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Email Encryption On The Rise But Still Not 'Universal'

Osterman study finds that more than half of organizations in North America use email encryption for external communications.

The numbers aren't staggering, but more companies now view encrypting email a priority.

New research by Osterman on behalf of Echoworx found that while 45% of organizationsin North America consider email encryption a "very important" or "critical" priority in 2015, that number jumped to 53% in the 2016 study. At the same time, organizations reporting that email encryption was "not important" dropped to 19%, down from 24%.

The study was based on 165 surveys completed with the Osterman research panel in September 2016.

Also of note: 62% of those surveyed say they use email encryption for external communications, and 75% report having an encryption strategy, which is up from 51% the year before.

While these are some positive signs, Jacob Ginsberg, senior director of products at Echoworx, found the findings somewhat frustrating.

"We really can’t rest until email encryption is viewed as a universal requirement," Ginsberg says. "It should be automatic for people to encrypt email for communications."

But Peter Firstbrook, a research vice president at Gartner who covers email encryption, contends that not all email actually needs encryption. He says encrypting email can get expensive – Gartner estimates it costs $10 to $20 per user per year for email encryption.

"Only about 10% of users actually need it and of that, only 1% of the traffic is truly sensitive data that needs to be encrypted," Firstbrook says.

However, Firstbrook adds that the Osterman/Echoworx research basically mirrors Gartner research from 2015. At the time, Firstbrook says Gartner found that 60% were using email encryption. And when the 40% of respondents who said they did not encrypt email were asked about their plans to do so, 9% said they would deploy it in the next 12 months, 30% said in the next 12- to 24 months and 52% said they had no plans to deploy email encryption.

Here are some other highlights from the Osterman/Echoworx study:

  • Most organization now find encryption an important component of satisfying their data protection obligations and reducing risk. The study found that more than 75% of those surveyed have plans to extend their data protection capabilities using encryption.
  • The top five reasons for using email encryption had to do with either compliance or avoiding a data breach. Compliance topped the list at 53%, while awareness of increased data breaches was slightly below at 52%, avoid costs of a data breach at 50% avoid negative PR of a data breach was 48%, and protecting intellectual property and proprietary data also came in at 48%.
  • Along with compliance and meeting industry standards, IT decision-makers are looking for encryption solutions that offer ease-of-use for mobile users, including automatic encryption capabilities. On mobile encryption, more than two-fifths prefer using packaged or built-in encryption, while 11% prefer custom applications. One-third have no preference.


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Steve Zurier has more than 30 years of journalism and publishing experience, most of the last 24 of which were spent covering networking and security technology. Steve is based in Columbia, Md. View Full Bio

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User Rank: Apprentice
1/24/2017 | 7:16:11 PM
Would like more facts please
Are there links to the cost per person stats presented here?...and percentage of emails need encryption??  really needs proper substantiation to be factual...sloppy
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