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Securing Web Sites and Applications with Encryption & Key Management

  
  
  
  

Web site and application data security can be greatly enhanced by encrypting sensitive data. An encryption strategy is only as good as the protection of the encryption keys. Poor protection for encryption keys will lead to compliance audit failures, regulatory failures, and brand damage due to poor security practices.

eBook The Encryption Guide The following topics discuss how encryption and key management improves web application security:

Separation of Encryption Keys from Data
The separation of encryption keys from the data they protect is a core security best practice. Cybercriminals may steal sensitive data, but if that data is encrypted and the keys are not readily available, the data remains protected. The separation of keys from the data they protect is also fundamental to implementation of Separation of Duties and Dual Control. Townsend Security's Alliance Key Manager provides the mechanism by which keys are separated from the data they protect.

Separation of Duties
For critical systems, security is always improved by dividing responsibility among multiple administrators. In data protection, this concept means that people who have access to the data (users, DBAs, etc.) should not be the people who have access to the encryption keys. And the reverse is true. In order to achieve Separation of Duties you must separate the system, network, and database functions from the encryption key management functions. This is a core concept in PCI-DSS, HIPAA, GLBA/FFIEC, and other regulations. Alliance Key Manager provides for Separation of Duties by allowing different people to manage the web application data and the management of the encryption keys.

Dual Control
All critical business operations that can impact the health and existence of an organization should be managed with Dual Control. Dual Control means that it takes two individuals to perform the critical operation. Because encryption keys are the crucial secret that must be protected, Dual Control means that at least two people must authenticate to create and manage encryption keys. Alliance Key Manager implements Dual Control in the security console to meet this security best practice and regulatory requirement.

Limited Access
Security best practices require that as few people have access to encryption keys as possible to minimize the risk of loss. Be managing encryption keys in a key manager designed for this purpose, keys can be used by the applications that need them, but managed by a small number of security administrators. Alliance Key Manager allows you to grant access to only those security administrators who have the need to manage the encryption keys.

Secure Key Retrieval
Encryption keys and the Encryption Services available with Alliance Key Manager are always accessed via encrypted TLS connections. Secure connections help prevent capture of encryption keys across public and private networks, memory scraping routines, etc. Unencrypted access to Alliance Key Manager is not allowed.

Authenticated Key Retrieval
Unlike normal web servers which provide access to anyone with a certificate signed by a public certificate authority, Alliance Key Manager creates its own private CA unique to you, creates client-side certificates and private keys signed by that CA, and restricts access to only those clients who present a known certificate. This prevents outsiders from accessing the key server using publicly available certificates and keys.

Protection of Credentials
Because certificates and private keys are used as credentials for access to Alliance Key Manager, they must be protected in the Web application server. Credentials should be stored outside of the web root directory and access permission should only be granted to the web application user. For a Drupal installation, the same precautions should be taken.

Active Monitoring
Active monitoring is a core security requirement and applies to all encryption key management activity. Alliance Key Manager provides real-time audit and system logging off all key retrieval, encryption services, and key management tasks. This helps meet regulatory requirements and security best practices for all key management activity.

For more information on encryption, download the eBook:

The Encryption Guide eBook

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Notable Data Security Breaches of 2014

  
  
  
  

Make 2015 your year for increased data security with Encryption & Key Management

During the 2014 holiday season, the Sony data breach made the headlines even though the numbers affected weren’t in the millions like their 102 million PlayStation Network records that were breached back in 2011. This time, beyond all the damage done to their systems, Sony Pictures Entertainment became one of the most publicly blackmailed corporate breaches to date. The group that took over their company network had a list of demands that went along with the financial data and legal information being leaked on to file-sharing sites and sent directly to rival Hollywood studios.   

While the end results of the Sony breach may take time to be fully realized, there were a number of other large scale data breaches this year. Some of these you may be familiar with, more may yet be reported, and others might surprise you: 


  • eBay - online retailer
    The breach is thought to have affected the majority of the 145 million global members when a database containing customer names, encrypted passwords, email addresses, physical address, phone numbers, and dates of birth was compromised.
  • JPMorgan Chase
    76 million people were affected by the loss of PII including names, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses.
  • Google
    5 million people had their account information compromised with the theft of usernames and passwords.
  • Home Depot
    In a large nationwide malware attack, 56 million card records were stolen through point-of-sale systems. In a second attack in Atlanta, 20,000 employees personal information was stolen and used to open fraudulent credit cards by 3 human resource employees.

