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News

Thales survey throws doubt over cloud security

Thales : 21 October, 2009  (Technical Article)
Mishandling of encryption keys and doubts over Cloud security feature in the 2009 Encryption study conducted by Thales
Thales announces that the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) and the US Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) are driving encryption projects across industries according to the findings of the new 2009 Encryption and Key Management Benchmark Survey conducted by research firm Trust Catalyst on behalf of Thales.

Findings show that in Europe 52 percent of the organizations surveyed are planning encryption projects to comply with PCI DSS. In the US, 53 percent of the organizations surveyed are planning encryption project to comply with HIPAA. In both cases, these drivers cut across industry verticals showing the broad impact of data-specific regulations to safeguard the privacy of consumers. However, continuing the trend from the 2008 report, organizations continue to be at risk with only 43 percent using database encryption and 41 percent using tape encryption. These two data sources are at the core of every enterprise and are responsible for many of the well-publicized data breaches.

Key management is business critical, but keys are being lost and compromised

As organizations plan to tackle compliance with encryption, they are spending more time and effort on key management planning. 34 percent of respondents have now spent one year or more planning for key management issues, up from 26 percent in 2008. Driven by the demands for business continuity and availability, 49 percent of organizations indicated they must be able to recover an encrypted database in one hour or less (up from 37 percent in 2008). The application with the most time critical service level, payment processing, must be available in less than one hour for 54 percent of all surveyed. The only way to meet these business continuity and availability demands is with effective key management.

For the first time, the study shows that already 8 percent of organizations have experienced problems with a lost encryption key over the last two years. These key management errors or breaches resulted in 39 percent of these organizations losing data permanently or disrupting business operations. Overall, the most challenging aspect of key management shifted from preparing for a breach last year to the operational issue of rotating encryption keys this year. For those organizations spending one year or more on key management planning, proving compliance was the most challenging. Both results show that organizations are still in need of automated key management to be able to meet the reporting requirements of auditors and regulators.


The research also revealed significant IT security concerns related to cloud computing. More than half of the respondents (52 percent) indicated data security as the chief concern preventing their organization from adopting cloud computing. In addition, when asked about their own company's plans for cloud computing, 47 percent of respondents said they would not move to the cloud unless data was encrypted and another 43 percent said that at this time they have no plans to move to cloud computing. 59 percent of respondents would not allow encryption keys to be managed by a cloud service (26 percent were unsure) and only 15 percent would allow a cloud service to manage keys at this time.

"These results show clearly that two of the most important pieces of data - a person's credit card details and their health records - and the regulations designed to safeguard this data are the major drivers for companies to encrypt data," says Franck Greverie, Vice President, Managing Director for the information systems security activities of Thales. "The impact of a data breach is one of the main security headaches for CEOs and IT specialists alike and regulation is already playing a role in terms of tightening data security. The very nature of encryption means that data is secure even if many of the other enterprise security mechanisms fail and regulators and industry will therefore grow to depend on encryption. At the same time, key management and the ability to demonstrate encryption key custody and control will become increasingly important as auditors and regulators look to validate safe harbor. The good news is that encryption is now significantly easier to implement and manage than in the past. The security industry and standards bodies have reacted quickly to the increased demand for encryption technologies over the last few years and today there are numerous examples of IT products and systems that include embedded or native encryption capabilities."


The survey comprised of 655 experienced IT professionals from around the globe. The majority of participants in the survey hold management positions in the technology, software, financial services and government sectors. The survey was compiled during Q3 of 2009.
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