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Townsend Security Data Privacy Blog

What Has VMware Done to Help with Encryption Security? [Part 2 of 8]

Posted by Patrick Townsend on Oct 21, 2020 12:15:00 PM

VMware has been very sensitive to the security needs of its Enterprise customers. They know that VMware infrastructure and applications are critical to an organization’s overall security. Network segmentation, access controls, monitoring and many other VMware applications help the MSP protect their customer’s applications and data. When it comes to encryption of sensitive data, VMware has your back, too!

VMware Cloud Providers & MSPs - Win New BusinessEncryption of VMs was introduced with vSphere 6.5. With this version you could easily select VMs that you want to be encrypted, and quickly and easily start encryption. The MSP VMware administrator can easily see which VMs are encrypted and which were not. Of course, the architecture fit right into the normal VMware architecture. vCenter, vSphere, ESXi all come into play during the implementation and maintenance of the encrypted state of the VMs. A real bonus is that the performance of encrypted VMs is stellar. MSPs rarely need to add additional resources to implement encryption of VMs.

Encryption of vSAN was introduced in vSAN 6.6. The implementation of encryption support is quite different than encryption of VMs, but the encryption key management interface is exactly the same (more on that below). vSAN encryption has been a boon to MSPs. Typically the MSP has relied on storage hardware encryption which often is less expensive, but harder to manage. And encryption key management is generally weak in hardware solutions. Using vSAN lets the MSP integrate the rich set of VMware applications and security. With vSAN encryption you get a flexible place to store commercial and open source databases, big data repositories, and much more. All encrypted efficiently by VMware.

Some MSP customers want to implement TPM to protect their application OS images. Hardware based TPM has many disadvantages in a VMware environment. However, VMware now supports virtual TPM (vTPM) which is much more flexible and resilient in VMware infrastructure. And the good news is that vTPM handles key management in the same was as vSphere encryption of VMs and vSAN encryption of directories. A big plus!

With all of this great support for encryption, how do we properly manage encryption keys? This is a core requirement of compliance regulations and security best practices. VMware handles this well. The key management configuration is provided by the vSphere KMS Cluster configuration. With KMS Cluster configuration you can configure your key management interfaces one time and all of the VMware encryption applications use this definition. And more good news – the interface to key management systems is based on the open OASIS Key Management Interoperability Protocol (KMIP). This means that you have a lot of flexibility and choice in your acquisition and deployment of a KMS for your encryption deployment. (We will talk more about our Alliance Key Manager solution in a following blog).

Key management systems are inherently complex, and the KMIP protocol is also complex. As an MSP you don’t have to deal with this complexity, VMware handles all of the technical implementation. To help VMware customers and partners understand which KMS systems work well with VMware, they make available a certification program for KMS vendors. A KMS vendor who implements the KMIP standard (we are one) can certify their solution for use with VMware. This really sets VMware apart from many infrastructure platform providers. They have made the certification process easy for KMS vendors and publish the results. This means the MSP has an easy way to determine if a key management system is compatible and reliable.

All VMware releases that support encryption also support encryption key management in the same way. This consistency from one release to the next means no disruption to the MSP operating environment after an upgrade, and assurance of the MSP investment in internal training and KMS investments.

Version 7 of VMware now supports a new encryption security interface called Trusted Authority, or vTA. The previous encryption interfaces are still fully supported, but now you have a new option for encryption and key management. vTA offers slightly different architecture and a higher level of security that some organizations need.

All of these features that VMware has implemented make it easy for the MSP to provide encryption support to end customers. In the next blog we will talk about the challenges MSPs face and how to overcome them.

 

[For More Reading]

Part 1: Why Do MSP Customers Want Encryption of Their VMs and vSAN?

 

Encryption Key Management for VMware Cloud Providers

Topics: VMware, MSP

Why Do MSP Customers Want Encryption of Their VMs and vSAN? [Part 1 of 8]

Posted by Patrick Townsend on Oct 19, 2020 1:15:00 PM

This is the first in a series of blogs on the topic of Managed Service Providers (MSPs) and VMware encryption. They are meant to be read in order as each blog topic builds on the previous topics, and leads to the next. 

Encryption & Key Management for VMware Cloud ProvidersAs an MSP, I hope you will take this journey with me about VMware encryption, the technical and business challenges you are facing, how Townsend Security solves these challenges, and the surprising business benefit waiting for you when you offer your customers encryption under your MSP service umbrella. 

Here is the complete topic list:

  1. Why do MSP customers want encryption of their VMs and vSAN (this blog)
  2. What has VMware done to help with encryption security?
  3. What are the biggest obstacles to offering VMware encryption to customers?
  4. How does Townsend Security help an MSP overcome the KMS challenge?
  5. KMS for multiple vCenter clusters and nodes
  6. As an MSP how do I ensure high availability for encrypted VMs?
  7. How can an MSP use encryption security to improve revenues and profitability?
  8. Some common questions and how to get started with the Townsend Security MSP partner program

Customers of MSPs read almost daily about data breaches and ransomware attacks, and are rightly concerned about the security of their data under the control of the MSP. MSPs are usually the lead security provider for these customers and bring a great deal of expertise to the deployment of security solutions. Let’s explore the some of the concerns and motivations of the MSP end customer:

Regulations, regulations, and more regulations:

In addition to the fear of a data breach, customers are also concerned about regulations like the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), the New York SHIELD Law, HIPAA, PCI-DSS, GDPR, and many others. No one wants to be subject to compliance actions and litigation due to a data breach. It is natural for a business or organization to turn to their MSP for assurance that their sensitive information is safe and security meets compliance regulations.

Business secrets and intellectual property:

In addition to the regulatory concerns, many small businesses and organizations are concerned about the compromise of business secrets and intellectual property. We now know that a number of state actors are aggressively attempting to steal this type of information. While business secrets and IP are a different category of sensitive information, the loss of this information can be devastating to a business or organization. It can take years to develop new ideas and move through the IP protection process. The compromise of this information can destroy the value of a company, and years of work by its employees and investors.

