Report: Compliance biggest driver of encryption

The biggest driver of encryption technology is the need to comply with regulations

The biggest driver of encryption technology is the need to comply with privacy or data security regulations, according to a new report.

In a survey of more than 5,000 business and IT managers, 61 percent told the Ponemon Institute that compliance was the main driver, followed by 50 percent who said that protecting enterprise intellectual property was the main driver, and 49 percent who pointed to protecting information against specific, identified threats and 47 percent who said that protecting customer personal information was a main drivers.

By comparison, only 8 percent said that avoiding public disclosure after a data breach was a main driver.

Respondents were able to choose more than one answer.

This is the 11th year that the survey has been conducted, and the researchers were also able to identify some trends.

For example, IT operations, while still the biggest influence on a company's encryption strategy, has been making a smaller impact.

"The lines of business are starting to be much more influential in laying in encryption as a security strategy," said Peter Galvin, vice president of strategy and marketing at Thales e-Security, which, together with Vormetric Data Security, sponsored the report.

Since 2005, the the influence of IT operations fell from 53 percent down to 32 percent, while the influence of lines of business rose from 10 percent to 27 percent.

The influence of the security function has also increased a little bit, but not as much, from 12 percent to 16 percent.

Another trend is that the percentage of companies with an enterprise-wide encryption strategy that's applied consistently throughout the enterprise has risen from 15 percent in 2005 to 37 percent. And the percentage of companies with no encryption strategy has fallen from 38 percent to just 15 percent.

"There a lot more recognition of the importance of encryption," said Galvin.

However, encryption has also been, to some degree, a victim of its own success.

With more encryption, there are more encryption keys and signatures to keep track off.

"Managing the keys turns out to be pretty tricky," he said. "The more people implement encryption, and in more places, there are so many islands to manage that the pain starts to be very pronounced because the tools aren't centralized and aren't the same between different vendors."

According to the survey, no clear key ownership was selected as a major pain point by 57 percent of respondents, followed by the lack of skilled personnel with 49 percent, isolated and fragmented systems with 47 percent, and inadequate key management tool with 46 percent.

Among the types of keys that were most difficult to manage, SSH keys tied for first place the list with keys for clouds and other external services, with 61 percent of respondents each.

Keys for third-party systems such as those belonging to partners or customers were next with 57 percent, followed by application-owned keys at 54 percent.

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