nCipher plc (LSE: NCH), a leading provider of cryptographic IT security solutions, believes that encryption will play an increasingly central role in the future of mainstream enterprise security. In a more distributed, yet closely unified infrastructure where the emphasis is shifting away from simply securing the enterprise perimeter, cryptography is vital for data-level protection to guard information assets and enforce robust access controls for users, devices and administrators.
nCipher's Top Ten drivers towards ubiquitous cryptography are:
1. Inexpensive tokens for strong authentication - Using anything stronger than passwords for authentication has been prohibitively expensive for anything other than premium users; but market volumes and competitive pressures are now commoditising authentication tokens and driving functionality up and prices down.
2. Ease of deployment for tokens - The arrival of USB tokens and the inclusion of card readers in laptops and keyboards is minimising and sometimes removing deployment costs.
3. Trusted computing and trustworthy devices - Embedded security such as Trusted Platform Modules (TPM) provide a 'seat of trust' to authenticate devices as well as users.
4. Security standards with teeth - The Trusted Computing Group (TCG) is revolutionizing PC platform security while the Payments Card Industry (PCI) standards define an approach to data privacy and then back it up with audits.
5. Public key enabled applications are already here - While the 'year of PKI' never came, functionality based on public key cryptographic and digital certificates are now part of the IT fabric, supporting secure websites, email messaging, mutual authentication and document level protection.
6. Identity management isn't just about users - As well as just reducing the cost of forgotten passwords, identity management systems are now focused on provisioning devices as well as users across the enterprise, leading to easier roaming and fine-grained access controls.
7. Plug and play data level protection - Off-the-shelf solutions now exist to transparently encrypt valuable content within the database, filing system and storage fabric.
8. SSL everywhere - No longer limited to e-commerce connections, SSL is a ubiquitous feature of enterprise applications and networking, enabling almost any connection to be protected and removing the need to run expensive private networks.
9. No more cryptographic bottlenecks - Moore's Law means that high performance cryptographic accelerators can now meet the needs of the most demanding applications.
10. Cryptographic management for scalability - Advanced, automated solutions are being developed to manage ubiquitous cryptography and the growth in the number of keys, using specialist techniques to prevent security being compromised in the name of scalability.
Until now, organisations have set up a perimeter 'security walls' and regarded everything on the inside as safe. Now the distinction between inside and outside is disappearing, driven by the on-demand business environment and practical needs of mobile data users. Cryptography is already the de facto way of securing sensitive web traffic and it is now reaching across the entire enterprise as companies start to use industry-standard protocols such as SSL internally - even between servers only a few feet apart. IT security professionals are also examining the protection of data at rest within the enterprise through the encryption of databases, file systems and storage devices. And applications are increasingly being enhanced to validate data integrity and improve auditability through the use of digital signatures.
"Securing sensitive information is no longer a simple question of whether to grant a user access to the network, or deny it. Increasingly, CIOs want to define and enforce robust policies that govern not just what information an individual may access, but also other conditions such as when they may access it and from which machines," says Dr Nicko van Someren, Chief Technology Officer at nCipher.
"As enterprises incorporate smart-cards, trusted platform modules and other hardware-based authentication and encryption technologies into the security infrastructure, they will need sophisticated key management technologies from companies with in-depth experience in hardware-based cryptographic security.
"It is clear that the traditional perimeter model of security is being reappraised. The future of enterprise security calls for strong authentication, device- and content-level security together to augment existing network level technologies. nCipher is in a strong position to help organizations to securely and efficiently manage the infrastructure complexities that will result," adds van Someren.