Those are some pretty significant numbers, and most likely everyone that reads this blog has been affected in some way by at least one of these events, or by one of the 600+ breaches reported so far this year. What we all need to remember is that cyber crime isn’t limited to “Black Hat” hackers that only go after the big piles of data. Sometimes it is a disgruntled employee that destroys or releases sensitive data. Sometimes it is an unintentional employee error, or loss of an employee’s laptop/thumbdrive that thieves go after. Often it is the smaller company or mid-sized Enterprise that hasn’t yet implemented security steps, like encryption and authentication, to protect their sensitive information. For example, the unintentional loss of data on unencrypted backup tapes would be considered a reportable data breach event.

A new study from researchers at Gartner indicates that it is markedly less expensive for companies to invest in new security and encryption technologies than it is for them to respond to a data breach. According to the analyst firm, businesses pay roughly $6 per year per user for encryption tools, or $16 per user per year for intrusion prevention software licenses, versus paying out an average of $90 per user to address problems after a breach has occurred.

Five steps you can take to make sure this doesn’t happen to you:

  1. Have a defense-in-depth strategy that meets your level of risk tolerance.

  2. Make sure you know where all of your sensitive data is stored, and who has access to it.

  3. Use standardized encryption algorithms to make that data unreadable.

  4. Use an encryption key management solution to protect keys away from the data.

  5. Use two-factor authentication whenever possible, because passwords are no longer enough.

To help open up the conversation around your conference table, download this eBook on “Turning a Blind Eye to Data Security” and find out more about the tools & resources to begin discussions about data security in your company!

Turning a Blind Eye to Data Security eBook

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Our Top 10 Most Popular Data Security Blog Posts of 2014

  
  
  
  

Encryption, Key Management, and Data Security…Oh My!

This has been a busy year at Townsend Security with the addition of 2FA, the introduction of Key Management in AWS, Azure, and Key Connection for Drupal. Looking back over our data security blog and the most-viewed topics, I wonder... Did you miss out on any of these?  Take some time to check them out!

Heartbleed

Heartbleed and the IBM i (AS/400)

by Patrick Townsend  (April 11, 2014)

Key take-away: It is important to understand that while the IBM i platform may not be directly vulnerable to the Heartbleed problem, you may have lost IBM i User IDs and passwords over VPN or other connections which are vulnerable. An exploit of Heartbleed can expose any information that you thought was being protected with session encryption.

From the blog article you can download additional content:  
Ebook: Turning  a Blind Eye to Data Security

What are the Differences Between DES and AES Encryption?

by Michelle Larson  (September 4, 2014)

Key take-away: Even Triple DES (3DES), a way of using DES encryption three times, proved ineffective against brute force attacks (in addition to slowing down the process substantially).

From the blog article you can download additional content:    
White Paper: AES Encryption & Related Concepts

Encryption & Key Management in Windows Azure

by Michelle Larson  (February 13, 2014)

Key take-away: In February 2014 we released the first encryption key manager to run in Microsoft Windows Azure. This blog highlights four of our most frequently asked questions about providing data security IN the Cloud.

From the blog article you can download additional content:    
Podcast: Key Management in Windows Azure 

Homomorphic Encryption is Cool, and You Should NOT Use It 

by Patrick Townsend  (October 6, 2014)

Key take-away: Homomorphic encryption is a promising new cryptographic method and hopefully the cryptographic community will continue to work on it. It has yet to achieve adoption by standards bodies with a proper validation processes.

From the blog article you can download additional content:  
eBook: the Encryption Guide

Authentication Called For By PCI DSS, HIPAA/HITECH, and GLBA/FFIEC

2FA Resource Kitby Michelle Larson  (March 24, 2014)    

Key take-away: Two-factor authentication (2FA) plays a critical role in both meeting compliance regulations and following data security best practices. This trend will only grow within various industries and throughout the overall data security environment.

From the blog article you can download additional content:  
2FA Resource Kit: White paper, Webinar, Podcast

Encrypting Data In Amazon Web Services (AWS)

by Patrick Townsend  (August 28, 2014)

Key take-away: Amazon Web Services is a deep and rich cloud platform supporting a wide variety of operating systems, AWS services, and third party applications and services. This blog explores some of the ways that our Alliance Key Manager solution helps AWS customers and partners protect this sensitive data.

From the blog article you can download additional content:  
Podcast:  Encrypting Data in AWS

Key Connection - The First Drupal Encryption Key Management Module

by Michelle Larson  (February 21, 2014)

Key Connection for Drupal

Key take-away:  Working together to solve the Drupal data security problem, the security experts at Townsend Security and Drupal developers at Cellar Door Media have released the Key Connection for Drupal solution, which addresses the need for strong encryption and encryption key management within the Drupal framework. Now personally identifiable information collected during e-commerce checkouts and user account that contain names and e-mail addresses can be easily encrypted, and the encryption keys properly managed, by organizations that collect and store that sensitive information.

