Your organization needs to comply with privacy regulations. Your board of directors
knows the business needs to protect sensitive information as it moves between
business partners, mobile users and your enterprise. Yet security technologies
like encryption are far too complex and far too difficult to deploy on a broad
Actually, that's no longer the case. Leveraging identity-based encryption (IBE)
is far easier and more scalable than traditional encryption technologies.
So how exactly did encryption earn its reputation for being too difficult and
too costly for widespread use? Let's take a quick look at encryption's evolution,
review the difficult early years and examine how today's IBE approach solves
the problems from yesteryear.
In a 1995 Carnegie-Mellon University study (popularized in the paper "Why
Johnny Can't Encrypt"), sending and receiving encrypted e-mail proved to
be too hard for 75 percent of the study's participants. Fast forward 10 years
and there seems to have been little progress in this area, as the title of the
2006 follow-on paper, "Why Johnny Still Can't Encrypt," indicates.
If encryption isn't practical, there's no point to doing it.
The high cost of using encryption is often connected to the cost of PKI. According
to the GAO, US federal agencies typically spend more than $220 per digital certificate
during PKI projects. In a few cases, the cost exceeded $1,000 per certificate,
even topping $46,000 in one case. It's hard enough to do a convincing ROI calculation
for many security technologies - imagine how hard it would be to justify costs
Security expert Dan Geer, currently the chief scientist of Verdasys, once conjectured
that the cost of using encryption is roughly the same, no matter what encryption
technology you embrace. If you leverage symmetric encryption (technology that
uses the same key to both encrypt and decrypt), Geer noted that the cost of
granting the keys is high. He also noted that the cost of using asymmetric encryption
(technology where one key is used to encrypt and another key to decrypt) is
also high. In this case, checking keys for validity before they are used triggers
most of the cost. Geer's conjecture tells us that we shouldn't expect to escape
the high cost of encryption, regardless of our approach.