There’s been a lot going on in the industry since we last covered the Data Security Lifecycle, and it’s been far too long since the previous post. Today we’ll finish off our discussion of the controls technologies, and in our next post we’ll discuss supportive technologies, like Identity and Access Management and network encryption, that don’t fit neatly into the lifecycle itself. Since it’s been a while, here are links to the rest of the series:

The Data Security Lifecycle
Create and Store Technologies
Use and Share Technologies

The final two phases, Archive and Destroy, involve fewer technologies; making this one of the shorter posts. I’m sure at least a few of you will appreciate the brevity.



Encryption: As data migrates to archived storage, especially tape and other removable media, the risk of exposure through physical loss increases. In most cases losing a copy of data doesn’t result in any disclosure, but since you can’t definitively confirm that the data is safe you have to act as if it has been disclosed. This often leads to breach disclosures or other regulatory and reputation consequences.

Inline Tape Encryption: An inline network appliance to automatically compress and encrypt data as it is transferred to a tape drive or library. Solutions currently exist for fiber channel, iSCSI, and TCP/IP, with support for all major tape protocols. Support for mainframe protocols may be possible with virtual tape adapters. Best suited for quickly encrypting existing infrastructure.
Tape Drive Encryption: Hardware encryption built into the tape drive, sometimes requiring use of special tapes. Key management is typically more difficult than when using an inline appliance, mostly due to weak vendor offerings. Users state a strong preference for drive encryption in the long term, and key management is expected to improve over time, especially with the adoption of interoperability standards.
Backup Software Encryption: Software encryption built into the backup tool. Performance is significantly worse than when using hardware encryption, but for lower-volume backups (especially in distributed environments) it’s often sufficient. Users are advised to be careful when choosing this option to make sure they can effectively retain and manage keys over the life of the tapes.
Mainframe Tape Encryption- Hardware Accelerated: Some mainframes are able to use hardware crytographic accelerator cards in combination with tape encryption software. This eliminates the need for adapters or encrypted drives when creating mainframe tapes. Accelerator card support is included as an option in backup software from multiple vendors, often obviating the need to additional encryption software.
Third-Party Software Encryption: Third-party encryption software designed to work with one or more backup software packages. Some products offer performance that exceeds that of encryption built into backup software, with superior key management, or support for multiple backup packages in a heterogenous environment.
Inline SAN/NAS Encryption: An inline network appliance or feature of a SAN controller to encrypt all data moving to mass storage. Protects against physical loss of drives when SAN or NAS is used for archival storage, but does not offer separation of duties nor protection from network and software attacks.
Hard Drive Encryption (Drive Level): When hard drives are used for archival storage, drive level encryption may protect data from physical loss. As with inline SAN/NAS encryption it does not protect against network or software level attacks. Requires external key management.
Field-Level Encryption: Data already encrypted in a database is still secure in archives. In some cases, you may consider encrypting data normally left unencrypted in a live database when it moves to an archived database.
Software Encryption: For file and media encryption. Covered in the Store section. Also usable for archived storage, including CD/DVDs.

Asset Management: Since you don’t know if it’s been lost or misplaced, simply losing track of archival media can result in negative losses similar to a breach. The majority of public breach disclosures are the result of lost media (including laptops and tapes) that may or may not have ended up in the hands of the bad guys. Asset management tools, including software, tagging, and tracking technologies, reduce the risk of lost media.


Crypto-Shredding: Deliberate destruction of all encryption keys essentially destroys the data until (if ever) the encryption protocol used is broken or capable of being brute-forced within a reasonable time period. This is sufficient for nearly every use case in a private enterprise, but shouldn’t be considered acceptable for highly sensitive government data. Encryption tools must have this as a specific feature to absolutely ensure that the keys are unrecoverable. Dedicated enterprise key management tools may be needed.

Disk/Free-Space Wiping: Software or hardware designed to destroy data on hard drives and other media. At a minimum the tool should overwrite all possible space on the media 1-3 times, and 7 times is recommended for especially sensitive data. Merely formatting over data is not sufficient. Secure wiping is highly recommended for any systems with sensitive data that are sold or reused, especially laptops and desktops. File-level secure deletion tools exist when it’s necessary to destroy just a portion of data in active storage, but are not as reliable as a full media wipe.

Physical Destruction: The possibilities for physically destroying media are only limited by your imagination, but break out into two categories:

Degaussing: Use of strong magnets to scramble magnetic media like hard drives and backup tapes. Dedicated solutions should be used to ensure data is unrecoverable, and it’s highly recommended you confirm the efficiency of a degaussing tool by randomly performing forensic analysis on wiped media.
Physical Destruction: Complete physical destruction of media, focusing on shredding actual magnetic media (platters or tape).

Content Discovery: When truly sensitive data reaches end-of-life, you need to make sure that the destroyed data is really destroyed. Use of content discovery tools helps ensure that no copies or versions of the data remain accessible in the enterprise. Considering how complex our storage, archive, and backup strategies are today, this can’t absolutely guarantee the data is unrecoverable, but it does reduce the risk of subsequent retrieval.

DLP/CMF/CMP Discovery: Use of the discovery features of your DLP solution.
Storage/Data Classification: Discussed in Store phase.
Enterprise Search: If the data has clear markers, basic enterprise search tools can help locate orphan copies.
Electronic Discovery: Tools dedicated to the electronic discovery of data for legal proceedings. Quite likely the same tools that will be used to search for destroyed data if there’s ever a reason to attempt to recover it in the future.
Database-Specific Discovery: Discussed in the Store phase.

As with all of the Data Security Lifecycle, I expect this to evolve over time, especially as new technologies emerge and existing technologies consolidate.