The Hour of Code is Here!
Sometimes things are just so busy, especially with the holiday season in full swing, we miss hearing about really important, really interesting things going on around us. That is pretty much how I am feeling today. How did I make it to Tuesday, Dec 10th without paying attention to the fact that it is National Computer Science Education Week (Dec 9 - 15, 2013)?
“Computer science is a top paying college degree and computer programming jobs are growing at 2x the national average (csedweek.org/promote)”
The main focus this year is on an Hour of Code, a program where people of all ages (especially students) are encouraged to experience an introduction to computer science for at least one hour. It is a movement to get people of all ages to give coding a try, as the official site says, from ages 6 - 106. You can find out more information at http://www.csedweek.org
Technology and the computer sciences impact our lives in so many ways, yet the field is growing faster than the skilled workforce, especially in computer programming. In an effort to educate more young people about computer sciences, this Hour of Code project is gaining support. This is how I found out at 6am this morning; an email from my daughters math teacher that they would be taking the next two days away from regular curriculum to participate in the Hour of Code (code.org) challenge. What an amazing idea! This program, or call it a “movement”, is an exciting outreach within our local school system and I’m thankful that the teachers at her school are excited and taking the time to incorporate Hour of Code into their lesson plans.
Here is a fun (and short) video about the program – Learn what most schools don’t teach!
I am fortunate enough to work for an amazing technology company, so it seems normal to think everyone should learn how to program a computer… and I realize that if you are reading this blog, then I am probably preaching to the choir! Please take some time to help promote National Computer Science Education Week and see what kind of spark you can help create in others!
There is a great (free) resource available at the Khan Academy's Hour of Code site that will let you share this skill set with other people. While I certainly want to learn more, I am especially excited that my daughters will be getting this experience in the classroom!
(That’s the Way) You Need it…
Now that you have the tune from Journey running through your head, let’s talk about how you are going to protect your data with encryption and key management.
So you have all this sensitive data that you need to secure… how are you going to protect it? What kind of key management choices do you have? How do you decide what encryption to use? Just how do you decide what you need, and where you will put your key management device, and will it be hardware or virtual? In many cases, regulations require you to protect sensitive information. Beyond being a compliance requirement, it is also a responsibility to your business and your customers. We understand all those questions can be a bit daunting at first, but there are a variety of encryption key management options to choose from.
The main consideration that will be determined within each of the following factors is your Risk Tolerance. What kind of sensitive data are you storing? What will happen to that information if there is a data breach? What will the impact be to your company, to your customers, if that information gets accessed by the wrong people? What are your liabilities? No matter whether it lives in a single PC hard drive or a vast data center, or even in a shared cloud environment, the type of information you need to protect will have a large impact on what level of risk tolerance you have.
Here are four factors you need to consider as you devise or revise your data security plan:
Infrastructure: Where your data lives (client side application) determines what kind of options you have. Is your data all in one location (on a PC, or in a data center)? or is it in the cloud? or a combination? Are there requirements that would limit where your key server could be located? How will data need to be transmitted from one location to another? Once you have a clear picture of the sensitive information you are responsible for then you can move on to the next set of questions.
Compliance Regulations: If you are dealing with Personal Identifiable Information (PII) or Protected Health Information (PHI) or Payment Card Industry (PCI), you have a great responsibility to protect that information and meet different compliance regulations. Depending on what industry you are in and where you live, different regulations may come into play. If you take credit card payments, you will certainly fall under PCI-DSS and be required to encrypt that data. If you are a part of or even partner with the medical sector then you also need to comply with HIPAA/HITECH Act requirements for security of Protected Health Information (PHI). GLBA/FFIEC sets regulations for banks, credit unions, credit reporting agencies, and anyone in the financial industry. FISMA is for Federal US Government Agencies and businesses that partner with them. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also gets involved with anyone who issues a privacy statement. On top of those regulations, more than 45 states also have their own privacy rules that strongly recommend encryption of any personally identifiable information (PII).
Availability: Beyond just the availability of your encryption key management options, think about how many people need access to your data. What kind of security procedures do you need in order to keep the wrong people out and yet allow the right people to do their jobs? Will you have a key management system that supports separation of duties and dual control of your encryption keys?
Cost: Your budget will also determine what kind of key management system you use. While cloud options may present a cost savings, you would potentially need a higher risk tolerance in a shared environment.
