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RSA: Encryption losing favour as IT chiefs recognise perimeters no longer secure

26 Feb 2013
Digital encryption key

New security threats and a more open atmosphere are changing perceptions and priorities in the encryption space, say industry veterans.

Speaking at the 2013 RSA conference cryptographers panel, the men who helped to establish the sector said that the market appears to be undergoing a change.

Adi Shamir, computer science professor at Israel's Weizmann Institute of Science, suggested that the rise of advanced persistent threats - such as the Flame malware - and the notion that attackers may have already breached a network has made IT chiefs question the value of encryption.

"Today with an APT inside your system, using cryptography is not going to give you much protection," he said.

"It is very hard to use cryptography in an effective way if you assume an APT is watching over the system."

Shamir suggested that rather than focusing entirely on encryption and perimeter as a means for blocking attacks, firms can shift to minimising the impact an attacker could have within the network.

He also suggested that many of the strengths of APT infections such as their small data footprint, could be used against an attacker by requiring them to move data by different methods which would be easier to detect.

Despite a possibly shrinking role for encryption in the enterprise, the panel noted some definite signs of hope for a market which until 2000 was tightly controlled by US regulations limiting technology export.

With regulations on data and intelligence sharing relaxed, the panelists have noted growth in interest around the world. Dan Boneh, a computer science professor at Stanford University, said that he teaches online courses which are internationally accessible.

Since first launching his first open courses last year, he said that his student base has grown from a handful of people in the US to thousands of students in Europe, South America and Asia, with India being a particularly enthusiastic market.

"It is interesting to see that a lot of the students are coming from rural parts of India, not just the big cities," he said.

"It goes to say how open cryptography has become, it is really remarkable to see the change that has happen in the field of innovation."

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Shaun Nichols

Shaun Nichols is the US correspondent for He has been with the company since 2006, originally joining as a news intern at the site's San Francisco offices.

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