|By Elad Yoran||
|May 19, 2014 10:00 AM EDT||
Encryption in Use – Fact and Fiction
Risk-conscious enterprises across the globe have been reluctant to embrace the public cloud model. For many, compliance requirements are the source of the reluctance. For others, concerns about ceding control of their data to a cloud service provider, without the cloud service provider accepting liability for customer data, is the major hurdle. Conforming to data residency regulations, when implementing a distributed services model, present a further complication. Even as these challenges to adoption loom large, the economics and productivity benefits of cloud-based services remain compelling. For these organizations to make the transition to the cloud, a range of elements must be in place, including continuous monitoring of the cloud service provider’s data center, enforcement of appropriate service level agreements, data classification and definition of internal processes to manage cloud-based services. Encryption in use is a critical piece of this puzzle, since it provides a mechanism for the enterprise to extend their boundary of control to their data stored and processed within the cloud service provider's environment. However, not all encryption in use is created equally, secure, and a generic. A one size fits all approach is likely to fall short in providing a balance between security and functionality.
The Case for Encryption in Use
For almost as long as the field of information security has been in existence, encryption of data at rest and encryption of data in transit have served as cornerstone technologies to prevent access to sensitive, proprietary, confidential or regulated data. Both forms of encryption operate through exchange and presentation of a combination of public and private keys that unlock the encrypted data. The great step forward for modern cryptography was the idea that the key that you use to encrypt your data could be made public while the key that is used to decrypt your data could be kept private. The purpose of both is to ensure that only users or systems with access to the key could access the data.
Encryption in use provides functionality that is almost counter-intuitive to the purpose behind modern encryption for data at rest and data in transit, working to ensure that the data remains in an encrypted state, even as users interact with the data, performing operations like search or sort, for example. However, just like encryption for other states of data, encryption in use serves a clear need. Without encryption in use, organizations cannot retain ownership and control of their data stored and processed in a cloud-based service – whether control is required to address security, compliance, data residency, privacy or governance needs. Encryption in use is similar to format preserving encryption in that it is applied in real time, but allows for a far broader range of cloud service functionality and feature support.
Encryption in use enables enterprises to independently secure their data stored and processed at cloud service providers – while holding on to the encryption keys. The ongoing revelations of government surveillance that are supported by laws compelling cloud service providers to hand over customer data, highlight the challenge that end users face of meeting their obligations to retain direct control of their cloud data. The recent set of recommendations from the Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies appointed by the White House focused on implementing better privacy steps is only the first step in revisiting policies.
Because encryption in use is an emerging area, the technology can be easily misunderstood, or even easily misrepresented. Typically, encryption in use entails the use of a gateway, or proxy, architecture. The user accesses the application via the gateway – whether the application server is in the cloud or on premise. The key to decrypt the data resides in the gateway (or in an integrated HSM), ensuring that data stored and processed at the server is persistently encrypted, even as the encryption is entirely transparent to the user. Were the user to access the server directly, bypassing the gateway, the data would simply appear as a string of encrypted gibberish. As long as the gateway remains under the data owner’s control, only authorized users can gain access to the data stored and processed at the cloud service provider, or other third party.
In the event that the cloud service provider is required to hand over customer data in response to a government subpoena, they must their meet their legal obligation. However, if encryption in use has been implemented, the service provider can only hand over encrypted gibberish. The request for data must then be directed to the entity that holds the encryption keys. Likewise, a rogue administrator, a hacker or government entity would only be able view unintelligible gibberish if they gained access to the user account.
Not Some Kind of Magic
In order to deliver on the promise of encryption in use, the gateway must deliver on a robust set of functionality requirements: comprehensive service functionality and water-tight security based on a strong encryption scheme. What this means in practical terms is that the entirety of the service’s functional elements and behavior must be mapped, and that the encryption scheme must allow for preserving functionality without compromising security. This is because the gateway must recreate the session for the cloud-facing leg, and transpose encrypted data into the flow without disrupting functionality like search, sort and index. Otherwise, the user experience is degraded, and the value proposition of the cloud-based service of improving productivity is undermined.
Vendors face another set of choices: take shortcuts to cover as much ground to provide a superficial sense of security, or invest in extensive R&D work to deliver the optimal balance between functionality and strong security. For instance, vendors can opt to provide encryption for a just a few data fields, out of hundreds or even a few thousand, to encompass a specific subset of the enterprise’s information. Equally, they can choose to implement a cloud data encryption scheme that preserves features relying on referential integrity such as sort, search and index that is easily reversible by attackers.