Once you have identified your level of risk tolerance and the other factors listed, you will need to consider what kind of encryption and key management options are available to you:
Data Center - Hardware Security Module (HSM) - This is probably the most common option for companies that have their own data centers. The HSM is “under your roof” and you provide the security and IT support for the device.
Cloud HSM - If your data lives in the cloud and in a variety of client side applications, perhaps hosting your key server in a cloud HSM makes more sense for you. In a cloud HSM, look for two dedicated redundant HSMs in geographically diverse locations that are managed for you. Options and access will vary depending on which cloud HSM solution you deploy. With Alliance Key Manager Cloud HSM, you maintain exclusive access to your key servers.
In the Cloud - If your data lives primarily in the cloud, you may want to go with a key server deployed directly in the cloud. Ways to make that option more secure would be to locate your key server in a different cloud environment from your data or even in a virtual private cloud (VPC). Cloud options are certainly cost-effective and easy to deploy, just make sure that you have a high enough risk tolerance for a shared environment!
I know there are a lot of questions that each company needs to consider and answer for themselves during this security planning process. The good news is that we have solutions that can encrypt your data and protect your encryption keys in all of those locations. We offer affordable and easy to deploy solutions with what we feel is the best customer support in the industry.
Check out this complimentary eBook on Key Management, then give us a call and let’s see how we can partner together to protect your data!
What Should You Look for in a Strong Technology Partner?
What does a strong technology partnership look like? One of the biggest challenges growing businesses face is bringing on new partners and building relationships that are built on solid people and products. Business executives are fearful, and rightly so, that any new technology partner may pose a huge risk to their own company. Any partnership is a basic agreement based on the trust that a partner’s product is good, will not fail, and will be market available in the long run. Most executives have experienced that trust being broken.
In a recent video with Townsend Security CEO Patrick Townsend and Mark Foege, Business Development Consultant and Principal at the Colvos Group, both Mr. Townsend and Mr. Foege outlined the importance of building strong technology partnerships for success, and what to look for in a partner.
According to Patrick Townsend, "Getting partnerships right is difficult. You really need someone who’s going to behave like a partner and not an adversary. It seems obvious, but in fact it’s very difficult to accomplish in most technology environments.”
One example Mr. Townsend gave was for an OEM partner. If a company integrates a partner’s product into their own technology, and that partner hasn’t built the product well, doesn’t provide solid back end support, or if their company folds and the product is no longer available, then the partnership can become toxic and unsustainable.
Mark Foege reiterated that strategic successful partnerships are built on three core components:
- Powerful solutions
- Minimized cost
- Minimized complexity
These components ensure that the product will not only be affordable and easy to use by end users, but the products will be powerful, and by integrating or selling them a business will be able to grow new revenue.
At the end of the day, a business only wants to partner with a technology company that has a good reputation. Mr. Foege recounted, “I was recently speaking with one of our partners, and I had asked them, what’s important to them when they partner with somebody. He said, my reputation is only as good as as the reputation of those that I partner with, and that’s why they were excited to partner with Townsend Security. We realize that everything we do impacts the reputation of our partners. That’s why it’s important to us to provide solid, high value products, to make sure we are offering consistently first class support, and we work with our partners to make sure that their customers are completely delighted."
When it come to encryption and encryption key management, having a strong, trustworthy partner is critical to your success in providing strong data security to your customers. Encrypting sensitive data is easier than ever, and protecting encryption keys is easier today as well; however, providing these solutions without thorough back end support from your encryption key management vendor can be disastrous. That’s why Townsend Security provides extensive support, knowledge, and training to all of our partners as well as marketing materials, encryption libraries, and many other resources to make offering encryption a painless task.
To learn more about Townsend Security partnerships, watch the full video below or visit out partner page.
Great Q&A session from the latest webinar from Townsend Security!
As we discussed in the blog on Secure Managed File Transfer and PGP Encryption, using the core components of a total encryption strategy can help you meet compliance requirements, and improve your data security posture!
Hopefully you were able to watch the webinar resource provided (if not, you can request it HERE). After the webinar, we had a number of questions asked by attendees and answered by security expert Patrick Townsend. Here is a recap of that Q&A session:
Q: Is there any reason why I can’t just transfer my file from my IBM i platform to Windows and then PGP encrypt it there.
