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Businesses Prioritize Customer Data Protection But Continue to Leave it Exposed


Enterprises see protecting customer personal information as the top reason to encrypt data, and yet report actually encrypting customer data at a far lower rate.

This and other findings are highlighted in the Entrust 2021 Global Encryption Trends study, the sixteenth annual multinational survey by the Ponemon Institute reporting on the cybersecurity challenges organizations face today, and how and why organizations deploy encryption.

The big reported disconnect is that customer information ranks fifth on the list of information that enterprises actually encrypt, indicating a wide chasm between an organization’s priorities and the realities of deploying encryption.

When looking at what respondent enterprises actually encrypt, financial records (55%), payment-related data (55%), employee/HR data (48%) and intellectual property (48%) all outranked customer personal information (42%).
Compliance — which until recently was ranked as the top reason to encrypt — has a solid but decreasing influence over encryption use, continuing a trend noted in the 2020 Global Encryption Trends study. Protection of customer information (54%), protection against specific, identified threats (50%), and protection of intellectual property (49%) all rank higher than compliance, which now sits at 45%.

The study highlights encouraging trends as well. For the first time, half (50%) of organizations now report that they have an overall encryption strategy applied consistently, while 37% report a limited encryption strategy.

But this milestone reveals new gaps, particularly in multi-cloud environments. Encryption tools abound, with organizations report using an average of eight different products that perform encryption.

Respondents rank performance, management of encryption keys, policy enforcement and support for both cloud and on-premises deployment are the top valued features of encryption solutions. In fact, 45% of respondents rated unified key management across both multiple clouds and enterprise environments as very important or important.

This finding is consistent with encryption keys for cloud services — including Bring Your Own Key (BYOK) – being the most challenging to manage of all key types, according to the study.

Not only is key management increasingly complex, but simply knowing where organizational data resides across on-premise, virtual, cloud and hybrid environments is an ongoing issue. As such, 65% of organizations report discovering where sensitive data resides continues to be, by far, the top challenge in planning and executing a methodical encryption strategy.

“Breaches of personal information strike at the heart of the relationship between enterprises and their customers. Encryption is at the foundation of data protection, and when organizations don’t prioritize protecting customer personal information, they raise enterprise risk of lost business and reputation,” said John Grimm, vice president of strategy at Entrust.

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