You would have had to be living in a vacuum over the past year to miss the influx of data protection headlines. Data breaches are an increasingly visible threat, making data security a particularly profitable market.
We recently surveyed public attitudes to data protection issues and the government, and we found that just ten per cent of respondents said they trusted the government with their personal information.
Almost as many people (nine per cent) would trust an online retailer.
This is not just a problem for government: all companies dealing with data need to be aware of the need for security.
Just take PA Consulting for example. Not only have they suffered a lot of bad press but they have also taken a huge financial blow, allegedly losing that £1.5m government account and further government contracts may be lost adding up to almost £10m.
There are also the ongoing campaigns for disclosure laws, such as those in the US, which force companies to warn their customers if a data breach involving their information has taken place.
Earlier this year the Parliamentary Justice Select Committee made recommendations that recklessly or repeatedly mishandling personal information should become a criminal offence and that organisations should be obliged to report losses.
Any change to the law could have a big impact on encryption sales; particularly if, as it has been suggested, companies are to be forced to encrypt sensitive data.
A recent US study by the Ponemon Institute revealed that encryption solutions can prevent data breaches.
Although eight per cent of organisations said they had suffered at least one breach of data in the last year, and 44 per cent lost data two to five times in the same period, only six per cent of companies with a full enterprise encryption strategy suffered two to five breaches, against 15 percent of companies that had no such strategy.
The channel should be preparing itself to take advantage. Resellers can reach out to customers and help them to prevent such data breaches, for little expense or hassle.
Encryption can allow users to secure data at rest or data in transit, safely share information, shield organisations from liability and embarrassment should data be lost.
Yet the channel still seems a little shy. Why?
Even though the business benefits are clear, there is still a need to educate companies about the need for encryption. Its perceived user-unfriendliness combined with user fears of being left high and dry without easy access to their data has left users willing to take a risk, preferring to send data unencrypted ‘in the plain’ via email or disc.
Encryption is by nature complicated, but it doesn’t have to be complex to use. It’s much like a car, you don’t need to know how it works – you just need to be able to drive it.
Resellers need to provide products that reduce the risk of human error, by allowing people to continue working in the same way as they always have – sharing and sending information – just in a more secure way.
Last year we found that most of our customers were asking for full disc encryption, to ensure that if they lost a laptop it was protected.
However, as the market has matured we are getting different questions that resellers will need to answer: such as ‘how can we share information?’, ‘Can I provide different levels of access to information?’, ‘Will our employees be able to use it easily?’, ‘How much time will it take up?’ or ‘Can you prove that your product does what it says it does?’.
We predict that encryption becoming as ubiquitous as anti-virus software over the next few years as a new awareness trickles down from government.
Tony Ross-Booker is business development manager for Data Encryption Systems (DES)
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