Patrick: That is a great compliance question. Transferring unencrypted data from your IBM i to a Windows platform and then encrypting it and moving it from there will put you out of compliance for PCI DSS. You should not transfer unprotected data to any system or across any network that’s not fully protected. If you move it from the IBM i platform to Windows platform, it’s going to land in an unencrypted format and that will put you out of compliance. That kind of unprotected transfer will also put you out of best practices alignment in terms of just pure security. The security principle here that comes into play is always encrypt at the source, decrypt at the target or the destination, and don’t let the data be unprotected in-between. Remember, data should never be moved “in the clear”.
Q: Can manage file transfer software be used on just one side, or do all sides of the transfer have to have the same software?
Patrick: Partners/customers would certainly want a managed file transfer solution to be based on open standards. You would not want to install proprietary software to process file transfers and then expect your partners to have to install it as well. We base all of our secure transfer encryption components on open standards like a SSL FTP and Secure Shell sFTP and PGP encryption. This means is that right out-of-the-box you will interoperate with all the major financial institutions and insurance agencies.
Q: Does the Alliance FTP Manager solution run on the IBM i or Windows server?
Patrick: Alliance FTP Manager is a fully native IBM i application. It runs strictly on the IBM i platform and uses industry standard protocols. So there is no proprietary component on Alliance FTP Manager where you would have to distribute special software to someone who is receiving the files in order to process them. We use industry standard pipeline encryption SSL FTP and Secure Shell sFTP. No matter who you’re transferring data to, whether its Windows, Linux, UNIX ,or IBM Mainframe, there are multiple readily available solutions that support those secure file transfer protocols. The commercial PGP that we provide is fully compatible with industry standards, it interoperates seamlessly, and we test it against multiple other PGP solutions as well as open PGP solutions. Your customers and vendors (the people you’re transferring the data to) will appreciate that they do not need special software to process PGP encrypted files or your Alliance FTP Manager transfers.
Q: We occasionally need to create encrypted zip files to transfer files to our customers, can FTP manager do this?
Patrick: We certainly do provide a command based zip file encryption and zip file decryption (compression and decompression) that implements 256-bit AES encryption. It will process with wildcards and so if you have multiple files in an IFS directory you can compress all those into one zip archive. Our directory scan automation component will automatically process data right into your application. So yes, there is an implementation of secure encrypted zip in FTP Manager.
Q: A public/private key pair is needed for SSH and sFTP transfers. Does FTP Manager exchange keys with the destination server?
Patrick: Secure Shell sFTP supports a number of authentication and privacy mechanisms, the most common is using a public and private key pair. You do have to execute a key exchange with your training partner/bank before exchanging encrypted data. We have developed utilities and interactive options to help you load your trading partners public key on the IBM i platform. For example, a menu option will allow you to put in the DNS name for that particular server, then it will find, retrieve, and install that key in your system. Normally these steps are time and labor intensive, but we have automated the exchange to simplify that particular administrative setup function.
Very important: Typically sFTP transfers use public and private keys, just be sure that the solution you choose can also handle password authentication. Alliance FTP Manager CAN do that!
To learn more, view the complete webinar - Secure Managed File Transfer on the IBM I -which examines the security principles, compliance requirements, and technical challenges for secure FTP transfers on the IBM i platform with the following objectives:
- Automatically transfer files using Secure Shell sFTP or Secure SSL FTP
- Protect data using strong PGP encryption
- Review your total encryption strategy
If you have further questions, please list them here in the comment section and we will be sure to get you an answer!
Core Components of a Total Encryption Strategy
One of the easiest things to do to improve your data security posture is make sure that all of the transfers moving in and out of your organization are encrypted. The core components of any secure managed file transfer solution are the ability to protect and secure transfers as they move off of your system or as transfers move into your system using strong encryption.
The two main transfer mechanisms are:
- SSL FTP, File Transfer Protocol that has been updated to support encrypted sessions
Implemented based on industry standards and integrated with the IBM i Digital Certificate Manager (DCM), new IBM i platforms have DCM installed by default. Our own solution, Alliance FTP Manager adds things like intelligent firewall negotiation and proxy server support which make those connections easier to deploy, as well as integrated logging to make sure that the sessions are properly logged for compliance regulations and compliance audits.
