The loss of data on millions of credit card holders in the US underlines the importance of providing proper protection IN RECENT weeks several items have made the headlines in the United States concerning negligent handling of sensitive computer data. Although such cases have yet to result in a major lawsuit, it is only a matter of time before they do. There are 500 firms in the US alone that handle credit card data and transactions for the big card firms. Some of them recently reported that data for millions of card holders had gone missing. In one case, backup tapes went missing while they were being transferred from one location to another. The key question asked at the time was whether the company had encrypted the data. Firms are required to encrypt data for just such an event. US-based storage company Network Appliance (NetApp) recently announced it would acquire private company Decru, which specialises in protecting large amounts of data. Its Decru DataFort appliance protects the core of a storage network by inserting a layer of encryption, authentication and other controls to protect data. The deal is expected to go through in October. NetApp chief executive Dan Warmenhoven said the data that companies stored on their systems was too important to not be properly protected. It was for this reason his company bought Decru. 'In an era where data is a precious asset and security threats to that data are accelerating, encryption is a key element of any data infrastructure. 'Recent, highly public mishaps point to the need for companies and governments to more effectively protect sensitive business, employee, partner, customer and intelligence data,' he said. 'Decru has established an early lead in the data security space. The combination of Decru with NetApp strengthens our own data protection portfolio and gives more customers the opportunity to purchase Decru products with the confidence that they'll get the support, service and continuous innovation that distinguish NetApp in data management.' Decru solutions provide encryption at wire speeds, enabling maximum protection with no performance sacrifice. The company protects 'data at rest' rather than 'data in motion', which is what a firewall does. This is important because, according to the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), 80 per cent of data attacks are aimed at where it is stored rather than when it is in transit. Research firm Gartner published a report by Rich Mogull and Eric Quellet on the acquisition and praised NetApp for taking encryption seriously. 'This announcement will help move the stored-data encryption market forward. California Senate Bill 1386 - which requires businesses, government agencies and non-profit entities to notify state residents of any suspected compromise of their unencrypted personal information - has focused attention on public data exposure and on the critical need to protect sensitive data in backup tapes,' the report said. The report said no other storage company had previously offered this kind of encryption. 'This planned acquisition is good news because it will allow NetApp to offer the most comprehensive storage encryption option of any storage vendor.' The deal sends a message to other vendors that this kind of technology is an important element to a complete storage system. And it could encourage others to consider similar acquisitions or technology. Gartner believes there will be more acquisitions in part because Decru solutions run on products that compete with NetApp. And, although NetApp said it would continue to support these companies, it would not be prudent to assume NetApp would continue to do so indefinitely. The report said: 'We believe that other major storage providers will acquire the remaining encryption providers or release equivalent products by the first quarter of next year, and at least one additional storage vendor will offer its own solution.' NetApp has certainly got the jump on its competition but these leads often do not last long. If other vendors see the value in this, expect to see more activity in this area.