Click here to close now.


SDN Journal Authors: Lori MacVittie, Liz McMillan, Dinko Eror, Pat Romanski, Peter Silva

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Java IoT, Microservices Expo, Containers Expo Blog, Cloud Security, @BigDataExpo

@CloudExpo: Article

Encryption in Use Deep Dive

What you need to know to secure and control your data

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.

More Stories By Elad Yoran

Elad is Chairman and CEO of cloud encryption company, Vaultive. His nearly 20 years in the cyber security industry spans experience as an executive, consultant, investor, investment banker and a several-time successful entrepreneur. Elad’s entrepreneurial experience includes Riptech, the pioneering provider of managed security services to governments and Fortune 500 corporations around the world, acquired by Symantec Corporation, Sentrigo, a leading provider of database security recently acquired by McAfee, and MediaSentry, a provider of anti-piracy technology solutions to the motion picture, music and software industries, acquired by SafeNet. Elad has also served as Vice President, Global Business Development at Symantec and as Vice President at Broadview International (acquired by Jeffries), an investment bank focusing on mergers and acquisitions in the technology industry, where he led the firm’s information security practice. Elad has been recognized as “Entrepreneur of the Year” by Ernst & Young.

@CloudExpo Stories
Data loss happens, even in the cloud. In fact, if your company has adopted a cloud application in the past three years, data loss has probably happened, whether you know it or not. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Bryan Forrester, Senior Vice President of Sales at eFolder, will present how common and costly cloud application data loss is and what measures you can take to protect your organization from data loss.
SYS-CON Events announced today that G2G3 will exhibit at SYS-CON's @DevOpsSummit Silicon Valley, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Based on a collective appreciation for user experience, design, and technology, G2G3 is uniquely qualified and motivated to redefine how organizations and people engage in an increasingly digital world.
SYS-CON Events announced today that IBM Cloud Data Services has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 17th Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. IBM Cloud Data Services offers a portfolio of integrated, best-of-breed cloud data services for developers focused on mobile computing and analytics use cases.
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Tony Shan, Chief Architect at CTS, will explore the synergy of Big Data and IoT. First he will take a closer look at the Internet of Things and Big Data individually, in terms of what, which, why, where, when, who, how and how much. Then he will explore the relationship between IoT and Big Data. Specifically, he will drill down to how the 4Vs aspects intersect with IoT: Volume, Variety, Velocity and Value. In turn, Tony will analyze how the key components of IoT ...
When it comes to IoT in the enterprise, namely the commercial building and hospitality markets, a benefit not getting the attention it deserves is energy efficiency, and IoT’s direct impact on a cleaner, greener environment when installed in smart buildings. Until now clean technology was offered piecemeal and led with point solutions that require significant systems integration to orchestrate and deploy. There didn't exist a 'top down' approach that can manage and monitor the way a Smart Buildi...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cloud Raxak has been named “Media & Session Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 17th Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Raxak Protect automates security compliance across private and public clouds. Using the SaaS tool or managed service, developers can deploy cloud apps quickly, cost-effectively, and without error.
As-a-service models offer huge opportunities, but also complicate security. It may seem that the easiest way to migrate to a new architectural model is to let others, experts in their field, do the work. This has given rise to many as-a-service models throughout the industry and across the entire technology stack, from software to infrastructure. While this has unlocked huge opportunities to accelerate the deployment of new capabilities or increase economic efficiencies within an organization, i...
“All our customers are looking at the cloud ecosystem as an important part of their overall product strategy. Some see it evolve as a multi-cloud / hybrid cloud strategy, while others are embracing all forms of cloud offerings like PaaS, IaaS and SaaS in their solutions,” noted Suhas Joshi, Vice President – Technology, at Harbinger Group, in this exclusive Q&A with Cloud Expo Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff.
SYS-CON Events announced today that ProfitBricks, the provider of painless cloud infrastructure, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. ProfitBricks is the IaaS provider that offers a painless cloud experience for all IT users, with no learning curve. ProfitBricks boasts flexible cloud servers and networking, an integrated Data Center Designer tool for visual control over the...