- Secure Shell sFTP, which is a Linux and UNIX facility also exists in the IBM i platform and secure FTP gives you the ability to implement encrypted transfers to and from your IBM i platform
Secure Shell sFTP, based on how it encrypts, establishes, and maintains sessions is easier to manage from a firewall point of view than SSL FTP. We fully support password-based Secure Shell sFTP in batch mode and are the only vendor who fully implements that according to the standard.
Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) file encryption is the third critical component of a total encryption strategy. PGP encryption protects data at rest, so when you move data securely across the internal network or across the Internet, you need to be sure that it's properly encrypted at it’s destination. SSL FTP and sFTP encrypted sessions are great at protecting data when in transit however, when that data lands on an FTP server, it may not be inside a firewall and could be exposed. PGP is the most commonly used and widely deployed encryption in retail, banking, medical, insurance, and other industries to protect data and a fundamental part of a managed file transfer solution.
The commercial version of PGP, created by the original developers and now supported by Symantec, is fully implemented in our Alliance FTP Manager solution. Commercial PGP also offers features important to enterprise clients:
- Additional decryption keys support (ADK) - allows you to encrypt a file and send it to multiple people without using the same key. You can actually encrypt the file and add your own decryption key which would allow you to recover that data as part of a discovery process to prove what data was actually sent to a recipient.
- PGP implements key server support in addition to local PGP encrypted key stores on the IBM i platform and for z/OS Mainframe.
- Support for Self-Decrypting Archives (SDA) for multiple platforms.
- Commercial PGP product has been through multiple rounds of FIPS 140-2 certification over the years. Both the source code and the application has been fully vetted by independent security professionals multiple times and that code has been open for public review.
Beyond those three core components, you also need some other things to confirm that the encryption being used is defensible and has been reviewed by security professionals:
- Good audit trails
- Real time system logging integrated with the IBM security audit journal (QAUDJRN)
- Certifications through NIST and FIPS 140-2
For an indepth look at a total encryption strategy, security expert Patrick Townsend presents a 30-minute webinar discussing how compliance regulations such as PCI, HIPAA, Sarbanes-Oxley, and new state/federal laws affect your company. He also covers real-life examples of how others are meeting these challenges with Alliance FTP Manager and the new PGP solutions.
After our latest webinar “Encryption & Key Management with Microsoft SQL Server” there were a number of great questions asked by attendees and answered by security expert Patrick Townsend.
Here is an informative recap of that Q&A session:
Q: Are there any special considerations when deploying an encryption key manager in the cloud?
A: The cloud always presents some additional security challenges related to encryption and security in general and has the impression of being less secure and having some new challenges around security. In the cloud, the encryption key manager itself is only one component to consider, and you need a good FIPS 140-2 compliant solution like our Alliance Key Manager for SQL Server. You also need client side applications and libraries, so when you're thinking about moving to the cloud, paying attention to that particular issue is very important. Also know that not all libraries can easily migrate to cloud. We develop ours from the ground up with the cloud in mind, so all of our components that talk back to our key manager for encryption keys or encryption services are cloud-enabled and can be deployed there.
From a compliance point of view, it is very important to take a look at the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA.org) document on cloud security - version 3.
We also provide a compliance brief about domain 11 which talks about encryption key management and issues around the security in the cloud.
Q: Can you go a little more in-depth about what gets installed on SQL Server?
A: For the SQL Server platform (the client side software) Microsoft allows for Extensible Key Management (EKM) which allows vendors like Townsend Security to plug into their environment. Our Key Connection for SQL Server is an EKM provider and it is a GUI (Graphical User Interface) install, so you load it on your own SQL Server platform and it walks you through some questions:
- It will ask what SQL Server instances you want to protect
- It will ask for your authentication credentials in order to execute the necessary commands
- It will allow you to install certificates into the Windows certificate store that are used to communicate with the key manager HSM
- It allows you to define the location of your production and multiple high-availability failover key servers (most companies deploy one production and one HA key server. However, you can actually identify a more complex environment if needed)
- Then it allows you to actually test, right there in the install dialog, your connection to your key manager to confirm it is working the way it is supposed to
Side Note: We do not charge based on the number of endpoints that talk to our Alliance Key Manager. This is something that is unique to us as a vendor. We believe the encryption should be easy to do and affordable, so no additional license fees are required to actually use it. We want our customers to deploy encryption and use it to protect data.
