Meeting the data security challenges of today’s businesses

In today's world, data is the lifeblood of a successful business, but the balance of using it effectively and protecting it properly is pushing enterprises to the brink.

With more organisations using multiple cloud providers to store and process their data, while at the same time needing to demonstrate compliance with increasingly stringent regulations, it’s essential to have a data protection strategy that is up to the task. No core technologies are more fundamental to data protection than encryption and key management.

The recently released Ponemon 2018 Global Encryption Trends Study once again shows positive growth in the use of encryption across a wide variety of use cases. For example:

  • 43 per cent of respondents report that their organisation has an encryption strategy applied consistently across their enterprise
  • 39 per cent encrypt extensively in public cloud services, a number which has grown significantly in the past year

Interestingly, encryption drivers have shifted towards protecting specific sensitive information, not just checking the compliance box. Compliance remains a significant driver for performing encryption – however, it has been surpassed for the first time by protecting enterprises’ intellectual property and customers’ personal information. The trend towards identifying and protecting high-risk, high-value information is clear, and the continuing drumbeat of data breaches and associated brand damage keeps encryption at the top of the mind.

We’ve seen a multi-year trend of increasing cloud adoption, with organisations looking to use the flexibility and scalability of services offered by Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud and others. However, what differentiated this year’s results was the clear increase in the use of multiple public cloud providers. According to the report, 61 per cent of respondents are using more than one public cloud provider, and 71 per cent plan to in the next two years.

By storing data in several different places, it’s harder for organisations to find and keep track of their data, which is important in the face of today’s more stringent compliance regulations. Additionally, the use of multiple cloud providers can take users down the road of using multiple native cloud encryption tools, which in turn makes it difficult to instantiate a consistent encryption and key-management policy using those different tools. Multiple tools can also increase the likelihood of mistakes such as configuration errors, which are already cited as the most significant threat to sensitive data or confidential data by 47 per cent of respondents. Organisations can benefit from taking a single-pane-of-glass approach to managing keys and bringing their own encryption (BYOE) to the cloud, simplifying the administrative aspects of encryption and key management.

It’s always interesting to see the changes in encryption trends from year to year. Cloud encryption was nascent five years ago, but adoption has accelerated greatly. Internet of things (IoT) encryption is where cloud encryption was back then – small and preliminary, but poised for growth. Forty-nine per cent of respondents are at least partially encrypting data on IoT devices or platforms. The current IoT security focus on authenticating devices will soon grow to include encryption and data protection. The volumes of IoT data that will be generated will soon become staggering and enterprises will be forced to create a multi-tier strategy for data protection at the edge, in the fog, and in the cloud.

And of course, we can’t forget about GDPR and the looming May deadline. We see substantial evidence in this year’s study of its effect – one example is the increase in data discovery challenges, particularly in countries such as the UK, Germany, the US and France.

No matter what happens over the next year, encryption will continue to be a crucial part of any security and data protection strategy. When all else fails, data-centric methods such as encryption – with best-practice based key management – wrap a protective layer around data to thwart those that seek unauthorised access to it. Scalable, cloud-friendly encryption isn’t a luxury or insurance policy. It’s a necessity to protect the data which is the life-blood of the business.

John Grimm, Senior Director of Security Strategy, Thales eSecurity



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