IaaS Encryption: How to Choose

There is no single right way to pick the best encryption option. Which is ‘best’ depends on a ton of factors including the specifics of the cloud deployment, what you already have for key management or encryption, the nature of the data, and so on. That said, here are some guidelines that should work in most cases. Volume Storage Always use external key management. Instance-managed encryption is only acceptable for test/development systems you know will never go into production. For sensitive data in public cloud computing choose a system with protection for keys in volatile memory (RAM). Don’t use a cloud’s native encryption capabilities if you have any concern that a cloud administrator is a risk. In private clouds you may also need a product that protects keys in memory if sensitive data is encrypted in instances sharing physical hosts with untrusted instances that could perform a memory attack. Pick a product designed to handle the more dynamic cloud computing environment. Specifically one with workflow for rapidly provisioning keys to cloud instances and API support for the cloud platform you use. If you need to encrypt boot volumes and not just attached storage volumes, select a product with a client that includes that capability, but make sure it works for the operating systems you use for your instances. On the other hand, don’t assume you need boot volume support – it all depends on how you architect cloud applications. The two key features to look for, after platform/topology support, are granular key management (role-based with good isolation/segregation) and good reporting. Know your compliance requirements and use hardware (such as an HSM) if needed for root key storage. Key management services may reduce the overhead of building your own key infrastructure if you are comfortable with how they handle key security. As cloud natives they may also offer other performance and management advantages, but this varies widely between products and cloud platforms/services. It is hard to be more specific without knowing more about the cloud deployment but these questions should get you moving in the right direction. The main things to understand before you start looking for a product are: What cloud platform(s) are we on? Are we using public or private cloud, or both? Does our encryption need to be standardized between the two? What operating systems will our instances run? What are our compliance and reporting requirements? Do we need boot volume encryption for instances? (Don’t assume this – it isn’t always a requirement). Do root keys need to be stored in hardware? (Generally a compliance requirement because virtual appliances or software servers are actually quite secure). What is our cloud and application topology? How often (and where) will we be provisioning keys? Object storage For server-based object storage, such as you use to back an application, a cloud encryption gateway is likely your best option. Use a system where you manage the keys – not your cloud provider – and don’t store those keys in the cloud. For supporting users on services like Dropbox, use a software client/agent with centralized key management. If you want to support mobile devices make sure the product you select has apps for the mobile platforms you support. As you can see, figuring out object storage encryption is usually much easier than volume storage. Conclusion Encryption is our best tool protecting cloud data. It allows us to separate security from the cloud infrastructure without losing the advantages of cloud computing. By splitting key management from the data storage and encryption engines, it supports a wide array of deployment options and use cases. We can now store data in multi-tenant systems and services without compromising security. In this series we focused on protecting data in IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) environments but keep in mind that alternate encryption options, including encrypting data when you collect it in an application, might be a better choice or an additional option for greater granularity. Encrypting cloud data can be more complex than on traditional infrastructure, but once you understand the basics adapting your approach shouldn’t be too difficult. The key is to remember that you shouldn’t try to merely replicate how you encrypt and manage keys (assuming you even do) in your traditional infrastructure. Understand how you use the cloud and adapt your approach so encryption becomes an enabler – not an obstacle to moving forward with cloud computing. Share:

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Security earnings season in full swing

Most folks think you need to be a day trading financial junkie to have any interest in quarterly earnings releases and/or conference call transcripts. But you can learn a lot from following the results of your strategic security vendors and companies you don’t do business with, but who would like to do business with you. You can glean stuff about overall market health, significant problem spaces, technology innovation, and business execution. For instance, if you are thinking about upgrading your perimeter network security gear you have a bunch of options, most of them public companies. You cannot going much about Cisco, Juniper, IBM, Dell, or HP through their conference calls. Security is barely a rounding error for those technology behemoths, although a company like Intel does talk a little bit about its McAfee division because it is key to its growth prospects. But if you pay attention to the smaller public companies, such as Symantec, Check Point, Fortinet, Palo Alto, Sourcefire, Imperva, Websense, Qualys, etc., you can learn about how those bigger companies are competing. You need to keep in mind that you get a very (very very) skewed perspective, but it provides some ammo when challenging sales reps from those big companies. You can also learn a lot about business. How certain channel strategies work, or don’t work, which can help optimize how you procure technology. You can get a feel for R&D spend by your key vendors, which is important to the health of their new product pipelines. You should also read the Q&A transcripts, where investment analysts ask about different geographies, margins, product growth, and a host of other things. This information cannot help you configure your devices more effectively, but it does help you understand the folks you do business with, and feel better about writing big checks to your strategic vendors. Especially when you know the big deal they mention in the conference call is you. Here is a list of transcripts for the major publicly traded security companies. And if your favorite company (or the one in your 401k) isn’t here, it’s likely because they haven’t announced their Q1 results yet (like Splunk), or they may still be private. Symantec FQ4 2013 Earnings Call Transcript Check Point Q1 2013 Earnings Call Transcript Fortinet Q1 2013 Earnings Call Transcript Sourcefire Q1 2013 Earnings Call Transcript Qualys Q1 2013 Earnings Call Transcript Imperva Q1 2013 Earnings Call Transcript Websense Q1 2013 Earnings Call Transcript Proofpoint Q1 2013 Earnings Call Transcript SolarWinds Q1 2013 Earnings Call Transcript VASCO Data Security Q1 2013 Earnings Call Transcript Zix Q1 2013 Earnings Call Transcript That should keep you busy for a little while… Photo credit: “scrooge-mcduck” originally uploaded by KentonNgo Share:

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Database Breach Results in $45M Theft

Today’s big news is the hack against banking systems to pre-authenticate thousands of ATM and pre-paid debit cards. The attackers essentially modified debit card databases in several Middle Eastern banks, then leveraged their virtual cards into cash. From AP Newswire: Hackers got into bank databases, eliminated withdrawal limits on pre-paid debit cards and created access codes. Others loaded that data onto any plastic card with a magnetic stripe – an old hotel key card or an expired credit card worked fine as long as they carried the account data and correct access codes. A network of operatives then fanned out to rapidly withdraw money in multiple cities, authorities said. The cells would take a cut of the money, then launder it through expensive purchases or ship it wholesale to the global ringleaders. Lynch didn’t say where they were located. The targets were reserves held by the banks to fund pre-paid credit cards, not individual account holders, Lynch said … calling it a ”virtual criminal flash mob,”. The plundered ATMs were in Japan, Russia, Romania, Egypt, Colombia, Britain, Sri Lanka, Canada and several other countries, and law enforcement agencies from more than a dozen nations were involved in the investigation, U.S. prosecutors said It’s not clear how many of the thieves have been caught, or what percentage of the cash has been retrieved. Apparently this was the second attack, with the first successfully pulling $5 million from ATMs. Police only caught up with some of the attackers on the second attack, after they had managed to steal another $40M. How the thefts were detected is not clear, but it appears that it was part of a murder investigation of one of the suspects, and not fraud detection software within the banking system. The banks are eager to point to the use of mag stripe cards as the key issue here, but if your database is owned an attacker can direct funds to any account Share:

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