From the blog article you can download additional content:   
Podcast: Securing Sensitive Data in Drupal

Nine Guidelines for Choosing a Secure Cloud Provider

by Patrick Townsend  (July 8, 2014)

Key take-away:  Security professionals (CIOs, CISOs, compliance officers, auditors, etc.) and business executives can use the following set of key indicators as a way to quickly assess the security posture of a prospective cloud provider and cloud-based application or service. Significant failures or gaps in these nine areas should be a cause for concern and suggest the need for a more extensive security review 

From the blog article you can download additional content:  
eBook: The Encryption Guide 

Never Lose an Encryption Key in Windows Azure       

by Patrick Townsend  (March 7, 2014)

Key take-away: This blog discusses backup/restore, key and policy mirroring, availability sets, and mirroring outside the Windows Azure Cloud.  Alliance Key Manager in Windows Azure goes the distance to help ensure that you never lose an encryption key. You might be losing sleep over your move to the cloud, but you shouldn’t lose sleep over your encryption strategy.

From the blog article you can download additional content:    
Free 30-day Evaluation of Alliance Key Manager for Microsoft Azure

3 Ways Encryption Can Improve Your Bottom Line

by Michelle Larson  (May 20, 2014) 

Key take-away: In a business world that is moving more towards virtualization and cloud environments, the need for strong encryption and proper key management is critical. Due to all the recent and well-publicized data breaches, we all know about the ways your brand can be damaged if you don’t encrypt your data. This blog takes a look at the benefits of encryption, and three of the ways it can have a positive effect on your business.

Additional content:  You’ll also discover that this is the third time in this Top-10 list that the eBook: The Encryption Guide is offered… so if you haven’t read it yet… what are you waiting for?

The Encryption Guide eBook

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Securing Alliance Key Manager for VMware

  
  
  
  

An Introduction to Townsend Security's VMware Guidance Document

VMware customers benefit from the many operational, and cost efficiencies provided by VMware virtualization technologies both in traditional IT infrastructure and in cloud environments. As VMware customers deploy data encryption solutions as a part of their defense-in-depth strategy, the need for encryption key management can present barriers to a good encryption implementation. This article provides high-level guidance, general in nature, on how deploy and protect Alliance Key Manager for VMware within your VMware environment. Actual VMware deployments of Alliance Key Manager for VMware will use different VMware applications and architectures to meet specific user, application, and security needs.

General VMware Recommendations VMware Resource Kit for Encryption and Key Management

Identify and Document Trusted and Un-Trusted Applications

Properly identifying application groups based on the level of trust is critical for a secure implementation of virtualized applications and encryption key management services. Create and isolate a management cluster for your core VMware applications such as vSphere, vShield, etc. Identify application groups and their associated level of trust, and isolate applications into appropriate application workgroups. Avoid mixing trusted and untrusted applications in a workgroup.

You should consider creating a security workgroup to contain your third party security applications such as encryption key management, authentication services, active directory, system logging, and other applications whose primary function is to assist in securing your VMware environment. Encryption key management services provide by Alliance Key Manager should be implemented in this separate security workgroup used for critical, non-VMware security applications.

In preparation for properly securing these environments, create an inventory of all Virtual Machines managed in each workgroup. For each workgroup and virtual machine, identify the security controls that will be required for each one (network segmentation, storage segmentation, system logging, active monitoring, etc.). VMware flow tools can assist with this documentation.

Restrict Physical Access

Fundamental to all IT security implementations is proper security of the physical environment. This means proper physical security controls and physical monitoring of the data center as well as good auditing and procedural controls. These physical controls should also apply to access to VMware management and security applications. You can look to the PCI Data Security Standards and guidance for information on appropriate physical controls. You can also refer to standard security guidance in SOC 2 and SOC 3 assessments for information on physical controls. When deploying on a cloud platform it is always a good idea to ask the Cloud Security Provider (CSP) for a copy of the PCI letter of attestation, or an SOC 2 / SOC 3 report.

Isolate Security Functions

Because security applications are often a target of cybercriminals, you should isolate them into their own security workgroup and implement the highest level of VMware security. Only trusted VMware administrators should have access rights to Alliance Key Manager, system logs, and audit reports. Be sure to actively monitor access to and use of all encryption key management, key retrieval, and encryption services.

Change VMware Default Passwords

Review all VMware applications used to secure and manage your VMware environment and change the default passwords as recommended by VMware. The failure to change default passwords is one of the most common causes of security breaches.