Q: What are the minimum requirements for the key server?
A: The Alliance Key Manager product is available as either a hardware security module (HSM) device or virtual appliance. As an HSM it has a 1U server footprint, so it looks like any normal 1U server in your data center. However if you use our Alliance Key Manager Cloud HSM implementation, the encryption key manager is installed for you in a secure data center. It is also our philosophy that these are customer install processes, so we don't have consulting fees because it is a user deployed device. The server administration is done through a secure web browser session with our Townsend Security technical experts. The encryption key management security functions are done through a specific Windows application that talks to one or more key servers to actually create and deploy encryption keys whether they’re for Oracle or SQL Server EKM.
Also, we do provide our encryption key manager as a VMware virtual appliance, which allows you to deploy a key manager within your VMware infrastructure and we give you guidance on that process. With this option you don't have to purchase a hardware appliance, you can run it in your VM infrastructure or within a vCloud architecture. We strongly recommend that a review of the PCI Security Council's - Cloud Computing Guidelines as well as their guidance around virtualization when deploying a virtual encryption key manager.
Q: Does your key manager handle encryption and decryption or just key management?
A: Our encryption key management appliance itself does support on-board encryption and decryption.
Q: Can the same EKM module be used to encrypt servers in both data centers and cloud environments?
A: Yes. You can mix and match these anyway you want. You can use the same encryption key management solution for applications running in either environment, and they can talk to each other. You should be aware of a good security practice guidance around using different encryption keys for different kinds of applications, or different user communities, even in a high-availability data center or disaster recovery centers.
Q: What are the performance impacts on encryption?
A: Encryption always has performance impacts. Generally it can impose a penalty somewhere between 2% and 4% in terms of computing resources. Guidance from Microsoft regarding very large SQL Server databases show that performance can become an issue with certain operations. For example, encrypted indexes may require the entire index to be decrypted in order to be processed. Very large SQL Server databases can impose a bigger performance penalty than 4%. Sometimes, cell level encryption has been a better performing implementation than transparent data encryption. We support both TDE and cell level encryption, allowing our customers to use our product as needed.
We strongly recommend to our customers, especially those with larger more complex SQL Server applications, that they contact us and ask for a complimentary evaluation of our encryption key manager. The complimentary product trial is fully functional and allows an opportunity to do analysis of the performance impacts. We want you to give it a try and make sure you understand the impacts personally.
Q: Is there any limit to the number of servers that you can hook up to the key manager?
A: No. There's no license limit. If you're considering putting up multiple servers we recommend you engage our pre-sales support team and get some guidance on your project. You will never come to us for additional licensing fees around adding a new platform, new SQL Server, or any other application that talks to the encryption key management server. We are unique in the industry that way and is part of our philosophy; we believe encryption needs to go everywhere, data needs protection wherever it lives, and we should lower the barriers -not raise them- when it comes to getting data protection in place. You can connect as many client-side applications to the key server as you wish.
Q: How do you keep system administrators from getting at the data and the keys at the same time.
A: Tasks such as the management of the server, putting it on the network, establishing system logging options, setting the timeservers - all network administration processes - are segmented from the actual management of the encryption keys. Good security practice says that those should be different people engaging in those activities. We provide completely different interfaces to simplify separation of duties.
If you are using our Cloud HSM environment, it is not administered, managed, or accessed by the cloud provider nor by Townsend Security. You have exclusive access and control over your encryption key managers. We even provide a path if you wish to take the encryption key manager out of the cloud environment and install it in your own data center. We believe strongly that a security device should be exclusively under your control, not under the control or management of the cloud provider.
I encourage you to download the recording of the entire webinar and Q&A session:
4 Best Practices to Prevent a Data Breach
Last year a massive data breach at Wyndham Hotels was revealed to have exposed payment card data of over 600,000 customers during three breaches over two years. This has resulted in massive, ongoing litigation from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
In a few articles I read about this breach, recommendations were offered to hotels and payment application ISVs who provide payment software to prevent a data breach from happening to them. Much of these suggestions were variations on a theme: use strong passwords, reset passwords often, use strong firewalls, and get compliant with PCI-DSS or PA-DSS.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with those recommendations. In fact, these are good recommendations. However, businesses in the hospitality and retail industries should know these three facts: Firstly, passwords and firewalls will not keep an intelligent hacker out of your network. They will also not help you if a hard drive or backup tape containing sensitive data is lost or stolen. Lastly, it is possible to get under PCI compliance and still be vulnerable to a breach.