Reputational risk:

Lastly, the loss of any sensitive information can harm the reputation of an organization. If your value to an end customer involves managing aspects of their sensitive information, losing that information can cause irreparable damage to customer trust. We can all think of retailers, credit reporting agencies, government agencies, and many others who have had large data breaches. It affects consumer behavior and can exact a financial penalty for many years. No one wants to suffer reputational damage from a preventable data breach.

A data breach can be an existential event. According to Cybercrime Magazine about 60% of small companies close within 6 months of a data breach. This is an astoundingly high number. If you think about it, the surviving 40% of companies probably experienced a lot of distress recovering from the data breach. How much lost opportunity was there? 

For MSPs, the takeaway is that your customers are concerned about encryption to protect their sensitive data, business secrets, and look to you to provide solutions. How can MSPs turn that into actions that are based on security standards and which provide a justifiable business opportunity?

Stay tuned.

 


 

More Reading

Part 2: What Has VMware Done to Help with Encryption Security

 

Encryption & Key Management for VMware Cloud Providers

Topics: VMware, MSP

On a Journey with Managed Service Providers (MSPs) for a Better Encryption KMS Solution

Posted by Patrick Townsend on Aug 10, 2020 3:30:31 PM

Every now and then something completely unexpected happens that changes your life. No, I’m not talking about the COVID pandemic - that’s a completely different story. What happened for me is that in the course of my work in business development of our key management server (KMS), I met the CEOs of two different Managed Service Providers (MSPs) and they welcomed me into their world. With grace and patience, they helped me leave behind my preconceived notions about software sales and introduced me to how their world works. Neither of these two CEOs were obligated to mentor me and to give me their time, but I am so grateful that they did. It opened a new vision for me and our team here at Townsend Security.

If you work at an MSP firm, I hope you will read on. I will tell you how I turned my lessons into real benefits for the MSP.

VMware Cloud Providers & MSPs - Win New BusinessManaged Service Providers are varied in what they do, but at the core of their business is the desire to provide IT expertise, hosting facilities, business continuity and disaster recovery, and lots of other IT services to small and large organizations. They do everything from fixing user PCs to deploying top-end servers, security, and cloud services. Expertise is at the core of the value they provide to organizations. During the COVID crisis, they are on the front lines of trying to help everyone migrate to work-from-home and they are trying to secure that environment.

They are just some of the quiet, hidden heroes who don masks and rush into data centers and offices to keep us all operational. They provide great value to organizations especially in the current crisis. These MSPs taught me about their business and about the difficulties they have with key management vendors. In a time when security is top of mind for their customers, they struggle with a KMS industry that is stuck in the past. We were definitely one of those. As we talked, the light came on for me. All of the problems they were having with KMS vendors were problems that we could solve! All it took was a commitment from us, and a change in our business practices.

Here are some things I learned from my MSP CEO mentors:

  • Their businesses run on a usage-based model. For example, they might host a VMware environment for an end customer and charge them on the basis of the number of Virtual Machines (VMs) or vSAN storage they manage on a monthly basis. They provide immediate, on-going value to their customers and they prove their worth on a day-to-day basis.
  • They deploy third-party software solutions to help them accomplish their mission. They prefer to use software solutions that match their business model. For example, some of the common backup solutions like Veeam can be deployed by MSPs on a per-month, per-VM basis. It’s great when an MSP can deploy these types of solutions on a usage basis. It is how they run their business and greatly reduces their risk. KMS vendors are not helping.
  • MSPs live in a complex technical world, and they have special needs from their software vendors. They probably deal with more technical complexity than any other IT segment. Hardware, software, Windows, Linux, security, networking, cloud, smart phones – where does it end? This means they need software solutions that are easy to install, deploy, manage and report on.
  • An MSP deals with a lot of software “vendors”. What they really need are software
    “partners”. A software vendor sees the MSP as a resource (money) extraction
    opportunity. A partner is someone who saddles up and goes into battle with you. With a partner, you will either win together or lose together. This is an incredibly important distinction to the MSP, and a really big challenge to the software vendor.
  • The MSP needs more than a software solution from a partner. With all of the complexity of the services an MSP delivers, the MSP needs help from the software partner to sell the solution, to support the solution, and to be a trusted advisor. Can the software partner help with sales collateral? How about with joint sales calls? Can we do joint webinars and podcasts that help build confidence in customers and potential customers?

Here at Townsend Security we live in the world of data security. We have encryption and key management solutions to protect data at rest. We have a number of MSP customers. Before I had the conversation with our MSP mentors, we approached each of our MSP customers the way any legacy software company would. We offered the basic perpetual and subscription licenses. We have always been very price competitive, but it was basically a take-it-or-leave it approach. We charged for each key manager that we sold.
We were a perfect example of the “vendor” problem the MSP experiences. So, we set out on a journey to see if we could align our business with MSPs and become the “partner” they want and need. It meant changing a lot of our assumptions and business practices. You will know when you have a true partner when they lean in with their marketing and technical teams to make you successful. Our goal is to be that partner!
Here are some of the things we’ve done:

  • Adopted a Pay-As-You-Go model for MSP partners. We now charge a very small monthly fee for each encrypted VM or database. Gone are the perpetual and annual subscription licenses. Scale up or scale down as you like. We get paid when you get paid. Full stop.
  • Dropped all upfront fees or annual minimums. We are aiming for perfect cost and
    revenue predictability for your MSP business.
  • Stopped counting the number of key management servers the MSP runs. The MSP
    deploys key servers in the way that makes sense. Multiple physical hosting sites, on-premise deployments, Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS), encrypted storage? We don’t care, we are all in.
  • We trust the MSP to deliver their services and expertise on their hosting or cloud
    platform, and on their customer’s premises. MSPs conduct their businesses in a variety of ways. If we achieve true partner status you will feel that we are fully behind you and support you and take the risks with you.
  • We train the MSP on how to deploy our solution. We have video, on-line
    documentation, and one-on-one training to help you get up and running quickly. We don’t charge for training; we just lean in to help you get the job done.
  • We support the MSP with 24/7/365 business interruption support program at no extra charge. Support is built right into the low monthly fee.
  • Provide sales support by doing joint customer calls, answering security questions, and providing guidance on meeting compliance regulations. We don’t charge for helping you close a sale; we will win the deal together.
  • Provide sales collateral that includes sell sheets, educational material, joint webinars and podcasts, and much more. We don’t charge for sales and marketing collateral.