Implement Network Segmentation

Network segmentation is easy to accomplish with VMware network management and security applications and you should implement network segmentation to isolate applications that process sensitive information from applications that do not require as high a level of trust. Additionally, you should provide network segmentation for all third party security applications such as Alliance Key Manager. Network segmentation should include all high availability and business recovery infrastructure. Do not rely on virtual network segmentation alone; use firewalls that are capable of properly securing virtual networks.

Implement Defense in Depth

The VMware management and security applications provide for a high level of security and monitoring. They also provide hooks and integration with third party security applications that provide system log collection, active monitoring, intrusion detection,etc. Encryption is a critical part of a defense-in-depth strategy, and protecting encryption keys is the most important part of an encryption strategy. Regardless of the operating systems in your application Virtual Machines, Alliance Key Manager will provide encryption key management, key retrieval, and encryption services for your business applications and databases running in your VMware infrastructure.

Monitor VMware Administrative Activity

Use an appropriate SIEM solution to collect VMware application and ESXi hypervisor system logs and perform active monitoring. The log collection and SIEM active monitoring solutions should be isolated into a security workgroup that contains other third party security applications such as Alliance Key Manager.

For more detailed information, read the entire VMware Guidance Document and other materials available in this VMware Resource Kit: 

Resource Kit: Encryption and Key Management in VMware

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Securing SQL Server in the Cloud

  
  
  
  

Organizations running SQL Server Enterprise edition gain the added benefit of SQL Server transparent data encryption (TDE) and extensible key management (EKM). The encryption capabilities of Enterprise edition enable users to easily encrypt data at the column level of a database, and EKM allows users to store encryption keys using a third-party encryption key management solution. These streamlined capabilities of SQL Server Enterprise Edition have made SQL Server one of the easiest databases to encrypt, and therefore it’s popularity hasn’t waned. SQL Server Resource Kit on Encryption & Key Management

One of the biggest issues facing SQL Server users today is maintaining security as users move their SQL databases to the cloud. While Microsoft Azure remains a popular cloud service provider (CSP) for SQL users, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and VMware are also common amongst organizations moving to the cloud, especially those migrating a multi-platform environment. Each of these top-tier CSPs offer security solutions to help you protect your cloud environment; however, when considering security in the cloud there are two important things to remember: The security offered by your CSP won’t provide you with a complete security solution, and the security solutions you bring to protect your data in the cloud can fail if not implemented correctly.

Don’t rely on the cloud for complete security!

Your CSP should provide your business with some security, but their solutions are likely limited. Most CSPs will offer firewall protection, for example. Top-tier CSPs have also undergone some certifications such as Payment Card Industry (PCI) and FedRAMP compliance. It is important to remember, however, that relying on firewalls alone is not enough to prevent intruders, and cloud certifications never mean that your company will automatically meet these compliance regulations as well. A comprehensive data security plan is required for any business operating in the cloud, and this typically requires using third-party security solutions to ensure your business meets compliance and is adequately protecting data.

Remember these two things when protecting data in the cloud:

  • The security solutions offered by your cloud vendor are rarely enough to prevent a data breach.
  • Just because your cloud service provider is compliant, doesn’t mean you are.

Storing data in SQL Server in the cloud presents new security challenges. Hackers or malicious users can gain access to sensitive data easily through common hacks. Easy hacking of SQL Server is a result from:

  • Incorrect configuration of cloud provider’s firewall
  • Attacks through weaknesses that could have been addressed by updating and patching SQL Server
  • Missing or weak passwords
  • social engineering and account hacking
  • Lax administrative access

When it comes to securing SQL Server in the cloud, you should also always consult your legal and auditing team (or consultants) before assuming that your data is safe and you are compliant with any industry security regulations. On a general level, it’s important to include these security measures in your holistic security plan:

  • Intrusion prevention
  • System logging and monitoring
  • Encryption & key management
  • SSH in place of passwords
  • Limited access to sensitive data
  • Separation of duties and split knowledge when accessing encryption keys and sensitive data.

It’s important to remember that your business continuity relies on your own security plan. Regardless of the environment, when your organization experience a data breach, ultimately the responsibility is yours. Your customers, as well as your employees, rely on you to protect their data, and if you fail to do so, the consequences may include loss of customer loyalty and a severely damaged brand. The ultimate way to prevent access to sensitive data is using encryption and encryption key management.

To learn more about how Microsoft SQL Server Enterprise Edition can easily be secured in the cloud, download:

Resource Kit: Encrypting Data on SQL Server


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VMware and SQL Server Encryption

  
  
  
  

Questions and Answers on Encryption and Key Management Projects

VMware® is hands-down the virtualization choice of large and small organizations, and it is easy to see why. Not only is it a highly reliable and scalable platform, VMware also provides a complete set of tools you need to deploy, manage, monitor, and protect virtual machines.