Victims of a data breach will often blame the regulations for not using specific language around how to adequately protect data. Unfortunately, there is some truth to these complaints. Many data security professionals would agree that cyber security regulations do not mandate strict enough guidelines around the protection of sensitive data. For example, the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI-SSC) sets forth a set of regulations and recommendations for the protection of credit and debit card-holder data called the PCI Data Security Standards (PCI-DSS). PCI-DSS mandates the use of strong encryption and secure protection of encryption keys for encrypted data at rest or data transferred across networks. However, PCI-DSS does not give specifics on how to manage keys securely and in a way that will prevent a data breach. Thus, many businesses use poor key management and are still at risk for a breach.
PCI-DSS Section 3 puts hospitality businesses on the right track by mandating encryption and key management; protecting the data itself is a critical step to preventing a breach. However, several best practices need to be utilized in order for encryption to do its job. It’s not enough to encrypt--you must protect your encryption keys using these critical steps:
- Use a dedicated hardware security module (HSM) or virtual appliance. Using an external, secure key server to manage encryption keys is critical to success. Many companies store their encryption keys on the same server as the encrypted data. If an intruder gains access to this server, they will have access to the key and will be able to decrypt the sensitive data.
- User certified solutions. When choosing a key management solution, look for NIST validation and FIPS 140-2 compliance. These certifications ensure that your key manager has been tested by a third-party against government standards.
- Use Dual Control, Separation of Duties, and Split Knowledge. These access controls ensure that no single person alone has total access to or management of encryption keys or the encrypted data it protects.
- Document Key Lifecycle and Rotation. Your key manager should be able to automatically or manually rotate encryption keys with complete documentation of key rollover and history.
In the articles I’ve read on the Wyndham data breach and FTC litigation, there is almost no mention of the need for encryption, despite the fact that encryption is a primary control mandated by PCI-DSS. It was even revealed that Wyndham had stored cardholder data in the clear (meaning unencrypted), and yet few articles pointed out this massive failure to protect the data itself. While strong passwords and firewalls are considered a fundamental step to preventing unwanted intrusions, most data security experts now agree that with simple attacks such as SQL injection and malware phishing hackers can easily break these barriers. The only way to truly protect data is to protect the data itself, with encryption, and protect encryption keys away from the data.
To learn more about encryption key management, download the eBook, “Encryption Key Management Simplified.”
What to look for in a Cloud HSM solution
With the latest advances in encryption technology, organizations are now able to protect sensitive data with encryption key management in the cloud. The lower costs for maintenance and software (on the operational side) makes the cloud an attractive place for companies to move their data centers and for technology companies to deploy their applications.
However, these multi-tenant cloud environments provide some real challenges in terms of protecting data from exposure and meeting special requirements in terms of security. In traditional IT data center environments you would normally place a hardware security module (HSM) key management device directly into your rack. However, traditional encryption key management systems don’t function well in cloud environments, and often companies moving to the cloud don’t have a traditional IT infrastructure. This creates new issues and challenges for administrators to provide the level of security for encryption keys needed to protect data and meet compliance regulations. When considering the move of your data to the cloud, think about whether or not you will have:
When it comes to encryption key management, only you should have access to encryption keys that protect your data. When you consider a Cloud HSM, be sure to ask if the cloud provider will have access to the HSM and your keys. The answer may surprise you! Because the encryption keys are the “secret” that protects your sensitive information, no one else should have access to your data encryption keys or to the systems that protect those keys. This is the same rule that applies in a traditional IT infrastructure and needs to be followed when you deploy data protection in a cloud environment. Not only is it a compliance requirement to protect encryption keys, but using a secure HSM is a security best practice.
HSMs are a vital part of any data protection strategy. Encryption key managers that serve for protecting data in the cloud need to be fully under your control. To make sure that you have proper controls, your key management solution should be:
- Segmented from your cloud data
- Independent of your cloud vendor
- Able to meet the highest level of security requirements
- Designed to follow encryption key management system best practices
With an encryption key management and HSM solution that's protecting data in the cloud it matters where your key managers are located. If you're deploying a solution that is proprietary to your cloud vendor, your keys are locked into that cloud vendor and if you move your data, you can’t access or move your encryption keys. You also want to make sure your cloud vendor has no administrative access to that key manager. Fundamental things to think about when you deploy a key management solution:
- Are you a locked into that cloud platform?
