Infosecurity Europe 2007: Only tenth of companies have encryption policy

New survey finds that only nine per cent of UK companies have policies to govern use of encryption in the enterprise.

Only nine per cent of UK companies have an enterprise-wide policy on the encryption of sensitive data, in spite of several recent high profile examples of such data going astray, reveals new research.

Security specialist PGP Corporation chose the Infosecurity Europe event at Olympia to reveal the results of its study of 541 UK IT and business managers, conducted in conjunction with the Ponemon Institute. The survey looked at motivations and strategies for protecting data using encryption.

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"Recent UK data breaches such as those at T.J. Maxx, the Halifax Building Society, and a Nottinghamshire hospital could easily have been avoided," said Phillip Dunkelberger, president and chief executive of PGP. "However, the negative publicity from breaches continues to rise, tarnishing companies' brand images, damaging consumer confidence, and causing serious headaches for IT and executive management."

He says the survey results show that for more than half of UK businesses, protecting their brand and reputation is the most significant factor in their decision to deploy encryption technology.

Some 54 per cent of those surveyed reported that brand protection and reputation as the primary drivers for encrypting data.

Another 55 per cent had some kind of encryption strategy in place, but for only nine per cent did this strategy extend enterprise-wide.

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"Organisations need to take a hard look at their data protection strategies, and as this latest study shows, encryption should be regarded as a valuable tool for defending data," added Dunkelberger.

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"Data is currency these days," said Jamie Cowper, director of European marketing with PGP, speaking to IT Pro at the InfoSecurity show after the survey results were announced. "So it's a big deal when laptops go walkabout, or info gets stolen.

There are simply not enough enterprise-wide data encryption policies in place, he warns. "It's a hugely important area to simply be left to chance," said Cowper. "There's a lot of protection that goes into the network, but the network is not nearly as important as the data."

Cowper says he is concerned that the eventual spread of such policies will be event driven rather than a matter of forethought: "In the US there have been a number of high profile cases with bad consequences for the companies that suffered them. This has created awareness. Having to go and apologise to your customers is very motivating. The UK may be a couple of years behind the US in awareness, but that could be cut to a couple of weeks if the right kind of accident happens."

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