Earlier this month, Paul Taylor with Security Insider - Podcast Edition spoke with our founder, Patrick Townsend about encrypting data on Microsoft SQL Server in VMware environments, steps to encrypting data on SQL Server (with and without TDE), as well as talk about Townsend Security’s Alliance Key Manager for VMware. Here are a few highlights (download the podcast for the whole conversation): Podcast: VMware and SQL Server Encryption

Paul Taylor: We’ve talked about the Townsend Security encryption and key management solutions for VMware. Today let’s put the focus on Microsoft SQL Server and encryption in the VMware customer environment. Can you give us an overview of how VMware customers can protect data in SQL Server databases?

Patrick Townsend: Just to recap, we really need two things to get encryption right: A key management solution to protect the critical encryption keys, and an encryption solution for the SQL Server database. And they have to talk to each other.

For the first part, our Alliance Key Manager for VMware solution provides a fully functional, enterprise key management solution that protects SQL Server databases as well as other databases and other operating systems.

For encrypting SQL Server, our Alliance Key Manager solution comes with a full Microsoft SQL Server Extensible Key Management Provider. We call this Key Connection for SQL Server and it is one of the modules that our key management customers receive without paying additional license fees. Key Connection for SQL Server provides the encryption and integration with our key server to provide a complete, end-to-end solution for encrypting data in the SQL Server database.

Paul Taylor: Can you talk a little about how Microsoft enables encryption in SQL Server?

Patrick Townsend: If you are running SQL Server Enterprise Edition or higher, you have access to Microsoft’s automatic, full database encryption facility called Transparent Data Encryption, or TDE. You also have access to Microsoft’s automatic, column level encryption facility which Microsoft calls Cell Level Encryption. Both of these options, TDE and Cell Level Encryption,  are implemented without any programming work at all. And both are fully supported by Alliance Key Manager and the Key Connection for SQL Server software from Townsend Security.

Paul Taylor: What about Microsoft customers who aren’t using the Enterprise Edition of SQL Server? Can they encrypt their data with the Townsend Security solution?

Patrick Townsend:  With SQL Server Standard and Web Editions we provide two paths to encrypt data. The first is to use SQL Views and Triggers along with our .NET DLL to provide automatic encryption without any changes to applications. And the second path is to modify your C# or Java applications to use our .NET DLL to perform encryption at the application level.

Both approaches leverage our Microsoft .NET DLLs to perform encryption with integrated key management. Both are very simple to implement. And there are no additional license fees to deploy and use our Microsoft .NET DLLs to accomplish this.

Paul Taylor: So, walk me through the steps for encrypting data in my SQL Server Enterprise Edition database. How difficult is it?

Patrick Townsend: Encrypting data in Enterprise SQL Server is really very easy. The first step is to install our Alliance Key Manager for VMware solution. It launches like any other virtual machine using the normal VMware applications and you can have a key management solution up and running very quickly.

The second step is to install the Key Connection for SQL Server application on the virtual machine running SQL Server in Windows. This is a normal install process with an MSI file. You answer some questions, install a certificate and private key in the Windows Certificate Store, and run a handful of commands to start SQL Server TDE encryption or Cell Level Encryption. You also restart the log file to be sure that it is encrypted as well. That’s about it.

Of course, you will want to follow the instructions on how to set up a high availability key server, and point your Key Connection for SQL Server configuration to it as failover. That is a normal configuration process and also very easy to do. We find that VMware customers can deploy SQL Server encryption very quickly.

Paul and Patrick also cover which versions of SQL Server are supported, the availability of Alliance Key Manager in other platforms (hint: it’s quite versatile), and our 30-day evaluation program (you can do a full proof-of-concept in your own environment at no charge). Be sure to download the podcast to hear the rest of their conversation:

Podcast: VMware and SQL Server Encryption

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Encryption and Key Management for VMware®

  
  
  
  

Questions and Answers on VMware Encryption Projects

Every business is trying to save money and reduce complexity in their IT departments, and many are accomplishing this today by using virtual machines such as VMware®. While these businesses’ infrastructures are becoming virtual, their security threats are still very much real.

Recently Paul Taylor with Security Insider - Podcast Edition spoke with our founder, Patrick Townsend about encrypting data in VMware, encryption performance, and special encryption and key management concerns for VMware users.  Here are a few highlights (download the podcast for the whole conversation): Podcast: Protecting Data with Encryption in VMware

Paul Taylor: As VMware customers start to work on encryption projects to protect sensitive data, what are the things they worry about? What concerns them?