I feel like I’ve been on a fast learning track and have gained some great new friends. They are sharing with us what they need, and we are leaning in to help them be successful. It is an immensely rewarding experience.

Here is what one of our MSP customers said:

“You said the magic words of MSP and Low cost, consumption based! We’ve struggled to find a KMS solution we can properly price and sell to our customers to do VM encryption. Solutions like XXXXXX are prohibitively expensive. Your low cost per encrypted VM per month is very reasonable. I’m glad those MSP’s helped you understand our market and that you were able to see the opportunity. You NEED to be marketing this. You’re solving a problem that MSP’s a) don’t think they can afford to fix, and b) are just ignoring the compliance of because it’s “too hard and too expensive.” I highly encourage you to get the word out through marketing to MSP’s. Thank you, Patrick. You made my day.”

If you are an MSP we would like to “make your day.” You can start your journey here

Evaluations of our Alliance Key Manager are available at no charge. We provide technical
support through the evaluation at no charge. Let’s do this together!

Patrick

Encryption Key Management for VMware Cloud Providers

Topics: Partner, Hosting Providers, MSP

Press Release: Townsend Security Announces True Usage-Based  Licensing for VMware Cloud Providers & MSPs

Posted by Luke Probasco on Jun 17, 2020 10:00:00 AM

With simplified usage-based licensing with no upfront fees, no annual minimums, and built-in support, VMware Cloud Providers and MSPs can offer customers better security with encryption and key management at a lower cost.

Press Release

Townsend Security today announced new flexible licensing of Alliance Key Manager, their FIPS 140-2 compliant encryption key management server (KMS) to VMware Cloud Providers and MSPs. The new program allows these businesses to offer better security with encryption and VMware-certified key management at a lower cost, while maintaining their current pay-per-use and pay-as-you-go business model.

VMware Cloud Providers and MSPs need to help their customers achieve encryption of VMs and vSAN storage to meet compliance requirements and new regulations like GDPR and CCPA. However, typical commercial KMS solutions are expensive, hard to maintain, and have complex licensing requirements. Legacy KMS systems create a business problem for VMware partners who are trying to grow their business, compete with large Cloud Service Providers (CSPs), and don’t match the VMware partner’s business model. Townsend Security has addressed all of these obstacles with their new program for VMware Cloud Providers and MSPs.

The new program offered by Townsend Security allows VMware Cloud Providers and MSPs the ability to encrypt VMs and vSAN with FIPS 140-2 and KMIP compliant Alliance Key Manager. The solution is easy to install, configure, and deploy. Once deployed it requires no routine maintenance and partners have total flexibility in how and where they deploy the KMS system to help their customers. Crucially, the  new Townsend Security program will match the VMware Cloud Provider’s business model eliminating KMS licensing headaches, unmanageable reporting requirements, and unreliable KMS high availability implementations.

“Many VMware Cloud Providers and MSPs provide usage-based deployments for their end customers. Alliance Key Manager fits seamlessly into their business strategy to match the way they do business,” said Patrick Townsend, Founder & CEO of Townsend Security. “With Alliance Key Manager, you will never have up-front fees, annual minimums, complex software maintenance contracts, or restrictions on how you do business. Our partners are empowered to grow their business without concerns about how to allocate KMS costs. Predictable SaaS usage-based pricing makes it easy to sell, implement, and support end customers and their security needs - and an additional benefit is the incremental revenue and positive impact on margins.”

Once enrolled in Townsend Security’s new VMware Cloud Provider and MSP program, the company will assign training and support resources to help partners get started. There is no charge for training and Townsend Security’s technical support team is available for 24/7 business interruption support. 

Visit www.townsendsecurity.com/msp to learn more about Townsend Security’s new VMware Cloud Provider and MSP partner program.

Encryption Key Management for VMware Cloud Providers

Topics: VMware, Press Release

Encryption and Key Management for VMware Hosting Providers and MSPs

Posted by Luke Probasco on Jun 12, 2020 9:40:30 AM

VMware has become the most trusted name in on-premise computing infrastructure. Because of its ease of use and administration, reliability and security, VMware is able to provide exceptional services to small and large organizations alike. As these organizations move to the cloud, VMware hosting partners and managed service providers (MSPs) are able to service this market by providing off-premise deployments of VMware and an extensive array of VMware management and administrative services. For more information on how VMware hosting providers can better secure customer data, check out our "Definitive Guide - Encryption Key Management for VMware Cloud Providers" page.

Delivering Secure VMware Hosting with Encryption & Key ManagementI recently sat down with Patrick Townsend, Founder and CEO of Townsend Security, to talk about how Townsend Security is helping VMware hosting providers meet the challenge of encryption and encryption key management, while supporting the usage-based business model core to many of these hosting providers.  Additionally, Patrick discussed VMware architecture, VMware security, delivering compelling hosting & services, and compliance, standards, and encryption.

Hi Patrick. In recent years VMware has embraced the movement to the cloud with key partnerships with leading cloud service providers. What is less well known is that VMware has spawned and supports a broad set of hosting providers that serve local and regional markets. These VMware hosting providers also provide the expertise and managed services that many large cloud providers do not.