By way of illustration, if the scheme involves deterministically encrypting words into very short AES blocks, the encoding pattern is consistent enough for common attacks to yield clear text from what might appear to be encrypted text. There are a variety of iterative attacks such as chosen plaintext attacks that will yield clear text if the encryption relies on a simplistic and consistent encoding pattern. So while the data may appear to be encrypted, and less engineering resources are required to support application features and functionality, the data protection in place is barely skin deep.
Encryption in use is not a kind of magic – it requires dedicated engineering expertise, with collaboration between infrastructure, information security and encryption experts. And, the encryption scheme must be tailored to a specific application or service to deliver on the appropriate balance of security and functionality.
Another significant consideration is evaluating encryption in use in the context of a specific application or service. From the customer’s perspective, it is appealing to use a single encryption platform for multiple applications. No customer wants to have to manage multiple appliances, management interfaces and vendors. The reality, however, is that to strike an acceptable balance for any risk conscious organization between security and functionality requires deep application knowledge and encryption-in-use expertise. Dig a little deeper on degree of support, or risk a gamble on production readiness. The degree of support is as critical as the extent of support.
Evaluating Encryption in Use Claims
Can enterprises rely on a standard validation for encryption in use? Precisely because encryption in use is a new area, third-party validation is a critical requirement before it is implemented in production environments. Unfortunately, the current set of standard validation and certification tests have limited applicability.
The most frequently cited third-party validation by vendors in the space is FIPS 140-2 validation. As critical as 140-2 validation is as an evaluation benchmark, and specifically required under some federal procurement mandates, it has some limitations for encryption in use.
Taking a step backward, its important to note the scope of FIPS validation. The process essentially verifies that the algorithms are implemented according to defined specifications. However, it does not provide any validation about how the platform would use the cryptographic module in order to support encryption in use.
For instance, the FIPS validation doesn't outline a set of best practices on how to use the cryptographic module. Instead, it verifies that whenever the system invokes AES encryption, the module performs AES encryption according to the standard specification. FIPS validation is limited to the cryptographic modules used, not the overall integrity of the platform, or the encryption scheme used in production environments. While FIPS validation is an important consideration, enterprises should be aware of its limitations as the sole third party validation for encryption. In an outside world example, validation would demonstrate that a $500 bicycle lock is impervious to any lock picking attempts, but when used to lock a bike to a fire hydrant, it does nothing to protect the bike from a thief simply lifting the bike up and driving away.
Hopefully this has been useful in helping you to determine the right approach your organization can take to secure and maintain control of your data. I look forward to hearing any further points I might have missed.
"BSQUARE is in the business of selling software solutions for smart connected devices. It's obvious that IoT has moved from being a technology to being a fundamental part of business, and in the last 18 months people have said let's figure out how to do it and let's put some focus on it, " explained Dave Wagstaff, VP & Chief Architect, at BSQUARE Corporation, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Dec. 20, 2014 12:00 PM EST Reads: 2,545
The major cloud platforms defy a simple, side-by-side analysis. Each of the major IaaS public-cloud platforms offers their own unique strengths and functionality. Options for on-site private cloud are diverse as well, and must be designed and deployed while taking existing legacy architecture and infrastructure into account. Then the reality is that most enterprises are embarking on a hybrid cloud strategy and programs. In this Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo (http://www.CloudComputingExpo.com...
Dec. 20, 2014 11:30 AM EST Reads: 3,093
SYS-CON Events announced today that Windstream, a leading provider of advanced network and cloud communications, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9–11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Windstream (Nasdaq: WIN), a FORTUNE 500 and S&P 500 company, is a leading provider of advanced network communications, including cloud computing and managed services, to businesses nationwide. The company also offers broadband, p...
Dec. 20, 2014 10:45 AM EST Reads: 2,879
“We help people build clusters, in the classical sense of the cluster. We help people put a full stack on top of every single one of those machines. We do the full bare metal install," explained Greg Bruno, Vice President of Engineering and co-founder of StackIQ, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 15th Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Dec. 19, 2014 11:45 PM EST Reads: 2,088
DevOps Summit 2015 New York, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that it is now accepting Keynote Proposals. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long development cycles that produce software that is obsolete...
Dec. 18, 2014 09:45 PM EST Reads: 1,893
"People are a lot more knowledgeable about APIs now. There are two types of people who work with APIs - IT people who want to use APIs for something internal and the product managers who want to do something outside APIs for people to connect to them," explained Roberto Medrano, Executive Vice President at SOA Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Dec. 18, 2014 09:00 AM EST Reads: 2,303
“We are a managed services company. We have taken the key aspects of the cloud and the purposed data center and merged the two together and launched the Purposed Cloud about 18–24 months ago," explained Chetan Patwardhan, CEO of Stratogent, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 15th Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Dec. 18, 2014 09:00 AM EST Reads: 1,973
The Internet of Things is a misnomer. That implies that everything is on the Internet, and that simply should not be - especially for things that are blurring the line between medical devices that stimulate like a pacemaker and quantified self-sensors like a pedometer or pulse tracker. The mesh of things that we manage must be segmented into zones of trust for sensing data, transmitting data, receiving command and control administrative changes, and peer-to-peer mesh messaging. In his session a...