Patrick Townsend: VMware customers have made a large investment in VMware technologies. This includes, but is not limited to, an investment in the VMware solution stack that lets them run a variety of virtual machines; administer those machines, monitor the health of the virtual environment, and secure the entire infrastructure of virtual machines and VMware itself.

VMware customers also have invested heavily in the talent needed to run a VMware data center, have adopted governance and risk management procedures specific to a VMware environment, and have invested heavily in migrating existing applications to this platform. It’s a large investment but the payoffs are substantial.

So, when approaching an encryption project the VMware customer really wants to deploy products and solutions that run naturally in VMware. It is painful and concerning to have to deploy solutions that don’t fit naturally.

Paul Taylor: I know that Townsend Security has encryption and key management solutions for VMware customers. Can you talk a little about those?

Patrick Townsend: For any encryption project there are really two major components:

    1. The encryption of the sensitive data, usually in a Windows or Linux virtual machine
    2. The protection of the encryption keys

An effective strategy in the VMware environment has to address both of these. I think we are doing this very well with our encryption solutions for VMware.

First, our Alliance Key Manager for VMware product provides for the creation, management, and protection of encryption keys in a VMware virtual machine. It runs the same FIPS 140-2 compliant key management solution that we offer in our Hardware Security Modules (HSMs). So VMware customers can get encryption key management right without having to go outside of their VMware infrastructure.

Second, all of our encryption solutions that are deployed to protect sensitive data run in the VMware platform and talk to our key manager. For example, you can deploy our SQL Server Transparent Data Encryption solution for automatic SQL Server encryption in a Windows Server virtual machine, and it will talk naturally to our key management server also running in a VMware virtual machine. It’s a perfect match for the VMware customer.

Paul Taylor:  Encryption has a reputation for being the hardest part of security. How do you address that concern?

Patrick Townsend: Yes, you are certainly right about encryption having a reputation for being hard and expensive to deploy. However, things are really different today. I’ll give you a couple of examples:

First, our VMware key management solution will soon be released as a ready-to-use key manager. This means that the first time you boot our Alliance Key Manager For VMware solution it will ask you a few questions, create a complete configuration for the key manager, and start the service. You literally have a functioning key server in a few seconds. What 5 years ago required multiple engineers and weeks of installation and configuration now gets done in a blink.

Secondly, our client-side encryption applications and SDKs are also designed for rapid deployment. For example, SQL Server Transparent Data Encryption also deploys through a standard Windows install process. Again, you answer a few questions, install credentials into the Windows Certificate store, run a handful of SQL Server commands, and you are fully protected with encryption. It is incredibly easy.

Paul Taylor:  I think everyone worries about performance when you talk about encryption. How well do your encryption solutions perform in VMware?

Patrick Townsend: Performance impacts are a natural thing to worry about. Encryption is a CPU intensive task, and it will have some effect on your application or database. Fortunately modern encryption libraries are very efficient and the impact is usually very modest. Back to our example about SQL Server TDE encryption, the average customer will experience about a 2% to 4% impact when activating TDE encryption. This is very manageable. Large SQL Server databases can pose a performance issue with TDE which is why we also support Cell Level encryption with SQL Server.

We always encourage our customers to try our encryption solutions before they make a full commitment. We make it very easy to do a proof-of-concept project with encryption. Our free evaluations let you take it for a spin and evaluate the impacts yourself.

Paul and Patrick also cover topics on high availability, business recovery, and compliance regulation concerns for protecting data in a VMware environment.  Be sure to download the podcast to hear the rest of their conversation:

Podcast: Protecting Data with Encryption in VMware

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PCI Compliance and the Assessment Process

  
  
  
  

Understanding PCI Merchant Levels and how an assessment can help your business

If your business takes credit cards for payment, then you are subject to the Payment Card Industry – Data Security Standards (PCI-DSS).

Companies of all sizes must comply with PCI DSS to ensure that their customers' data is protected during the processing and transmission of credit or debit card transactions and securely stored within any internal databases. PCI categorizes businesses into different classification levels based on the number of transactions and dollar amounts they processes each year.

Download Whitepaper on PCI Data Security

Level 1 – All merchants processing more than 6 million card transactions annually

Level 2 – All merchants processing between 1 million and 6 million card transactions annually

Level 3 – All merchants processing between 20,000 and 1 million card-not-present only transactions annually

Level 4 – All other merchants

Level 1 companies are most likely well versed in the annual PCI audit process as they have a certified onsite audit annually with a Qualified Security Assessor (QSA). Level 2, 3, 4 merchants are not required to hire an onsite QSA, but can have a certified Internal Security Assessor (ISA) do the PCI self assessment annually. However, a small business preparing a self-assessment to participate in their first PCI review may find it a little daunting. If you're feeling that the PCI assessment process is overwhelming and complicated, understanding this process may be the first step toward putting your mind at ease. If you are a Level 1 merchant, the PCI assessment is a process carried out by a QSA to establish whether or not a business is compliant with security standards relating to the processing of transactions made via a credit or debit card (payment card). PCI compliance assesses your business point of sale system, payment applications, and all interconnecting systems with these goals in mind: (1) to examine your system, (2) to identify vulnerabilities, and (3) to prevent data from being compromised.