There are a fair number of VMware hosting providers and MSPs now with their own hosted, or cloud, platforms who are running VMware full stack implementations for their customers. Customers now have many options for managing their VMware infrastructure on premise or at a VMware hosting provider data center.  Many of these customers maintain both on-premise and hosted environments to meet their customers’ business needs. The VMware ecosystem is growing and resilient, and an important part of the IT services landscape.

Security has got to be essential for these hosting providers and MSPs. What do you think they are doing well and where could they use a little help?

Well, security is a core focus of VMware applications, and the security features have had a lot of time to mature. For example, VMware now offers encryption in several of their products. However, the deployment of proper encryption relies on support from third party KMS vendors. Realizing the importance of key management, VMware adopted the Key Management Interoperability Protocol (KMIP) standard, which allows vendors like Townsend Security to provide key management solutions that allow businesses to store and manage their encryption keys through their entire lifecycle.

Townsend Security is proud to help VMware hosting providers and MSPs implement encryption and do it the right way that matches their business model.

So, let’s spend a minute and discuss delivering compelling hosting and services.

VMware hosting providers and MSPs are rapidly changing the way that VMware customers are managing their IT infrastructure. These VMware partners are filling a services and support gap left by typical, large cloud service providers. Hosted VMware infrastructure, Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS), automated backup and recovery, and expertise on demand provide compelling value to VMware end customers. Amazingly, many of these VMware hosting partners are providing a far more affordable solution than large Cloud Service Providers. Townsend Security’s Alliance Key Manager is filling the KMS gap for VMware hosting providers and MSPs by providing an Enterprise KMS system that matches the way they do business. Gone are the complexities of sourcing, deploying, licensing and administering a KMS for the VMware environment. Townsend Security empowers the VMware hosting provider with on-premise and customer premise solutions for every VMware KMS need.

There are a few strategies that these hosting providers and MSPs can use to secure customer data in VMware environments.  For example, data can still reside on-premises or in the cloud and be encrypted in VMs or in vSAN, or even through Virtual Trusted Platform Module (vTPM).  First, let’s cover On-Prem and the Cloud. 

Sure. Many VMware hosting providers and MSPs often are the experts who manage a customer’s on-premise VMware infrastructure. If you don’t have in-house expertise these partners can step up to help you. This means that the same security tools that are used at the hosting site need to be available at the customer site. This is a core part of the value that a VMware hosting provider and MSP provides to their customers - run VMware on-premise, on their cloud, or combine the two. Some VMware MSPs provide expertise and services to help their customers move to one of the larger cloud platforms. 

If you are a VMware hosting provider and you provide this type of service to help customers move to Microsoft Azure VMware Solution, Google VMware Cloud Engine, or IBM Cloud for VMware, or other full-stack VMware cloud service, we can help you with your KMS needs in the same way. 

Let’s circle back to how data is being encrypted in VMware

As a VMware hosting provider or MSP, you are able to quickly and easily deploy encryption of VMs for your customers with vSphere encryption. It is important to not forget about also deploying a KMS. The second most popular encryption option in a VMware environment is the encryption of vSAN virtual directories. The VMware architecture for key management for vSAN is the same vSphere KMS cluster configuration used for encrypting VMs. Encryption of vSAN storage is one of the great ways to protect databases in the VMware infrastructure. It can be expensive to upgrade Oracle, SQL Server or MongoDB to get encryption support, but you can easily provide encryption at rest by deploying these databases on encrypted vSAN storage at a fraction of the cost of an upgrade. And you can do encryption at rest for open source databases that do not directly implement encryption or proper key management. This includes MariaDB, PostgreSQL, SQLite and others.

Another option is to use OS encryption through the virtual trusted platform module (vTPM), right?

The Trusted Platform Module (TPM) chip is implemented on many Intel architecture servers and provides an additional level of encryption key protection in traditional server environments. Unfortunately, the TPM architecture works poorly in a VMware environment where workloads can move and migrate between servers. Thankfully, VMware came to the rescue with Virtual TPM (vTPM)!  By installing the appropriate vTPM drivers from VMware you can achieve TPM security that works natively with your VMware platform. vTPM also leverages the same vSphere KMS interface, so encryption and proper key management are easy to deploy.

How is Townsend Security helping VMware hosting providers and MSPs with encryption and key management? 

Townsend Security has been a VMware partner for many years.  Our KMS, Alliance Key Manager, is certified by VMware on all releases of vSphere and vSAN that support encryption. At Townsend Security we have worked hard to create a hosting provider/MSP program that takes the pain out of a KMS partnership. Most notably, if you provide VMware hosting services on a usage-based model, we will help you deliver a KMS for encrypted VMs and vSAN with the same model. For example, if you are charging your customers per virtual machine or per main memory, depending on how much you use, we will snap right in to your environment and help you deliver encryption of VMs and vSAN in the same way.We do this with no upfront fees, no annual license charges or separate maintenance fees, we just make it really simple to deploy and use for the VMware hosting provider.

Is there anything else that you would like to share about your partner program?

First, it is very easy and simple to get started with our partner program.  Just visit www.townsendsecurity.com/msp. If you are interested in more information, there is a short form to fill out. We make it extremely cost effective for hosting providers to deploy encryption and key management for their customers.  I’d also like to mention that our KMS is certified for every version of vSphere and vSAN that support encryption, is validated for PCI-DSS compliance, and has been through a FIPS 140-2 validation.

You can actually download Alliance Key Manager for VMware directly from our website and immediately load it into VMware.  We also have our support team ready to help you get deployed - without a charge. It just takes minutes. We are proud to have lowered the barrier to entry and administrative overhead typically associated with encryption key management - which makes it easier than ever for VMware hosting providers and MSPs to offer better security to their customers.

To hear this conversation in its entirety, download the podcast “Delivering Secure VMware Hosting with Encryption & Key Management” to hear Patrick Townsend, Founder and CEO, further discuss VMware architecture, VMware security, delivering compelling hosting & services, and compliance, standards, and encryption.