Dec. 17, 2014 11:15 PM EST Reads: 2,266
"At our booth we are showing how to provide trust in the Internet of Things. Trust is where everything starts to become secure and trustworthy. Now with the scaling of the Internet of Things it becomes an interesting question – I've heard numbers from 200 billion devices next year up to a trillion in the next 10 to 15 years," explained Johannes Lintzen, Vice President of Sales at Utimaco, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in San...
Dec. 17, 2014 11:00 PM EST Reads: 2,270
As enterprises engage with Big Data technologies to develop applications needed to meet operational demands, new computation fabrics are continually being introduced. To leverage these new innovations, organizations are sacrificing market opportunities to gain expertise in learning new systems. In his session at Big Data Expo, Supreet Oberoi, Vice President of Field Engineering at Concurrent, Inc., discussed how to leverage existing infrastructure and investments and future-proof them against e...
Dec. 17, 2014 10:00 PM EST Reads: 2,275
"Desktop as a Service is emerging as a very big trend. One of the big influencers of this – for Esri – is that we have a large user base that uses virtualization and they are looking at Desktop as a Service right now," explained John Meza, Product Engineer at Esri, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Dec. 17, 2014 07:00 PM EST Reads: 2,369
SYS-CON Events announced today that Gridstore™, the leader in hyper-converged infrastructure purpose-built to optimize Microsoft workloads, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Gridstore™ is the leader in hyper-converged infrastructure purpose-built for Microsoft workloads and designed to accelerate applications in virtualized environments. Gridstore’s hyper-converged infrastructure is the ...
Dec. 17, 2014 06:30 PM EST Reads: 2,210
We certainly live in interesting technological times. And no more interesting than the current competing IoT standards for connectivity. Various standards bodies, approaches, and ecosystems are vying for mindshare and positioning for a competitive edge. It is clear that when the dust settles, we will have new protocols, evolved protocols, that will change the way we interact with devices and infrastructure. We will also have evolved web protocols, like HTTP/2, that will be changing the very core...
Dec. 16, 2014 11:45 PM EST Reads: 2,235
SYS-CON Events announced today that Creative Business Solutions will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Creative Business Solutions is the top stocking authorized HP Renew Distributor in the U.S. Based out of Long Island, NY, Creative Business Solutions offers a one-stop shop for a diverse range of products including Proliant, Blade and Industry Standard Servers, Networking, Server Options and...
Dec. 16, 2014 09:30 PM EST Reads: 1,800
You use an agile process; your goal is to make your organization more agile. But what about your data infrastructure? The truth is, today's databases are anything but agile - they are effectively static repositories that are cumbersome to work with, difficult to change, and cannot keep pace with application demands. Performance suffers as a result, and it takes far longer than it should to deliver new features and capabilities needed to make your organization competitive. As your application an...
Dec. 16, 2014 08:00 PM EST Reads: 2,109
An effective way of thinking in Big Data is composed of a methodical framework for dealing with the predicted shortage of 50-60% of the qualified Big Data resources in the U.S. This holistic model comprises the scientific and engineering steps that are involved in accelerating Big Data solutions: problem, diagnosis, facts, analysis, hypothesis, solution, prototype and implementation. In his session at Big Data Expo®, Tony Shan focused on the concept, importance, and considerations for each of t...
Dec. 16, 2014 05:00 PM EST Reads: 1,959
The 3rd International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that its Call for Papers is now open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.
Dec. 15, 2014 10:30 AM EST Reads: 8,213
In their session at @ThingsExpo, Shyam Varan Nath, Principal Architect at GE, and Ibrahim Gokcen, who leads GE's advanced IoT analytics, focused on the Internet of Things / Industrial Internet and how to make it operational for business end-users. Learn about the challenges posed by machine and sensor data and how to marry it with enterprise data. They also discussed the tips and tricks to provide the Industrial Internet as an end-user consumable service using Big Data Analytics and Industrial C...
Dec. 15, 2014 10:00 AM EST Reads: 2,443
As the Internet of Things unfolds, mobile and wearable devices are blurring the line between physical and digital, integrating ever more closely with our interests, our routines, our daily lives. Contextual computing and smart, sensor-equipped spaces bring the potential to walk through a world that recognizes us and responds accordingly. We become continuous transmitters and receivers of data. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Andrew Bolwell, Director of Innovation for HP's Printing and Personal S...
Dec. 15, 2014 10:00 AM EST Reads: 3,342