It’s not a matter of “IF”, but “WHEN”

If you have already suffered a data breach, working closely to review your assessment and put data security best practices into place will provide you with a roadmap to help avoid future losses. If you have not yet been breached, undergoing an assessment and reviewing your risk tolerance can still be stressful. Understanding the process may alleviate some of that stress and help you to maximize your use of the information in the PCI DSS assessment report

How can a PCI audit help my business?

PCI compliance auditing helps businesses to ensure they are providing the most secure environment for their customers to process payments and ensures that transactions are less likely to result in a compromise in the customers' data.

Ensuring that you meet PCI compliance and have a solid infrastructure for managing data security will increase customer confidence in your business and ensure that you're not exposed to security breaches that could have been avoided. 

To learn more about meeting PCI compliance requirements, download the whitepaper Meet the Challenges of PCI Compliance and find the answers to the following questions (and more):

  • What will my auditor look for?

  • How can I ensure my customers' data is secure?
  • What is the difference between tokenization and encryption?
  • What is encryption key management and why are auditors looking at this?

  download the Whitepaper: Meet the Challenges of PCI Compliance

 


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VMware and SQL Server Encryption – We Can Do That

  
  
  
  

VMware is hands-down the virtualization choice of large and small organizations. And it is easy to see why. Not only is it a highly reliable and scalable platform, but VMware provides a complete set of tools you need to deploy, manage, monitor, and protect virtual machines. And did I mention that it totally rocks the scalability challenge?

SQL Server Resource Kit on Encryption & Key Management Let’s look at how VMware customers who run Microsoft SQL Server applications can enable encryption and key management to protect sensitive data and meet compliance regulations.

First Step:

We have to solve the encryption key management challenge. As we like to say around here, the hardest part of security is encryption, and the hardest part of encryption is key management. We have to store the encryption keys separate from the protected data, and use industry standard practices to protect them. With our Alliance Key Manager for VMware solution we make this problem easy to solve. Our key manager comes in a ready-to-deploy OVA format and VMware customers can just launch the key manager with standard VMware tools. Of course, there are some security best practices on how to properly deploy a security application like a key manager in VMware (see the resources section below). With Alliance Key Manager’s Ready-To-Use options you can have your VMware key management problem solved in just SECONDS.

Of course, some of our VMware customers want to protect encryption keys in traditional Hardware Security Modules (HSMs). No problem, Alliance Key Manager can be deployed as a rack-mounted HSM or as a vCloud instance.

The Second Step:

Now we want to enable encryption in SQL Server and protect the encryption keys with Alliance Key Manager. Thanks to Microsoft’s Extensible Key Management (EKM) interface, this is incredibly easy. Alliance Key Manager comes with EKM Provider software that plugs right into SQL Server to enable encryption and protect your encryption keys. We call this our Key Connection for SQL Server application and it installs on your SQL Server VMware instance using a standard MSI install process. Key Connection for SQL Server runs in all SQL Server environments including VMware, hardware, vCloud, and cloud platforms so hybrid environments are fully supported. Install the credentials, select the SQL Server instances you want to protect, answer some questions, type a few commands and you have a fully protected SQL Server database using Transparent Data Encryption (TDE). Again, this takes just minutes to accomplish.

SQL Server also supports column level encryption, which Microsoft calls Cell Level Encryption. It can provide better performance for some SQL Server databases. Yes, that’s also supported through the same Key Connection for SQL Server software.

The beauty of the Microsoft EKM architecture is that you don’t need to modify your SQL Server applications to deploy encryption. Your DBA and security team can get your data protected very quickly without a development project. Anybody got budget for that these days?

Hint

Already encrypting SQL Server but aren’t protecting your encryption key? That’s easy – you can install Key Connection for SQL Server, issue a few commands, and the problem is solved!

The Third Step:

What about high availability, business recovery, clustered configurations, and system logs? We’ve got all of that covered, too. Using the same Key Connection for SQL Server EKM Provider (did I mention that it’s free?) you can configure one or more secondary key servers that function as high availability failover servers for business recovery? Key Connection for SQL Server will automatically failover to secondary key servers if the primary key server is unavailable.

