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March 29, 2010

UK firms ignore encryption

Stonewood argues case for hardware encryption

By Vinod

Organisations are overlooking hardware encryption as a means of protecting their data, according to Chris McIntosh, CEO of hardware encryption firm Stonewood.

Despite the recent spate of embarrassing data losses to government and other organisations, encryption is still not getting the attention it deserves in many quarters, McIntosh told CBR. In particular, few companies outside the military and government consider hardware encryption, preferring a software solution or not encrypting at all.

“The military and government have got the message that you have to encrypt laptops that go outside buildings. What companies are doing is forcing individuals to take the risk. If you haven’t been issued an encrypted laptop, individuals have to make the decision to leave their laptop, but they need it to do their jobs,” said McIntosh.

Most companies don’t encrypt because they have the ‘it-won’t-happen-to-me’ syndrome, seeing it as an extra expense rather than an investment in protecting their assets. Even with the beefed up powers of the Information Commissioner’s Office, which can now impose up to £500,000 fines on companies in breach of the Data Protection Act, most organisations believe that it will never happen to them, pointed out McIntosh.

Part of the problem is that it is generally other people’s data that is lost on laptops. A mortgage advisor, for example, will take a number of personal details including address and salary from prospective customers, but they won’t have such sensitive data about themselves on their laptop.

Another problem with acceptance is the perceived costs. Upfront costs of hardware encryption are higher than for software encryption, which puts off some firms. Yet software licences need to be renewed every year, making a higher end cost.

“The big problem with software encryption is the operating system. It’s vulnerabilities in the operating system an attacker will use and no operating system can every be 100% secure, there are always holes,” said McIntosh.

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