2014: The Year Encryption Comes of Age

Even a couple of years ago, the word “cloud” didn’t really mean much to people outside of the tech industry. Today, thanks to companies like Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Google, everyone talks about the cloud as if it has been part of their vocabulary forever. I am going to go out on a limb here but don’t be surprised if encryption catches on the same way in the next year or two. Like the cloud, it will likely mean different things to different people, but it will become part of the vocabulary.

Why ? - you ask. There are several factors.

Firstly for the first time I can ever remember, the cloud has suddenly made people start thinking actively about security and I mean everyday computer user.  Be it the parent who thinks twice about posting a photo of their child to Facebook or the large corporation that considers the risk and compliance aspects of migrating critical applications to a public cloud provider.  Encryption represents one way that consumers of cloud can maintain control while reaping the exciting sharing, savings and agility benefits that are on offer.

Second is that data theft has continued unabated despite the best efforts of companies to keep intruders out. Here are just some of the more well-known recent data breaches: Target, Adobe, LivingSocial, and Evernote.  All of these experienced major data breaches in which tens of millions of credit card numbers, user accounts, or passwords were exposed.  In fact, 2013 was a record year for data breaches. According to DataLossDB, four of the top 10 breaches of all time occurred in 2013.

A perfect example is Target. They reported the breach but also indicated that PIN information was encrypted – and hence the impact of the breach was immediately reduced. If you encrypt the sensitive data, the attacker who has the data cannot do anything with it.

Third is the global proliferation of mobile devices that are accessing more and more enterprise data and applications, which pose challenges to traditional security approaches.  Yes, you still need a firewall, a VPN, malware detection, and so on and so forth, however the focus needs to be on protecting the data where it sits and, once again, the best way to do this is to encrypt it and maintain solid key management practices. Whether the data resides in virtualised data centers, or in a private or public cloud, the need to encrypt the data and manage that encryption is going to be critical.

So, if 2014 is truly the year encryption comes of age, how would we know it? It would be based on how corporations react to the three things listed above.

CIOs have long considered the best defense to be a good offense when it comes to handling security threats.  As a result, the vast majority of time and money is spent building the perimeter security measures that keep the outsiders from getting into the network. But in the new reality of security, the best offense is now the best defense.  And encryption is your ticket to that strategy.


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