Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.


02:04 PM
Connect Directly

Security Pros Keys To The Kingdom Leave Encrypted Data At Risk

Survey finds that, if abused, IT pros' access to encryption keys could do some serious damage to their organizations

Talk about the insider threat: Some 40 percent of IT pros worldwide say that the way in which their firms have deployed encryption could allow them to hold their companies’ encrypted data hostage if they were to go rogue or leave the company.

One-third of the 500 IT security pros from around the globe surveyed at the InfoSecurity 2011 conference last month by Venafi say their individual familiarity and access to encryption keys could do some serious damage to their organizations if they were to refuse to relinquish them or to abuse them in any way. Some 40 percent say if they were to leave their firms, they would still have access to enough sensitive information that could hurt their organizations.

The data appears to shed light on how some enterprises are not sufficiently managing and protecting their encryption keys -- and, thus, their sensitive data.

"With all the warnings over the past few years, recent high-profile data breaches, and the financial services regulations, one would have assumed that senior-level management would already have taken steps to address key and certificate management," says Jeff Hudson, CEO at Venafi. "The survey data confirms what we've seen working with our customers and prospects, particularly in the financial services space where there's so much sensitive and regulated data. Organizations fail to address encryption key and certificate management because it's in the hands of a few IT administrators."

Hudson says the mismanagement of encryption is akin to increasing the size of the lock on your door, but leaving the key to the door out in the open. "Increasing the size of the lock on your door or business may make you feel more secure. But the reality is that if the key and lock -- no matter its size or strength -- is left on the transom, under the mat, or distributed willy-nilly out in the open, it doesn’t matter how large or strong the lock is ... the data can be easily accessed."

While 82 percent of the respondents say they use digital certificates and keys, 43 percent say they have been locked out of their encrypted data due to lost keys or departed IT security pros who held the keys.

Interestingly, 24 percent of the respondents in the survey, which was published today, say worries about lost encryption keys is keeping them from investing in encryption and digital certificate technologies.

"The reality is that the world’s Fortune-ranked organizations all utilize thousands and even hundreds of thousands of encryption keys and digital certificates across their global networks. Our research demonstrates that organizations are managing tens of thousands of certificates and encryption keys, with many not even knowing exactly how many they have in their inventories or where they are deployed," Venafi's Hudson says. "Without leveraging best practices and automated management processes, organizations will never gain complete control of their key and certificate inventories, resulting in significant security, compliance, and operational risk that invariably lead to unauthorized access and the kinds of high-profile and costly breaches both Sony and Epsilon recently experienced."

An executive summary of the report by Venafi is available for download here.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Add Your Comment" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message.

Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Sodinokibi Ransomware: Where Attackers' Money Goes
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  10/15/2019
Data Privacy Protections for the Most Vulnerable -- Children
Dimitri Sirota, Founder & CEO of BigID,  10/17/2019
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
7 Threats & Disruptive Forces Changing the Face of Cybersecurity
This Dark Reading Tech Digest gives an in-depth look at the biggest emerging threats and disruptive forces that are changing the face of cybersecurity today.
Flash Poll
2019 Online Malware and Threats
2019 Online Malware and Threats
As cyberattacks become more frequent and more sophisticated, enterprise security teams are under unprecedented pressure to respond. Is your organization ready?
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
PUBLISHED: 2019-10-18
In the Linux kernel before 5.3.4, a reference count usage error in the fib6_rule_suppress() function in the fib6 suppression feature of net/ipv6/fib6_rules.c, when handling the FIB_LOOKUP_NOREF flag, can be exploited by a local attacker to corrupt memory, aka CID-ca7a03c41753.
PUBLISHED: 2019-10-18
In xsltCopyText in transform.c in libxslt 1.1.33, a pointer variable isn't reset under certain circumstances. If the relevant memory area happened to be freed and reused in a certain way, a bounds check could fail and memory outside a buffer could be written to, or uninitialized data could be disclo...
PUBLISHED: 2019-10-18
HCL Traveler versions 9.x and earlier are susceptible to cross-site scripting attacks. On the Problem Report page of the Traveler servlet pages, there is a field to specify a file attachment to provide additional problem details. An invalid file name returns an error message that includes the entere...
PUBLISHED: 2019-10-18
In Horner Automation Cscape 9.90 and prior, improper validation of data may cause the system to write outside the intended buffer area, which may allow arbitrary code execution.
PUBLISHED: 2019-10-18
In Horner Automation Cscape 9.90 and prior, an improper input validation vulnerability has been identified that may be exploited by processing files lacking user input validation. This may allow an attacker to access information and remotely execute arbitrary code.