Thales News Release

New Global Study By Thales And Ponemon Institute First To Focus On Data Protection And Encryption In The Cloud

August 7, 2012

Survey reveals current attitudes about who is responsible for protecting data in the cloud and how encryption is being used and controlled

Thales, leader in information systems and communications security announces that eighty-two percent of organizations already transfer, or plan to transfer, sensitive or confidential data into the cloud environment according to Encryption in the Cloud, a global study of 4,000 business and IT managers conducted by the Ponemon Institute and commissioned by Thales.

The study examines perceptions and current practices surrounding the threats and protection issues relating to sensitive or confidential data in the cloud. It reveals startling attitudes about who is considered responsible for protecting this valuable and often regulated class of data – the cloud service provider or cloud service consumer. The findings are also significant in explaining where data encryption is applied inside and outside the cloud and, most importantly who manages the associated encryption keys.

The study goes on to examine some of the more practical aspects of encryption deployment in particular, and specifically addresses questions about whether organizations apply encryption themselves before data leaves the organization’s environment or whether encryption is expected to be a component of the cloud services they use. In the case of cloud-based encryption, the report considers the role of encryption for protecting stored data as well as application-based encryption, which typically applies protection more selectively, potentially protecting individual data items.

Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder, Ponemon Institute, says:

“It’s a rather sobering thought that nearly half of respondents say that their organization already transfers sensitive or confidential data to the cloud even though thirty-nine percent admit that their security posture has been reduced as a result. This clearly demonstrates that for many organizations the economic benefits of using the cloud outweigh the security concerns. However, it is particularly interesting to note that it is those organizations that have a strong overall security posture that appear to be more likely to transfer this class of information to the cloud environment – possibly because they most understand how and where to use tools such as encryption to protect their data and retain control . What is perhaps most surprising is that nearly two thirds of those that move sensitive data to the cloud regard their service providers as being primarily responsible for protecting that data, even though a similar number have little or no knowledge about what measures their providers have put in place to protect data. This represents an enormous opportunity for cloud providers to articulate what they are doing to secure data in the cloud and differentiate themselves from the competition.”

Richard Moulds, vice president, strategy, Thales eSecurity, says:

“Staying in control of sensitive or confidential data is paramount for most companies today. For any organization that is still weighing the advantages of using cloud computing with the potential security risks of doing so, it is important to know that encryption is one of the most valuable tools for protecting data. However, just as with any type of encryption, it only delivers meaningful value if deployed correctly and with encryption keys that are managed appropriately. Effective key management is emblematic of control and the need for centralized and automated key management integrated with existing IT business processes is a necessity. Even if you allow your data to be encrypted in the cloud, it’s important to know you can still keep control of your keys. If you control the keys, you control the data.”

Key Findings:

  • What proportion of organizations are already transferring sensitive data to the cloud?

    About half of all respondents say their organizations currently transfer sensitive or confidential data to the cloud environment. Another one-third of respondents say their organizations are very likely to transfer sensitive or confidential data to the cloud within the next two years.

  • Has the use of cloud computing for sensitive data increased or decreased overall security?

    The survey found that thirty-nine percent of respondents believe cloud adoption has decreased their companies’ security posture.

  • Who is responsible for data security in the cloud?

    Sixty-four percent of organizations that currently transfer sensitive or confidential data to the cloud believe the cloud provider has primary responsibility for protecting that data.

  • How much visibility do decision makers have regarding cloud security?

    Nearly two thirds of respondents say they do not know what cloud providers are actually doing in order to protect the sensitive or confidential data entrusted to them.

  • Where is data encryption applied?

    There is almost an even split between respondents who say their organization applies persistent encryption to data before it is transferred to the cloud provider and those that say they rely on encryption that is applied within the cloud environment.

  • Who manages the encryption keys when data is transferred to the cloud?

    Thirty-six percent of respondents say their organization has primary responsibility for managing the keys. Twenty-two percent say the cloud provider has primary responsibility for encryption key management. Even in cases where encryption is performed inside the enterprise, more than half of respondents hand over control of the keys to the cloud provider.

About the Study:

  • Organizations are increasing their investment in encryption across the enterprise in response to compliance regulations and cyber-attacks. Encryption in the Cloud was commissioned as part of a larger international study on Global Encryption Trends, which many organizations see as a highly strategic issue. More than 4,000 business and IT managers were surveyed in the US, UK, Germany, France, Australia, Japan and Brazil and the study provides a breakdown of responses by country.

Cryptography and key management are critical technologies to provide data protection in a cloud computing environment. Thales offers high assurance products and services that enable and simplify the move from on-premise to cloud deployments. Our hardware data protection products bring the control and proof needed to demonstrate compliance with privacy regulations and essential standards of due care to the cloud environment, just as they have for decades in the global payments network and for countless security applications. We invite cloud providers, enterprises and other organizations considering the security posture of current services and the sensitivity of their data to learn more about the key role Thales solutions play in creating a secure, protected and compliant cloud infrastructure.

Larry Ponemon from the Ponemon Institute and Richard Moulds from Thales will present results from Encryption in the Cloud at a webinar on Tuesday, September 25, 2012. To register go to

Supporting resources:

About the Ponemon Institute

The Ponemon Institute© is dedicated to advancing responsible information and privacy management practices in business and government. To achieve this objective, the Institute conducts independent research, educates leaders from the private and public sectors and verifies the privacy and data protection practices of organizations in a variety of industries.