Delivering Secure VMware Hosting with Encryption & Key Management

Topics: Encryption Key Management, VMware, Hosting Providers

Encryption for VMware Hosting Providers and MSPs

Posted by Patrick Townsend on Jun 8, 2020 8:58:16 AM

This blog is an excerpt from the white paper Delivering Secure VMware Hosting with Encryption & Key Management.


Delivering Secure VMware Hosting with Encryption and Key ManagementVMware is the most trusted name in on-premise computing infrastructure. Its ease of use and administration, reliability and security provide exceptional services to small and large organizations alike. As organizations move to the cloud, there are now a large number of VMware hosting partners and managed service providers (MSPs) who provide off-premise deployments of VMware and an extensive array of VMware management and administrative services. This white paper discusses how Townsend Security is helping VMware hosting providers meet the challenge of encryption and encryption key management, while supporting the usage-based business model core to many of these hosting providers.

VMware Architecture and Benefits

The benefits of VMware in the data center are now well recognized. Reduction in hardware and utility costs, reduction in administrative costs, improvement in managing ever-changing workloads, resilience and business continuity, and exceptional security are just some of the primary benefits. This is why VMware is the leading infrastructure virtualization technology on a global basis.

In recent years VMware has embraced the movement to the cloud with key partnerships with leading cloud service providers. What is less well known is that VMware has spawned and supports a broad set of hosting providers that serve local and regional markets. These VMware hosting providers also provide the expertise and managed services that many large cloud providers do not. 

The growth of the VMware hosting provider eco-system provides important support for VMware customers. Customers now have many options for managing their VMware infrastructure on premise or at a VMware hosting provider data center. Many customers maintain both on-premise and hosted environments to meet their business needs. The VMware eco-system is growing and resilient, and an important part of the IT services landscape.

VMware and Security

While VMware has always been a leader in IT security, the company recognized the importance of encryption and proper encryption key management to meet security best practices and evolving compliance regulations. In 2016 VMware released version 6.5 of vSphere which enabled built-in support for encryption of virtual machines (VMs) and virtual storage (vSAN). In any encryption strategy, it is important to protect the encryption keys using a purpose-built key management security system that secures the keys away from the protected information. The VMware security architecture integrates with a key management server (KMS) to protect the encryption keys that are used by ESXi and vSAN. The interface between vSphere and the key management server is based on the Key Management Interoperability Protocol (KMIP), an open standard for KMS systems. 

In vSphere the administrator defines a primary key manager and one or more failover key managers using the KMS Cluster module. vSphere manages the failover to a backup key server in the event the primary key server is not available. This also enables failover to a disaster recovery VMware node in an automatic fashion. The result is a robust implementation of encryption with key management based on the open OASIS KMIP standard and deployed in a highly resilient fashion.

VMware Hosting and MSP Partners

VMware hosting partners and MSPs are called on to deploy proper security in the VMware infrastructure. Security is largely provided by native VMware applications such as NSX and others. However, the deployment of a key management system depends on support from third party KMS vendors. Townsend Security is one of those vendors with its Alliance Key Manager solution.

Unfortunately, most enterprise KMS systems are expensive, difficult to deploy, lack needed failover reliability, and have complex licensing and management requirements. Many VMware hosting providers provide their infrastructure and services on a usage-based model. Enterprise KMS systems generally do not fit this delivery, reporting and billing model.

Townsend Security is solving this problem by providing its Alliance Key Manager solution on a usage basis. VMware hosting providers will benefit from the Townsend model as it matches their business delivery model and makes KMS affordable to their end customers. When your encryption key management strategy lines up with your business model you are able to manage your growth in a predictable way.

Delivering Compelling Hosting and Services

VMware hosting providers and MSPs are rapidly changing the way that VMware customers are managing their IT infrastructure. These VMware partners are filling a services and support gap left by typical, large cloud service providers. Hosted VMware infrastructure, Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS), automated backup and recovery, and expertise on demand provide compelling value to VMware end customers. 

Townsend Security’s Alliance Key Manager is filling the KMS gap for VMware hosting providers and MSPs by providing an Enterprise KMS system that matches the way they do business. Gone are the complexities of sourcing, deploying, licensing and administering a KMS for the VMware environment. Townsend Security empowers the VMware hosting provider with on-premise and customer premise solutions for every VMware KMS need.

Delivering Secure VMware Hosting with Encryption and Key Management

Topics: Hosting, Encryption Key Management, VMware

State of Encryption Key Management - 2020

Posted by Luke Probasco on Apr 20, 2020 8:05:12 AM

Data security compliance requirements and corporate security initiatives continue to drive the adoption of encryption and key management to protect private information - ranging from customer information to electronic protected health information (ePHI) to a company’s intellectual property (IP). Deploying encryption naturally means properly protecting encryption keys, which historically has been the biggest challenge that organizations face with their encryption strategy. As such, it is far too common to see businesses not properly storing their encryption keys - for example, keeping them in a database in the clear or even burned into their application’s code.

State of Encryption Key ManagementFortunately, encryption key management solutions are more affordable and easier than ever, however, not all solutions are created equal. Standards such as FIPS 140-2 remain, but what does that mean in a virtual environment? Additionally, we are seeing all the major cloud service providers (CSPs) offer encryption key management as a service, but there are several fundamental reasons enterprises are hesitant to adopt them.

I recently sat down with Patrick Townsend, Founder and CEO, to discuss the current state of encryption key management, databases/applications that natively provide encryption and key manager integrations, and questions to ask your key management vendor. 

Hi Patrick. Let’s just take a minute and acknowledge how far encryption key management has come.