- Do you have full and exclusive control of your keys?
Compliance regulations are very explicit about protecting sensitive data with proper encryption key management, and recommend good key management practices as a core principle. When you move to the cloud, you don’t automatically have that level of security for your data. To meet PCI-DSS requirements for protecting credit card information you should really look at the PCI-Data Security Council - Cloud Computing Guidelines as well as their guidance around virtualization since cloud environments are virtualized environments.
Excerpt from PCI-DSS Cloud Computing Guidelines - Executive Summary:
“Cloud computing is a form of distributed computing that is yet to be standardized. There are a number of factors to be considered when migrating to cloud services, and organizations need to clearly understand their needs before they can determine if and how they will be met by a particular solution or provider. As cloud computing is still an evolving technology, evaluations of risks and benefits may change as the technology becomes more established and its implications become better understood.
It’s important to note that all cloud services are not created equal. Clear policies and procedures should be agreed between client and cloud provider for all security requirements, and responsibilities for operation, management and reporting should be clearly defined and understood for each requirement.”
It is also important to look at the Cloud Security Alliance recommendations for cloud security - version 3. Whether you are a cloud vendor or a cloud user, the CSA provides very practical and straightforward guidance on security in the cloud environment. In order to properly secure and protect vital information, you need to understand the security posture of your cloud provider. Don't be satisfied with general statements about security, look for external audits and regular expressions of compliance reviews so you know for sure that you're truly covered. Be sure your encryption keys are in geographically dispersed data centers under an ITIL-based control environment independently validated for compliance against PCI DSS and SOC frameworks to properly manage risk.
Please download our latest Podcast “Encryption Key Management in the Cloud” which covers these topics in greater depth and also talks about how organizations deal with High Accessibility (HA) and Disaster Recovery when their HSM is in the cloud. The podcast will also cover our new Alliance Key Manager Cloud HSM solution that lets you protect data in Amazon Web Services, in Microsoft Azure, Rack-Space, or any cloud environment where you deploy data.
Have questions or concerns about data security in the cloud? Please leave a comment here and we will get right back to you!
Make sure you don't turn a blind eye to data security!
The basic concept of converting sensitive data into a form that could not be easily understood if it was to be seen by the wrong audience goes back as far as 500 BC (Atbash Cipher), some would even argue that in 1900 BC a simple hieroglyphic substitution was the first form of cryptography. While technology has made great advancements in recent years, it has also created an even greater need for privacy of sensitive information. Whether you are the Chief Security Officer, IT personnel, or database administrator; you should know how your company is handling sensitive data. In fact, security is the responsibility of every business owner and employee. Not using secure passwords can lead to a data breach just as not following key management best practices can provide access to people with malicious intent. When awareness around data security reaches every department and individual, then the company can not only meet compliance regulations, but can benefit from effective data security. Compliance regulations require (or strongly recommend) all industries following best practices for encryption and key management . Do you know which of these apply to you and your company? For example, if you take credit cards for any reason, you fall under Payment Card Industry - Data Security Standards (PCI-DSS). Other common regulations are:
- HIPAA/HITECH ACT requires security of Protected Health Information (PHI) in the medical sector.
- GLBA/FFIEC sets regulations for banks, credit unions, credit reporting agencies, and anyone in the financial industry.
- FISMA is for Federal US Government Agencies.
- The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also gets involved with anyone who issues a privacy statement.
- More than 45 states also have their own privacy rules, in addition to the ones listed above, that strongly recommend encryption of any personally identifiable information (PII).
So, beyond compliance with regulations, why should you care about encryption… First of all, your customers, clients, and suppliers all expect you to protect their sensitive data. Effective encryption and key management can provide your company with a number of other benefits as well. Here are just a few basic benefits of effective encryption key management:
- Peace of Mind - While hackers and identity thieves are getting smarter and regulations are getting more complex, data protection technology is also improving at a rapid rate. Encryption and key management options are now available in virtual machines and cloud environments as well as hardware security modules(HSMs). How well would you sleep at night if you kept your house key under your welcome mat?
