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What Auditors Are Saying About Compliance And Encryption

Auditors prefer encryption, and many perceive organizations as still seeing security as a 'check-box,' New Ponemon Institute survey finds
In more than half of the audits they have conducted, both internal IT security and external auditors say the companies either failed or had serious deficiencies in their security compliance. And more than half say organizations are employing encryption purely for compliance reasons, according to a new report.

The Ponemon Institute's "What Auditors Think About Crypto" report, commissioned by Thales, is based on a survey of more than 500 auditors. Nearly half of them believe that audits and assessments should be mainly for rooting out risks and vulnerabilities, 42 percent say it should be for determining compliance for internal policies, and 34 percent say it should be for checking compliance with regulatory and legal mandates.

The auditors favor encryption for data protection compliance: Eighty-two percent say encryption has a role in protecting sensitive data during some point of its life cycle, and 81 percent say this type of data should be encrypted when possible. "Business confidential information, health information and financial or accounting information and payment transactions (including credit cards) are the most important types of information to encrypt. More than half (53 percent) do not believe that the convenience of the end-user should be considered when deciding what to encrypt," the report says.

Encryption or tokenization? For locking down sensitive data in databases, 54 percent of the auditors say encryption, and 15 percent say tokenization. Nearly 40 percent say data-masking is best for sensitive data not in the database, while 28 percent point to truncation. Around 55 percent say stored data should be encrypted, 17 percent say it should be tokenized, and 43 percent call for encryption for data at the point of capture. Even so, they say encryption and key management aren't easy. They ranked key management, protecting stored keys, and controlling the use of keys as the main challenges.

"These days auditors are saying that barely a fourth of organizations can get away with not using encryption and using compensating technology," says Richard Moulds, vice president of product marketing for Thales e-Security. "At some point, they [organizations] are going to use encryption."

The full report is available here for download.

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