Encrypting Data

Published: 2009-09-07
Last Updated: 2009-09-07 04:06:23 UTC
by Lorna Hutcheson (Version: 1)
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One of the challenges that any security professional is sure to face revolves around encryption and getting support/funding to put a solution into place.  Not only is cost an issue, but there is the people factor to consider and their resistance to change.   For the most part, people understand that the encrypting of laptop hard drives is a necessity.  However, that only came about due to the mass amounts of laptop thefts and the publicity surrounding the data that was being stolen on those laptops.  Even still, laptop encryption is not being done as it should be by many organizations.

Even after all the publicity on laptop thefts, we sadly still see data being copied onto thumb drives, burned on to CDs/DVDs, copied onto external hard drives, etc. without being encrypted.  Media of this type, with unencrypted data, is then carried all over the world by people.  If it's not hand carried, its dropped in the mail and sent out.  Organizations that encrypt their laptops, will provide removable media without any encryption.

If you thought getting support for encrypting data on media mentioned above was tough, what about encrypting data at rest?  That is the next logical step.  The attacks have changed and building a defense in depth posture that can stop/detect many of the new threats is getting more difficult.  Even the government recognizes this in the the move to Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI). 

If you don't think encryption matters or you just haven't gotten around to implementing it yet, then look at the 2009 statistics found at http://datalossdb.org/yearly_reports/dataloss-2009.pdf and keep in mind these are only tracking PII related thefts.  Thefts/losses of other data types and categories are not being reported here.

Total Incidents: 316
Total Records Affected: 138,494,148

The impact of the majority of these losses could have been mitigated if encryption would have been implemented.  There is no magic bullet for how much encryption is enough.  It all about the data and how much it's worth to you. 

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