- Reputation - Whether information is lost due to a hacker or a hurricane, if a company loses all of it’s important data, the whole business could be ruined. However if sensitive data is lost because mechanisms for protecting it are not in place, then an organization has even bigger problems. The most effective way to secure data and ensure the integrity of a company is to deploy encryption and properly manage the encryption keys.
- Credibility - Beyond audit requirements, organizations need to consider the security of their customers Personally Identifiable Information (PII). Being able to protect your clients with strong key management practices can add a level of trust and confidence that will help grow your business.
Mobility is also great benefit! As more people move their data to the cloud or virtualized environments the need for encryption increases, and the importance of key management becomes even more evident. In order to maintain control over your data, and the privacy of your customers, information must not only be encrypted but kept secure while in motion, in use, or at rest. By properly managing your encryption keys, you are still in control of your data no matter who is sharing your infrastructure.
In this complimentary eBook, "Turning a Blind Eye to Data Security”, authors Kevin Beaver, CISSP; Patrick Townsend, and Todd Ostrander will teach you about:
- Tools and resources to begin the discussion about data security in your company
- 5 Common misconceptions about data security
- 6 Questions to ask your CIO
As a data security company, we talk to a lot of people concerned with keeping their systems and information safe. Compliance regulations are often the driving force behind our conversations – and these discussions are with people who can be divided into two camps – as either being proactive or reactive. The proactive group realizes that data breaches are not a matter of if, but when, and on average cost an organization over $7 million. The reactive segment is often facing a failed security audit or has experienced worse – a data breach because the proper controls were not in place.
Not very often do we have a conversation about the immediate return on investment (ROI) of deploying a security solution. Patrick Botz of Botz and Associates tells us that not only has he been having plenty of these conversations, he is helping companies save thousands of dollars a year with his SSO stat! service.
If you are a security professional, his name may sound familiar. Prior to starting his own consulting company, he was the Lead Security Architect at IBM and founder of the IBM Lab Services security consulting team.
By enabling single sign-on (SSO) with the technology that an organization already has, Patrick Botz helps businesses see a return on their investment of his services typically within 2-6 months. Recently he authored a white paper titled “A Guide to Practical Single Sign-On – The Case for Managed SSO” that takes a real-world look at single sign-on technology and offers a straightforward, sensible approach to SSO.
Rather than SSO being a technology problem, Botz asserts that managing passwords is truly a business problem. As he writes in his white paper, “The REAL purpose of SSO is to significantly reduce the high cost of managing passwords across the organization.” The ROI can be best illustrated by a story he likes to tell from when he was at IBM:
“At one point, I started tracking the time I spent changing passwords and “recovering” from those changes. I was very surprised to learn that instead of the 10-15 minutes I thought I was spending, it really was taking, on average, closer to 35-40 minutes! And I was just one of about 300,000 employees! Assuming 30 minutes on average across all employees, four times a year — that equates to 600,000 hours of time! If the average hourly rate per employee is only $20, that’s $1.2 million dollars! And that’s just for end users!”
While the primary goal of SSO is to reduce the costs associated to managing multiple passwords, it also reduces the risk of a lost or stolen password due to employee negligence. How often do we hear about confidential information “protected” with:
- Easily guessed passwords
- Written lists of passwords located under keyboards, desk drawers, etc.
- Lists of passwords stored in files on workstations or network drives
- Shared userIDs/passwords
So once an organization decides that they need an SSO solution, what should they consider before deploying one? In the white paper, Botz discusses the pros and cons of the four technical approaches to SSO, but concludes that two technologies will ultimately do the lion’s share of work (60-80%) for most companies. For these organizations, eliminating passwords with Kerberos and EIM ends up being the best starting point.
Typically, the extra cost involved in achieving 100% “Single Sign-On Nirvana” is simply not justified by the estimated costs. Further, as Botz states in his white paper, “It turns out that most businesses get the best ROI by using technology that they already own to eliminate the high cost of managing passwords – over their entire multi-platform network.” By not needing to invest in any additional technology, an organization is not responsible for any additional software licenses or maintenance fees.
After talking with Patrick Botz and reading his white paper, I am looking forward to using his SSO stat! service at Townsend Security! For more information on Single Sign-On and how it can save your organization time and resources while increasing security, download his white paper “A Guide to Practical Single Sign-On – The Case for Managed SSO.”