Alliance Key Manager also fits nicely into your active monitoring strategy. You can easily enable forwarding of all key access, key management, encryption, and system activity logs to your log collection server or SIEM solution.

Celebrate Victory and Do It Again!

Alliance Key Manager protects Oracle, IBM, MySQL and other databases as well as web applications and unstructured data. You get to deploy one key management solution to protect everything. And do you know how much it will cost you to do your next project? Nothing, zilch, zed, nada! Alliance Key Manager does not force you to license and pay for client-side applications.

Hint

I’ll talk more in future posts about how to protect other databases and applications in VMware environments. Stay tuned if you run SharePoint, Microsoft CRM or ERP applications, Oracle, or open source databases like MySQL and SQLite.

How Much Better Can This Get?

You can evaluate Alliance Key Manager and Key Connection for SQL Server in your own VMware environment free of charge. Just visit our Alliance Key Manager for SQL Server page and request a free 30-day evaluation.

Encryption and key management? We can get this done right!

Resources:

PCI SSC Virtualization Guidelines

VMware Solution Guide for Payment Card Industry (PCI)

Securing Alliance Key Manager for VMwar

Alliance Key Manager for VMware Solution Brief

Resource Kit: Encrypting Data on SQL Server

 

 

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Being Thankful Every Day for Data Security!

  
  
  
  

Because Hackers Don’t Take a Holiday

Companies earn my loyalty when I know they are looking out for and protecting their customers! So yes, I am truly thankful every day for data security and the encryption & key management solutions that help protect our personal information.

Michelle Larson and Family

 

Michelle – Marketing

I’m grateful for all the amazing blessings I receive on a daily basis.  I have a loving and healthy family, dear friends, creative and witty co-workers.  I also get to work for a company that is truly focused on doing good in the world, our community, and here in the office too.   

 

Robbi in Human Resources

 

 

Robbi – Administration 

I am thankful everyday I wake up and have the gift of another day to spend with my family, friends and doing the things I love.

 

Ken and His Family 

 

Ken ~ Marketing

I am thankful for my girls!  (the day we adopted our daughter and became a forever family)

 

Jim from Development

 

 

Jim – Development

I am thankful for my family and friends.

 

 

Victor and his wife

 

 

Victor – Partner Operations

I am thankful for a happy and healthy family.

 

Fish eye

 

 

 

 

 

David –Support

I’m thankful for biosynthetic insulin!

 

 

 

Shayna and Ryan with their first puppy

 

Shayna – Sales

I am thankful for my family who has always challenged me to be the best version of me.  I am thankful for the family I call my coworkers for always believing in my abilities.  I am thankful for my fiance for always making me feel safe and making me laugh.  I am thankful for my dog Barkley who has brought me pure joy and happiness and my new puppy Lenny who we are getting for Christmas!

 

 Sandra and Family

 

Sandra – Administration

I am thankful for our family cabin and the joy that it brings.

 

 

Robbn and family

  

 

 

Robbn – Support

This is exactly what I am thankful for…  3 of my favorite people!

 

 

describe the image

 

  

Tim – Development

I am thankful there’s always more!

 

 James and his daughter

 

 

James – Sales

I am grateful for my wife and daughter's love.

 

 

Luke and Family 

 

 

 

 

Luke – Marketing

I am thankful for an awesome, musical family and being able to work with an awesome company that is helping keep your and my personal information safe.

 

 

The Amazing Carol!

 

 

Carol – Administration

I am thankful for my family, and for working at a place where everyone feels like family!

 

 

Victoria in Support

 

 

Victoria – Support

I'm thankful for Starbucks hot chocolate.  

 

 

The Talented Katie

 

 

 

 

Katie – Administration

I’m always thankful for family, friends and community!

 

 Paul - Development

 

Paul – Development

I'm thankful for the way the universe has brought me together with my father, he is 97 and an irascible old guy. But he has an unbounding love for life and an enthusiasm that is fantastic. Unfortunately his zest for living exceeds his physical abilities but to see his love for the moment is wonderful.


Patrick Townsend CEO

 


Patrick – CEO

I am thankful for my wonderful family, my tolerant and forgiving friends, and for the great community of employees and partners who make Townsend Security successful. Best holiday wishes to them all!

 

 

 

 

Being surrounded by loved ones, mashed potatoes, turkey, gravy, and pies has become the annual setting where Americans express their thanks each November.  Instead of bottling up all that gratitude to be released on one day, let’s take time throughout the year to show our thanks, express our gratitude, and share with others!  

“Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving.” ― W.T. Purkiser

 

The Encryption Guide eBook

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