You have your devices and your data, but what about the rest of your Internet of Things story? Two popular classes of technologies that nicely handle the Big Data analytics for Internet of Things are Apache Hadoop and NoSQL. Hadoop is designed for parallelizing analytical work across many servers and is ideal for the massive data volumes you create with IoT devices. NoSQL databases such as Apache HBase are ideal for storing and retrieving IoT data as “time series data.”
Clearly the way forward is to move to cloud be it bare metal, VMs or containers. One aspect of the current public clouds that is slowing this cloud migration is cloud lock-in. Every cloud vendor is trying to make it very difficult to move out once a customer has chosen their cloud. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Naveen Nimmu, CEO of Clouber, Inc., will advocate that making the inter-cloud migration as simple as changing airlines would help the entire industry to quickly adopt the cloud wit...
As the world moves towards more DevOps and microservices, application deployment to the cloud ought to become a lot simpler. The microservices architecture, which is the basis of many new age distributed systems such as OpenStack, NetFlix and so on, is at the heart of Cloud Foundry - a complete developer-oriented Platform as a Service (PaaS) that is IaaS agnostic and supports vCloud, OpenStack and AWS. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Raghavan "Rags" Srinivas, an Architect/Developer Evangeli...
SYS-CON Events announced today that VividCortex, the monitoring solution for the modern data system, will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. The database is the heart of most applications, but it’s also the part that’s hardest to scale, monitor, and optimize even as it’s growing 50% year over year. VividCortex is the first unified suite of database monitoring tools specifically desi...
Organizations already struggle with the simple collection of data resulting from the proliferation of IoT, lacking the right infrastructure to manage it. They can't only rely on the cloud to collect and utilize this data because many applications still require dedicated infrastructure for security, redundancy, performance, etc. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Emil Sayegh, CEO of Codero Hosting, will discuss how in order to resolve the inherent issues, companies need to combine dedicated a...
Cloud computing delivers on-demand resources that provide businesses with flexibility and cost-savings. The challenge in moving workloads to the cloud has been the cost and complexity of ensuring the initial and ongoing security and regulatory (PCI, HIPAA, FFIEC) compliance across private and public clouds. Manual security compliance is slow, prone to human error, and represents over 50% of the cost of managing cloud applications. Determining how to automate cloud security compliance is critical...
Culture is the most important ingredient of DevOps. The challenge for most organizations is defining and communicating a vision of beneficial DevOps culture for their organizations, and then facilitating the changes needed to achieve that. Often this comes down to an ability to provide true leadership. As a CIO, are your direct reports IT managers or are they IT leaders? The hard truth is that many IT managers have risen through the ranks based on their technical skills, not their leadership ab...
Learn how Backup as a Service can help your customer base protect their data. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Stefaan Vervaet, Director of Strategic Alliances at HGST, will discuss the challenges of data protection in an era of exploding storage requirements, show you the benefits of a backup service for your cloud customers, and explain how the HGST Active Archive and CommVault are already enabling this service today with customer examples.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Key Information Systems, Inc. (KeyInfo), a leading cloud and infrastructure provider offering integrated solutions to enterprises, will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Key Information Systems is a leading regional systems integrator with world-class compute, storage and networking solutions and professional services for the most advanced softwa...
Apps and devices shouldn't stop working when there's limited or no network connectivity. Learn how to bring data stored in a cloud database to the edge of the network (and back again) whenever an Internet connection is available. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Bradley Holt, Developer Advocate at IBM Cloud Data Services, will demonstrate techniques for replicating cloud databases with devices in order to build offline-first mobile or Internet of Things (IoT) apps that can provide a better, ...
Cloud Foundry open Platform as a Service makes it easy to operate, scale and deploy application for your dedicated cloud environments. It enables developers and operators to be significantly more agile, writing great applications and deliver them in days instead of months. Cloud Foundry takes care of all the infrastructure and network plumbing that you need to build, run and operate your applications and can do this while patching and updating systems and services without any downtime.