It is incredible how far encryption key management has come over the last 15 years. As I think back to when we started this journey, it was a very different environment. One of the motivating factors for us to get in the key management game was that key management systems used to be terribly expensive and complex - and usually involved a team of expensive consultants to deploy. Early on, I even had a key management system (KMS) vendor tell me that they didn’t want to do a deal under $10 million - and that just isn’t going to work for smaller companies. This just really influenced how we got started. Companies of all sizes deserve to have good encryption and key management as part of their defense in depth security strategy. I am very proud of our team for creating a key management solution that has been FIPS 140-2 validated and affordable to the small and medium sized enterprises who need to protect their employees and customers without having to pay for every database, connection, or encryption key. We have now passed the 10 year mark with Alliance Key Manager. While it was first introduced as a physical hardware security module (HSM), we have added VMware and cloud platforms (AWS and Microsoft Azure) - and starting at $4,800 is affordable to every customer. I am proud that we have played a part in making encryption key management affordable to businesses of all sizes.

Speaking of cost, could you imagine if deployments were still $10 million?

It really is incredible. If that were still the cost, small and medium sized businesses would be priced out of the market - and their data a lot more vulnerable. With that said, it still amazes me how much KMS vendors are still charging for some of their solutions. Recently we had a prospective customer forward us a quote from another KMS vendor and it was astonishing. The customer was trying to protect 12 Microsoft SQL Server databases and the quote was for $194,000! And that was just the start. As the customer adds additional databases in their environment, there is going to be more and more cost as they go forward. For the same hardware-based HSM solution, we would charge $36,000 for two HSMs and save the customer $158,000! Alternatively, we even could offer VMware or cloud instances that would have been even less expensive.

As a company, we are passionate about keeping a low and predictable total cost of ownership (TCO). You shouldn’t have to go back to your key management vendor every time you want to add a database or encrypt something in a new environment. This model of pricing can add up very quickly. We offer a simple pricing structure - license the KMS, pay annual maintenance, and use the key manager to protect as much data as you’d like. From my point of view, there is no justification for a pricing strategy that penalizes businesses for doing more security.

Aside from cost and ease of deployment, there really has been a growing awareness on the importance of key management. 10 years ago when you first started, small and medium sized businesses didn’t even know what key management was.

Certainly. Key management is the cornerstone of an encryption strategy. If you are doing encryption, you must protect encryption keys. In fact, key management is starting to show up in regulatory compliance requirements. For example, if you look at the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), you will find proper key management called out as being core to protecting data. If you are not using key management, you are NOT adequately protecting your encryption keys and you lose some of the protections under the CCPA.

As businesses deploy modern key management solutions, they need to make sure the key manager has been FIPS 140-2 validated and is key management interoperability protocol (KMIP) compliant. The industry as a whole is still catching up to these standards. For example, with AWS KMS or Azure Key Vault, businesses do not have industry standards based interfaces for key management. Rather than using the KMIP standard, they are requiring customers to use their proprietary interface. Standards, like KMIP, are incredibly important when it comes to reducing your cost of encryption in the long run. Fortunately, we are seeing most major database and application vendors adopting the KMIP standard and natively supporting encryption, leaving the key management to the user.

Also, it is still the wild west out there in regards to some KMS vendors. I think people should avoid solutions that require external, third party hardware modules to back up the key manager. That is completely unnecessary. There are open source solutions that provide vaults that are not FIPS 140-2 compliant unless they are backed up by an HSM.

Again, key management is core to a security strategy and really has come a long way since the early days. It now takes a few minutes to get a KMS up and running, you don’t need outside consultants or someone to come on site, and most of the time doesn’t take any paid services!

You mentioned KMIP. It has been great to see more databases and applications adopt the standard.

That’s right. Encryption usually doesn’t require application changes anymore - it has become a non-technical exercise. KMIP has fundamentally changed the way businesses deploy encryption and key management. For example, we have seen databases like MongoDB and MySQL and VMware’s vSphere and vSAN support KMIP. Let’s take a look at MongoDB. MongoDB Enterprise includes 256-bit AES encryption built into the database. Knowing the importance of key management, they built in support for KMS vendors with the KMIP standard. Now their users can seamlessly encrypt data and easily manage the encryption keys separate from the data that they protect.

KMIP really has been a game changer for the key management industry and really underscores the importance of basing solutions on industry standards. Unfortunately, it isn’t everywhere - yet. Typically, KMIP is reserved for Enterprise versions of databases. With that said, there are still options for shops running “Standard” or “Community” versions.

There are. Chances are that these shops are running a version of VMware that supports vSphere and vSAN encryption. By deploying “Standard” versions of databases directly in vSAN, they can utilize the encryption and key management options already included in their VMware products. Furthermore, VMware has developed excellent guidance that is available on their website on how to install databases into an encrypted vSAN. If you are an Oracle customer, for example, and feel like you can’t afford the expense of upgrading to Oracle Enterprise with Advanced Security in order to get encryption, VMware has your back. By doing this, businesses can affordably meet regulatory compliance and protect their sensitive data. Same is true for other databases.

Let’s keep talking about compliance. Compliance has been a major driving force for organizations adopting encryption key management.

Yes. Businesses of all sizes and industries fall under a variety of compliance regulations. If you take credit cards, you fall under PCI DSS. If you are a covered entity in the medical segment you fall under HIPAA. California recently passed the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) which has reach far beyond the borders of California. It is important to note that CCPA also requires proper key management. Storing encryption keys next to the secured data provides you no protection from data breach notification and class action lawsuits. You have to get key management right. 

Regulations certainly are one major factor driving the uptake in encryption. Over time, we have seen regulations evolve and encryption keeps getting more embedded in these regulations and is recognized as a core part of a defense in depth strategy. With that said, compliance isn’t the only reason a company deploys encryption and key management. We regularly talk with customers concerned with reputation, protection of intellectual property (IP), or a host of other reasons.

For businesses who haven’t deployed encryption key management yet, what are some questions that they should ask vendors?

There are definitely some baseline qualifiers here. Look for a FIPS 140-2 validation. Has the solution ever been validated by the National Institute of Standard and Technology (NIST)? Some key management vendors out there will say they are compliant and unable to prove it because they have never received a formal validation. It is important to ask for their certificate number. Don’t accept a third-party letter saying that the solution is compliant. There is no substitute for a NIST validation. They aren’t cheap or easy, which is a major differentiator between the good and not-so-good key management vendors.

