encryption was catering for encryption across multiple locations and devices, the survey found, with users far and away a bigger security concern than external attacks.

The Thales-Ponemon research also confirmed that selective use of encryption is being favoured over adopting the technology ubiquitously. Back-end storage, archives and databases were the most likely to be encrypted, with cloud services and big data the infrastructure areas least likely to be protected with encryption.

Others have advised caution with the back-end use of encryption, with Google recently relaxing its earlier encryption mandate by allowing manufacturers discretion in enabling on-device encryption for mobile equipment running the Android 'Lollipop' operating system. And one data-recovery specialist has discouraged its use by cloud providers to ensure better data recovery results in the event of a catastrophic failure.

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

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