A Look at Cryptographic Use Case Trends Around the World

Securing data, assets, and transactions is ever critical especially now with increased innovation, customer demand, and the need to navigate a complex regulatory landscape — not to mention staying ahead of evolving cyber threats. As a result, organizations of all sizes and in every country around the world require implementing cryptography solutions to help secure everyday business. This includes managing and securing transactions, managing encryption keys, authenticating identities, providing message integrity, and encrypting data and applications.

From the largest global banks and payment processors that process thousands of transactions a second to the micro merchants that are newly accepting payments, cryptography works behind the scenes to ensure payments are secure and sensitive information is protected. Whenever and wherever cryptography is at work, organizations turn to either hardware or cloud options (or a combination of both) to ensure data and transactions are secure and compliant.

Common cryptographic themes across industries and across countries:
1. Cloud adoption is happening across the board with payment processing taking the lead
2. Smaller FinTechs are innovating big time
3. Companies are continually seeking help to meet regulations, especially when it comes to data localization

Since writing Cryptographic Management Trends Around the Globe, I talked again with Futurex team members from our offices around the world, including Ruchin Kumar, vice president, South Asia; Mark Howland, senior business development, EMEA; and Santos Campa, vice president, LAC, for more cryptographic insights and perspectives, including drilling down on cryptographic use cases to see what’s similar and what’s unique across regions. Let’s take a look at each region: South Asia, EMEA, and LAC.

South Asia: Payment Ecosystem Thriving in South Asia
Ruchin Kumar emphasized that the payment ecosystem in South Asia, particularly India, is thriving — indicating that financial services are the largest consumers of hardware security modules (HSMs) and cryptography in the entire region. HSMs play an important role in South Asia, securing the root of trust, keeping the private keys secure, managing Public Key Infrastructures (PKIs), and managing digital signing for non-repudiation and message integrity. In fact, he said, India represents almost 95% of HSM use cases in all of South Asia.

Payment systems and securing payments go hand-in-hand with the standards and regulations required for payments/financial services. These include regulations set by Unique Identification of India (UIDAI), National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), Payments Council of India (PCI), Information Technology Act of India, 2000 and its amendments 2008/2011/2016.

Kumar sees organizations use general purpose HSMs for digital signing for non-repudiation and message integrity and payment HSMs used for acquiring, switching, card issuance, green PIN, and other payment application security needs (these types of HSMs are required by regulations). What’s on the horizon? From Kumar’s perspective, organizations are doing a lot of testing and evaluation for cryptography inclusion in their infrastructure and many organizations are looking into tokenization for security and agility, especially with Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain, and AI emerging. Additionally, remote key loading is becoming more sought after because every device in the field these days — ATMs, point-of-sale devices, handheld devices — requires key exchange with centralized servers.

Companies in South Asia See Cryptography-as-a-Service and Local Data Centers Critical for Data Residency and Localization
Over the past two years, most organizations in South Asia have adopted the cloud on a large scale, including using the cloud as a resource to host their critical applications. Security has played a big role in this cloud migration, with organizations wanting to retain ownership and control of their encryption keys. As a result, many organizations have turned to Futurex’s VirtuCrypt cloud HSM and key management service for both security and meeting regulatory compliance.

Futurex’s data centers in India West and India Central help to power cryptographic automation, speed, latency, and data residency and data localization. “Local data centers provide customers a lot of assurance in terms of data residency, data localization, and key localization, which earlier was a barrier to move to the cloud. Now that Futurex’s cryptography services are hosted within Indian geography, we have seen a big difference in organizations migrating to HSM-as-a-service,” says Kumar.

India is well-known as a FinTech hub for start-ups and innovation, with many unicorns emerging, according to Kumar. Progressive companies look to service-based, OpEx models for their applications as well as for cryptography. OpEx models offer flexibility, money savings, and serve as a resource for those needing help with cryptographic management.

EMEA: Cloud and Payments Dominate HSM Use in Europe, Middle East, and Africa

Cloud adoption is also rapidly increasing in EMEA, with many organizations looking to HSM virtualization technology, especially for payment applications. According to Mark Howland, “Customers are asking, ‘can we cut down our use of hardware, our reliance on hardware, and have the payment applications that we are heavily invested in, spun up and spun down seasonally?”

Howland notes that smaller companies and VC-backed companies are more nimble and lean toward innovation by implementing such things as cryptography-as-a-service to meet PCI regulations. The early adopters are those organizations in the finance and payment industry, as consumer demand and pandemic adjustments have led to innovative payment processing including mobile payments and SoftPOS. Like South Asia, smaller companies including those in financial software and services, see the value of OpEx-based HSM cloud services, such as Futurex’s VirtuCrypt.

Organizations across EMEA are deploying HSMs for POS key management, PIN management, and virtualization. What’s ahead? Howland sees that many organizations are, again, moving to a service-based model, looking at application encryption, encrypting data at rest, and the overall protection of data in all industry sectors, not just traditional high-security finance customers.

LAC: Trends in Cryptography Use in Latin America and the Caribbean

What’s trending in LAC? According to Santos Campa, he is seeing a mixture of both on-premises cryptographic architecture and cloud payment demands. Several banks already have a huge investment in their hardware infrastructure — their own data centers, racks, servers, etc. However, at least 35% of customers are converting from these on-premises architectures to cloud HSMs. Many are opening new branches or are creating new FinTechs inside their organizations. “We’re seeing the majority of organizations moving to the cloud, or at least moving part of their operations to the cloud,” says Campa. “It's very important for many organizations to keep control and management of the key lifecycle.”

Again, much like other parts of the world, the financial sector is the big mover and shaker in terms of cryptographic implementations, using cryptography for PIN validation, key management, and tokenization. According to Campa, the cloud continues to be very important and beneficial, especially the ability to integrate cloud payment HSMs with the public cloud including AWS, Azure, and Google.

As organizations are adding new models, such as transaction processing models, a must-have is a secure, compliant cryptographic solution — compliant with PCI and local and regional regulations throughout Latin America — that will allow them to scale. A nice-to-have is an OpEx option to give flexibility and cost savings.

Pandemic trends have paved the way to make cryptographic management more streamlined — such as visualization and remote key management — and not needing to physically go to the data center. “Organizations are looking to a cryptographic platform that is future-proofed, one that is going to provide the best quality of service and support in the market,” says Campa.

All around the globe, organizations are looking to innovate payments and embrace the cloud, keeping security, agility, and cryptography top of mind. 

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