As discussed earlier, good key management systems will adopt the KMIP interface. You should easily be able to use your key management solution seamlessly with the growing number of databases and applications that support KMIP.

Who has administrative access to the keys? Do you have exclusive control or is access shared with a cloud service provider (CSP) or key management vendor? Most of the CSP key management offerings are in shared environments - both you and your CSP have access to your keys. Also a consideration, are you OK with CSP lock-in? Most businesses today are trying to achieve a cloud-neutral implementation and you don’t want your key management solution to defeat that effort.

I think that these are the topics that should be top of mind for businesses as they move through their cloud encryption strategy and think about key management.

Is there anything that you would like to share about Townsend Security’s Alliance Key Manager that you haven’t mentioned yet?

Alliance Key Manager comes along with a wide variety of client applications and SDKs - at no charge - to help you secure databases and applications like VMware, Microsoft SQL Server, MongoDB, MySQL and others. As I mentioned earlier, it is cost effective and affordable to organizations of all sizes. I think that our key manager is the most cost-effective, standards-based solution in the market. By offering the key manager on multiple platforms, which are all cross-compatible, businesses have a variety of options for their encryption strategy that are easy to deploy.

The last thing that I would like to point out is that our solution is very partner friendly. Alliance Key Manager is embedded in many ISV environments and products. We have flexible programs that allow our partners to get encryption right by embedding key management into their solution.

To hear this conversation in its entirety, download the podcast “State of Encryption Key Management - 2020” to hear Patrick Townsend, Founder and CEO, further discuss the latest trends and perspectives around encryption key management and how to better protect your data.

Podcast: State of Encryption Key Management

Topics: Encryption Key Management

Data Security for Working Remotely - Needed Now More Than Ever

Posted by Patrick Townsend on Mar 27, 2020 7:29:13 AM

We are all working from home now. At least, in the technology world that seems to be true. What does this mean from a security standpoint? Here are a few thoughts:

Data SecurityTechnology workers (programmers, project managers, customer support staff, pre-sales engineers, etc.) are generally pretty comfortable with remote work. This is the result of a multi-year trend driven by talent shortages, distributed organizations, and out-sourcing. However, traditional finance and administrative workers tend to be more office-centric. They are rapidly adjusting to working at home and figuring out how to balance work in a home environment. Kids in your space? Yup, it’s a big adjustment for everyone when you suddenly move from office to home.

With COVID-19, we are doing work-from-home to better protect our colleagues, our families, and our friends and community. It is critical that we do physical distancing and get it right. It is truly a matter of life and death. 

I believe that there are security implications to this change, too. Corporate systems are at more risk. 

When we move workers from the office to home, we expand the attack surface. Our home PCs and networks have probably not had the same security scrutiny that office systems have. But those home PCs now have access to the corporate network. There is a lot of use of VPN, Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP), and terminal emulators like GoToMyPC to get connectivity. I think in a lot of cases the security exposure has increased as we deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. 

We need to take this expanded threat to our corporate systems seriously. Cybercriminals will happily use any new weakness to access our sensitive data. It may be a lot easier to break into your home network and jump to the corporate network.  Here are some things you can do right away:

  • Start reviewing home PCs and networks like you would internal systems. And start with your system and network administrators. They often hold highly authorized credentials. Create a special team to get this done as quickly as possible. 
  • Make a prioritized list of your application databases that hold sensitive data. Or, if you have the list, do a quick review and update as needed. You probably have some databases that are easy to protect with encryption and good encryption key management.
  • These databases are fast and easy to protect: Microsoft SQL Server (TDE), MySQL, MongoDB, and Oracle Database. You can get these common databases under encryption protection very quickly. 
  • Do you use VMware for your IT infrastructure? You probably do. It is very fast and easy to implement encryption of VMs and vSAN. This is a fast and easy win.
  • Get management buy-in. We all know that we have an emergency on our hands. Enlightened management will get on board quickly. They are going to have to approve new human resource assignments and some new budget. 

We are in uncharted territory with COVID-19. Here at Townsend Security we are committed to helping you survive this challenge. We will help you get the data security you need. Just talk to us.

Patrick

The Encryption Guide eBook

Topics: Security Strategy

VMware Encryption for Data-at-Rest

Posted by Ken Mafli on Mar 23, 2020 7:00:00 AM

What is VMware Encryption for Data-at-Rest?

VMware vSphere encryption for data-at-rest has two main components, vSphere VM encryption and vSAN encryption. Both only require the vCenter vSphere Server, a third-party Key Management Server (KMS), and ESXi hosts to work. It is standards-based, KMIP compatible, and easy-to-deploy.

VMware Encryption for Data-at-Rest

 

Which Encryption Option Should you Choose, vSphere VM or vSAN?

Data security is paramount for sensitive data-at-rest. Fortunately, protecting your data in VMware is relatively easy with the introduction of vSphere VM encryption in version 6.5 and vSAN encryption in version 6.6. Even better, for most folks, you won’t have to choose between each option, you will likely use both as needed. That said, there are some times when you might prefer one over the other. With that in mind, here are some of the features for each and how they are the same/different.

 

  vSphere VM vSAN
AES-256 encryption Yes Yes
KMIP compatibility Yes Yes
FIPS 140-2 compliant Yes Yes
Common Criteria compliant Yes (ESXi 6.7) Yes (ESXi 6.7)
centralized encryption policy management Yes Yes
Centralized encryption key management (KMS) Yes Yes
Datastore encryption  No Yes
per-VM encryption Yes No
Each VM has a unique key Yes n/a
Encryption occurs before deduplication Yes No
Encryption occurs after deduplication No Yes

 

One of the most clear cut cases on preferring one encryption option or the other is in a multi-tenant situation. VMware gives these examples:

Engineering and Finance may have their own key managers and would require their VM's to be encrypted by their respective KMS. Or maybe your company has been merged with another company, each with their own KMS. Additionally, you may have a "Coke & Pepsi" scenario of two unrelated tenants. VM Encryption can handle this use case using the API or PowerCLI Modules for VM Encryption.

