IBM dives into massive encryption

IBM is embarking on a massive rollout of desktop and laptop encryption, providing 355,000 employees with whole-disk encryption from PGP to keep data confidential.

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IBM is embarking on a massive rollout of desktop and laptop encryption, providing 355,000 employees with whole-disk encryption from PGP to keep data confidential.

Although IBM already uses encryption in pockets of its organisation, including the use of Secure Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions encryption in Lotus Notes, the rollout of PGP whole-disk encryption could mark Big Blue's biggest-ever commitment to data-scrambling.

Alan Mitchell, IBM senior technical staff member at the company’s CIO, information technology security and privacy office, said: "This is an enterprise wide deployment worldwide through 2008. We're using whole-disk encryption to protect assets."

As with many other organisations riding the encryption wave, the two driving forces are concerns about data losses and compliance with privacy regulations impacting industry sectors around the world. Storage giant EMC, for example, is encrypting all its laptops.

IBM customers that are have encouraged IBM to adopt encryption for purposes of sharing information. "We work with banking, healthcare and government agencies," Mitchell said. "We serve these markets and they are driven by compliance requirements." He added: "We've had an increased loss in laptops as well."

PGP's software encrypts data at rest. IBM ran a pilot program with it last year and found the key management to be fairly simple. Over time, IBM expects to include language requiring encryption in its contracts with business partners that handle IBM-related data.

"This is going to be part of our requirement in business over time," said Mitchell, who declined to discuss the cost for the rollout.

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