This is what a long-term survey has revealed about the rift between knowing what is right and encrypting it.

The sixteenth annual multinational survey of global encryption trends by the Ponemon Institute has been released, showing some pertinent trends that South-east Asia can take note of.

The survey, commissioned by Entrust, covered 17 countries involving 161,607 individuals who have bona fide credentials in IT or security fields. Data collection was started in December 2020 and completed in January 2021. Further, data from 14 years of previous research is available for analytical comparisons.

Out of the APAC countries surveyed, Japan was the leading user of encryption (60%, which is 10% greater than the global average) and of hardware security modules called HSMs (63%: 14% greater than the global average).

Other regional trends shown by this latest survey are:

  • South-east Asia has been ranked lowest in terms of encryption adoption (36%) and HSM deployment (36%).
  • Hong Kong topped APAC and has been ranked second globally in reporting challenges associated with managing keys within organizations (66% versus a 56% global average of respondents that chose “pain” ratings at or above 7 out of a 10-point scale).
  • Despite the global average being 54%, Japan and Hong Kong ranked protecting customer information as the top driver for encrypting at 74% and 72%, respectively.
  • Respondents in Korea were planning a large increase in the use of HSMs with application encryption over the next 12 months—an increase to 40% to 61%.
  • For the second consecutive year, respondents have ranked ‘protecting customer information’ as the top driver for deploying encryption technologies. However, customer information was typically ranked fifth on the list of information that responding 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 last year’s survey. 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%.
  • 50% of respondents have now reported that they applied an overall encryption strategy consistently; 37% reported a limited encryption strategy. The leading users of encryption in Asia Pacific (APAC) were Japan (60%), followed by Australia, Hong Kong and South Korea, which tie for second place at 54%. South-east Asia (36%) lags behind the global average.
  • 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. 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. Some 65% of respondents reported discovering where sensitive data resides as the top challenge in planning and executing a methodical encryption strategy.
  • Encryption tools abound, with respondents reporting using an average of eight different products that perform encryption. Respondents ranked performance, management of encryption keys, policy enforcement and support for both cloud and on-premises deployment as the top valued features of encryption solutions.
  • HSM adoption is growing, with 66% of respondents naming them as being paramount to encryption or key management strategies, with projected growth to 77% over the next 12 months. On top of traditional applications such as TLS/SSL, application encryption and PKI, HSMs are increasingly being used for more modern use cases such as container encryption/signing services, public cloud encryption, secrets management and privileged access management . 
  • Encryption or signing services for containers (40%) were the third most popular use case for HSMs behind application encryption (47%) and TLS/SSL (44%).
  • Public cloud encryption, including BYOK, was the fourth most popular HSM use case (34%) among respondents. Also, HSMs were used with secrets management solutions, aw category that has risen to 7th place on the list of top HSM use cases, estimated to grow an estimated 5% over the next 12 months.

John Grimm, Vice President of Strategy, Entrust, commented: “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.”

Grimm also noted that the rising use of HSMs for encryption and key management point to the trends that IT is starting to meet data protection challenges. “Organizations will benefit from a growing ecosystem of integrated solutions for cloud security policy management, secrets management and securing containers and application development to help them bring their crypto into the light and under control.”

Other encryption avenues

According to the respondents, upcoming encryption technologies like multi-party computing and homomorphic encryption are at least five years away from mainstream use.

Similarly, while quantum algorithms are not expected to be a serious consideration for around eight years, this predicted timeline has accelerated half a year earlier than predicted in 2020’s report.

Blockchain is closer to mainstream use as an encryption technology. Currently used primarily as the foundation for cryptocurrency, it is expected by respondents that, in less than three years, blockchain adoption and use cases will expand to include:

  • Cryptocurrency/wallets (59%)
  • Asset transactions/management (52%)
  • Identity (45%)
  • Supply chain (37%)
  • Smart contracts (35%)

According to Dr Larry Ponemon, Chairman and founder of the Ponemon Institute: “Looking at the results of the study in the context of the past 16 years, it’s clear that cybersecurity and data protection have never been more complex, at a time when the stakes have never been higher. Most pertinently, it’s encouraging that consumer data protection is such a high priority for organizations, but there is clearly some work to be done in turning that priority into a reality in terms of what data is actually encrypted and at what points in the data lifecycle. It’s also apparent that organizations of all shapes and sizes are looking to adopt encryption for a range of new and cutting-edge use cases, which will no doubt continue to drive innovation in the industry.”