Encryption and Key Management for VMware - Definitive GuideSince each VM is encrypted by a different key, vSphere VM encryption may be better suited for multi-tenant situations. In this way, not only will each tenant be assured that their sensitive data is not commingled with other tenants data (separate VMs), but their data is protected by separate keys.

Beyond that, VMware notes that “vSAN has unique capabilities for some workloads and may perform better in those situations.” So, if you are protecting larger datastores with a single tenant, vSAN would be your best option.

With these distinctions in mind, here is the best news: They are equally easy to set up! We have put together two videos to highlight the steps to get encryption enabled in each environment:

vSphere VM Encryption

 

For a more detailed look at vSphere VM encryption, please visit our post: vSphere Encryption—Creating a Unified Encryption Strategy. Here is a partial list of steps for enabling vSphere VM encryption:

  • First, install and configure your KMIP compliant key management server, such as our Alliance Key Manager, and register it to the vSphere KMS Cluster.
  • Next, you must set up the key management server (KMS) cluster.
    • When you add a KMS cluster, vCenter will prompt you to make it the default. vCenter will provision the encryption keys from the cluster you designate as the default.
  • Then, when encrypting, the ESXi host generates internal 256-bit (XTS-AES-256) DEKs to encrypt the VMs, files, and disks.
  • The vCenter Server then requests a key from Alliance Key Manager. This key is used as the KEK.
  • ESXi then uses the KEK to encrypt the DEK and only the encrypted DEK is stored locally on the disk along with the KEK ID.
  • The KEK is safely stored in Alliance Key Manager. ESXi never stores the KEK on disk. Instead, vCenter Server stores the KEK ID for future reference. This way, your encrypted data stays safe even if you lose a backup or a hacker accesses your VMware environment.

vSAN Encryption

 

For a more detailed look at vSAN encryption, please visit our post: vSAN Encryption: Locking your vSAN Down. Here is a partial list of steps for enabling vSAN encryption:

  • First, install and configure your key management server, or KMS, (such as our Alliance Key Manager) and add its network address and port information to the vCenter KMS Cluster.
  • Then, you will need to set up a domain of trust between vCenter Server, your KMS, and your vSAN host.
    • You will do this by exchanging administrative certificates between your KMS and vCenter Server to establish trust.
    • Then, vCenter Server will pass the KMS connection data to the vSAN host.
    • From there, the vSAN host will only request keys from that trusted KMS.
  • The ESXi host generates internal keys to encrypt each disk, generating a new key for each disk. These are known as the data encryption keys, or DEKs.
  • The vCenter Server then requests a key from the KMS. This key is used by the ESXi host as the key encryption key, or KEK.
  • The ESXi host then uses the KEK to encrypt the DEK and only the encrypted DEK is stored locally on the disk.
  • The KEK is safely stored separately from the data and DEK in the KMS.
  • Additionally, the KMS also creates a host encryption key, or HEK, for encrypting core dumps. The HEK is managed within the KMS to ensure you can secure the core dump and manage who can access the data.

Final Thoughts

vSphere VM and vSAN encryption for data-at-rest is a powerful tool in protecting your sensitive data - for both companies and VMware Cloud Providers. It is standards-based, policy-based, and KMIP compliant. This makes it both powerful and easy to enable. While each has different strengths that make them a better choice in some situations; most of the time, it will just come down to needing to either secure data in a VM or vSAN datastore.

If you have sensitive data in VMware and are not encrypting, enable encryption today! We are happy to help.

 

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Topics: VMware, vSphere, vSAN, vSphere Encryption

Townsend Security Extends Free NFR Licenses for Key Management Server (KMS) to Microsoft MVPs and AWS Heroes

Posted by Luke Probasco on Mar 18, 2020 2:00:00 AM

Alliance Key Manager, Townsend Security’s FIPS 140-2 compliant encryption key manager, is now available free of charge to Microsoft MVPs and AWS Heroes.

Free NFR License for Encryption Key Management Server (KMS)

Townsend Security today announced that it is extending free Not for Resale (NFR) licenses to Microsoft MVPs and AWS Heroes for Alliance Key Manager, their FIPS 140-2 compliant encryption key management server (KMS). The NFR licenses are available for non-production use only, including educational, lab testing, evaluation, training, and demonstration purposes. NFR Licenses are available here.

Joining VMware vExperts in Townsend Security’s successful NFR program, Microsoft MVPs and AWS Heroes can protect databases, applications, and VMware images with a secure and compliant key management server (KMS). Additionally, the solution allows businesses to properly encrypt private data without modifying their business applications. Alliance Key Manager supports the OASIS Key Management Interoperability Protocol (KMIP) and Microsoft’s Extensible Key Management (EKM) found in SQL Server Enterprise 2008+ and SQL Server Standard 2019+. The solution is available as a VMware Virtual Machine or in the cloud (AWS, Microsoft Azure).

Additionally, Townsend Security provides Alliance Key Manager users with a wide range of ready-to-use security applications, SDKs, and sample code. With over 3,000 users worldwide, the solution is helping businesses achieve their security and efficiency goals in cloud and VMware environments.

“Protecting sensitive data continues to be a critical concern in IT, and an important part of both security and compliance efforts,” said Patrick Townsend, CEO of Townsend Security. “After launching with VMware vExperts, we are excited to extend the program to Microsoft MVPs and AWS Heroes. I believe they will be pleased to see how fast and easy encryption key management has become.”

Microsoft MVPs and AWS Heroes can request an NFR license of Alliance Key Manager here.

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Topics: Alliance Key Manager, Press Release

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The Definitive Guide to AWS Encryption Key Management
 
Definitive Guide to VMware Encryption & Key Management
 

 
 

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