Choosing Your Key Management Strategy

In our last post we covered the four enterprise key management strategies. Today we will finish off Pragmatic Key Management with recommendations on how to pick the right strategy for your project or organization. To recap, there are four key management strategies: Local management Silo management Key management service Enterprise key management As much as I would like to drag this out into a long and complex assessment process, it’s actually fairly simple: You should never use local key management for anything other than development, testing, and one-off applications. About the only thing I use it for is some personal encryption, and not even much of that. Stick with silo management if it meets your needs, but this generally only works for encryption-oriented silos such as full disk encryption, email, and a couple other cases. By ‘needs’ I mean everything from basic manageability and auditing/reporting all the way through administrator separation of duties, key rotation/backup/restore, multi-location key synchronization and replication, and all sorts of other requirements beyond the scope of this series. When local and silo won’t work, a key management service is the way to go. Full enterprise key management is nice to have, but not something to focus on at the start. If you do stick with silo management but need a key manager for another project, it is often worthwhile to transition your siloed applications over to the key manager; once you have a key manager you might as well take advantage of it for backup, restore, redundancy, and other management features. The key is to think strategically. Once you start managing multiple encryption applications, you will eventually move into some sort of dedicated key manager. To build a key management service, pick a platform that will grow as you increase usage – even if the first deployment is narrowly scoped. People often start with a single application, database, or storage encryption project – a silo where key management is poor or doesn’t exist. But don’t choose purely based on immediate requirements – pick something that meets your immediate needs and can expand into other areas, for example by providing a backup key manager for disk encryption. We see two common problems when people build key management strategies. The first is that they don’t build strategically. Everyone buys or builds key management for each project, rather than offering and taking advantage of a central service whenever possible. On the other end of the spectrum, organizations obsess over implementing enterprise key management but forget to properly managing their silos and projects. We see the best success when organizations plan strategically and then grow into broader key management. Practically speaking, this typically starts with a single project using a dedicated key manager, which is then expanded and leveraged for other complementary projects. It’s fine to keep some silos, and it’s okay to have key managers in their own silos when there is no need to plug them into something larger. For example, you don’t necessarily need to have both your database encryption and full disk encryption projects report up to a single enterprise key manager. We have mentioned this before, but sweet spots which may justify moving up to a key manager include: Backup encryption Database encryption Application encryption In all three areas we tend to see strong need for encryption but weak key management. To recap: avoid local management; silos are fine when they meet your needs; step projects up to key managers when it makes sense for the project; expand coverage over time; and stick with one platform for cleaner management when feasible. Key management and how you structure your crypto system both matter more than the encryption engine itself. We haven’t discussed key manager selection criteria (fodder for a future report); but it should be obvious that deployment is easier when products support standards, include good APIs and plugins, and play well out of the box with common platforms and software. You should now have a much better idea of how data encryption systems work, the different strategies for managing encryption keys, and how to pick the best one for your organization. Share:

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Incite 6/20/2012: That Smell

Most folks have sights, sounds, and smells that remind them of positive experiences. Maybe from happy childhood days or a great time of life. For me, it’s the smell of the ocean. My Dad always had a boat and I remember some great times sailing on his catamaran as I was growing up. I didn’t spend a lot of time with my Dad growing up, so I loved being out on the water. And we’d bring a bucket of KFC with us, which was also a highlight. Strange, the things you remember 35 years later, eh? But that’s not all. I met the Boss at the beach and spent many a great summer on the Delaware beaches. What I remember of those summers anyway. So when we arrive at the beach for our annual family vacation, one of the first things I do is walk down to the beach, sit on a bench, and just breathe in the air. I’m instantly relaxed. In fact, when I travel I use a sound machine to eliminate the noise of strange hotels and weirdos in adjoining rooms. Surprised that I sleep to Ocean Waves Crashing? Yeah, me neither. Of course I am surrounded by family for an entire week, so that feeling is fleeting, but the beach calms me. It’s one of the things I really miss about living in Atlanta – the lack of easily accessible beaches. But before you conclude that I don’t like my family, that’s not true. As I was explaining to some folks at last week’s Atlanta NAISG meeting, it’s hard for me to be surrounded by people for an extended period of time. I’m pretty much a textbook introvert, and that means if I don’t get my private time, it can get messy. So even if I like the people I’m around (and I do like my family, well, most of them…), I still need some time to myself. So I have set expectations over 15+ years of marriage, that I usually peel off each morning for a cup of coffee and to catch up on some work. Yes, I’m one of those guys who works on vacation. Not a lot, maybe a couple hours a day. But enough to not fall terribly behind and to get my private time. And before you start thinking about my workaholic issues, remember that I actually enjoy what I do. Most of the time it doesn’t feel like work to me. As I sit in a coffee shop, about to head down to the boardwalk with the family this afternoon, I bang out the Incite and everything is perfect. Perfect doesn’t last and it doesn’t scale, so I’ll enjoy it while it’s here. Now where’s that sunscreen again? –Mike Photo credits: What’s That Smell? originally uploaded by ambergris Heavy Research We’re back at work on a variety of series, so here is a list of the research currently underway. Remember you can get our Heavy Feed via RSS, where you can get all our content in its unabridged glory. And you can get all our research papers too. Understanding and Selecting Data Masking Use Cases Management and Advanced Features Pragmatic Key Management The Four Enterprise Key Management Strategies Understanding Data Encryption Systems Evolving Endpoint Malware Detection Providing Context Behavioral Indicators Defending Data on iOS New Paper Malware Analysis Quant Final Paper Incite 4 U Or maybe build a cyber-guillotine: It seems the folks over in the UK did a study that concluded too much is spent on AV and not enough on prosecuting online criminals. Obviously no one is going to argue that spending more on controls with limited effectiveness is a plan for success. But will going after perpetrators with more urgency help? Will a few more midnight raids on high-profile hackers prevent the next generation of malcontents from joining fraud networks? I say it’s worth a try, though in an instant gratification environment it’ll be hard to prove the success of that approach in the average politician’s term of office. But even in places with severe consequences such as losing limbs, we still have desperate folks and bad apples committing crimes, consequences be damned. But I do think folks who could go either way might make the right decision if they have a better (and more tangible) understanding of what the wrong decision may mean. – MR Moley moley moley mole MOLE! (Apologies for the only slightly-obscure reference in the title). I hate debunking hyperbole that’s probably also true. Such as Mikko Hypponen’s assertion that the US government probably has moles in Microsoft. He doesn’t have a single shred of evidence to support his logical conclusion. Then again, I’d be shocked if various agencies from various countries haven’t placed people in all sorts of companies. Is there backdoor code hidden in products? Who knows… although places like Microsoft with strong software assurance programs are much less likely to let something get through unknowingly. This is a complex issue, and pure supposition doesn’t really advance the discussion. Let’s admit that none of us really know what we are talking about, and the people who do aren’t talking. – RM Attacks come and go, but the monoculture is eternal: Great analysis by Augusto (finally able to dig through my Instapaper archives on ‘vacation’) on the impact of Chrome becoming the most popular browser. Basically, like mobile operating systems, browsers are being built with better protection, and with 4-5 main players there is huge fragmentation. So attackers (wisely) continue to focusing on the lowest hanging fruit: widely deployed apps with huge market penetration. Right, like Adobe Flash and Reader. Augusto references Dan Geer’s seminal monoculture essay, and the point is exactly right. There will always be high market share products/devices/widgets which represent the most attractive targets. HTML 5 will provide standards and get rid of things like Flash, but to think you can’t attack the successors (including HTML5 in browsers) is naive. So the attacks will change. The motivations of attackers

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