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Townsend Security Data Privacy Blog

Luke Probasco

Recent Posts

Living on the Edge

Posted by Luke Probasco on Dec 9, 2019 8:02:59 AM

As the world of edge computing becomes more distributed, billions of connected devices live on the edge, which need to be secured, managed and automated. For many businesses, this means deploying a VMware and cloud infrastructure and using VMware vSphere, for example, to encrypt private information.  While it is easy enough to encrypt data on the edge, key management has proven to be a challenge.

Podcast: Living on the EdgeI recently sat down with Patrick Townsend, Founder and CEO of Townsend Security to talk about deployments on the edge, achieving a strong security posture with key management, and other ways that businesses can better secure their private data. 

Patrick, Townsend Security has had key management solutions for VMware for a number of years. What is special about Edge computing?

Well, Edge computing is fascinating.  It isn’t really that different from how we currently think about computing and data security in the cloud or on-premise. By moving applications closer to the end user, Edge computing brings a better, faster user experience to the end user.  So, if you are running an application in the cloud, perhaps in a retail or healthcare environment, the delay over the network can degrade the experience or inhibit the ability to collect a lot of data, for example, from IoT devices. Edge computing is a natural evolution of making things more efficient with a better user experience.  However, Edge computing also brings new security challenges too. If we are collecting data that is sensitive in nature, it is just as sensitive out on the Edge as it is in our data center.

So what is special or different about Edge computing from a security point of view?

There are a number of challenges.  How do we deploy applications in a secure way?  How do we do application patching? One of the most important security efforts that we make is to keep everything patched and up to date.  When you have Edge computing, there are a lot more environments in distant locations. The security process really becomes more complex when we move to Edge computing.  Those challenges can be solved, but they represent things that we really need to pay attention to.

At the same time, as we are pushing applications out to the Edge, compliance regulations are getting more stringent.  Just look at the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and GDPR before it. Both of those are making the protection of sensitive data much more important.  The risks of data loss to an organization are escalating, and at the same time, we are pushing data to more and more places - so we have a big security challenge that we need to step up to.

Protecting data data in a centralized IT data center is a challenge, but one that we are used to.  Edge computing brings unique problems with it. For example, let’s say you pushed some data out to a dozen Edge computing environments.  You’ll need to encrypt that data to meet compliance, but where is the key manager? Is it back at your central on-site data center? If so, you may have just lost the advantage of pushing everything to the Edge.  Encryption and key management also need to be pushed out to the Edge in order to meet security best practices, just as you would in on-premise environments.

In terms of the cloud, can you give some examples of Edge environments?

Sure.  In the Cloud, we try to deploy applications close to the end-customer which gives us better response times and a better customer experience.  So, in AWS or Azure, we can move applications closer to where the end-customer lives. CSPs are making this easier by automating some of the deployment tasks.  By pushing applications to the Edge, you get really close to the physical location of the customer. For example, if you live in Sweden, you don’t need to connect to a key manager that is sitting back in Silicon Valley.  You should connect to a key manager that is near you. When moving to the Edge, encryption and key management need to move with you.  

By the way, you may have noticed that VMware has been working much more closely with Cloud Service Providers to provide true VMware infrastructure on cloud platforms.  For example, on Azure, you can deploy a full bare metal stack - VMware in the cloud and managed the way you want. But again, when you push those VMware environments to the Edge, what about the encryption key management?  The good news is, that with our new Alliance Key Manager for Edge Computing, we can make that easy and affordable to accomplish.

How about some examples of non-Cloud Edge environments?

Almost all of us use VMware on premise, and it isn’t really all that different to what we are currently doing.  Think of a medium or large retail organization with hundreds or thousands of storefronts. When you walk into the store, there is a very good chance that there is a local VMware node out there that is running many applications.  Think about a large box store with retail, pharmacy, and automobile services. The VMware environment in a single store might support dozens or hundreds of specialized applications. How do you protect data in that environment? Sometimes when we think of Edge computing we think of “just” the cloud, but this isn’t the case.  Again, just like with the Cloud, it doesn’t need to be difficult to push encryption and key management to the Edge, it just needs to get done.

How do compliance requirements impact Edge computing?

Well, compliance requirements, which are getting stronger as we speak, make the challenge of Edge computing even more important to address.  If you think about it, when we have centralized IT processing, we have one environment to protect. It may be a very data rich environment with sensitive data that cybercriminals may want to steal - but it something that isn’t that difficult to protect.  What if we have 500 of those environments out there across on-prem and cloud locations? The attack surface has been dramatically increased. The data is still important and still a target, but now we have a lot more to deal with. I think people are waking up to the security challenge and need to focus just as much effort on securing data at the Edge as we do at the centralized, on-premise data center.  We have to deploy all of our security defenses at the Edge in the same way that we do with core IT systems. The data is the same.

How is Townsend Security trying to help resolve this challenge.

The barriers to getting Edge data protection right are only party technical.  Key management vendors have not adapted to the new reality of the Edge. The huge expense of traditional KMS solutions is the primary barrier to protecting data at the Edge.  For small businesses, they can even be completely priced out of the market around doing encryption and key management right. Large organizations have been priced out as well.  When there are hundreds or thousands of endpoints that need protected, vendors need to step up to help these businesses secure their data.  

At Townsend Security, we have two distinct advantages.  First, our Alliance Key Manager for Edge Computing solution is virtualized, automated, and VMware Ready.  For example, our key management solution has been certified by VMware for vSphere key management - to protect VMs and vSAN storage.  We are seeing many organizations deploy VMware at the Edge. Second, we have the ability to flexibly license and price our solutions for the Edge.  Enterprises can now deploy full VMware VM encryption and key management at Edge with an affordable solution.

To hear this conversation in its entirety, download our podcast Living on the Edge and hear Patrick Townsend further discuss deployments on the edge, achieving a strong security posture with key management, and other ways that businesses can secure their private data.

Podcast: Living on the Edge

Topics: Encryption Key Management, Alliance Key Manager for Edge Computing

Press Release: Alliance Key Manager for Edge Computing

Posted by Luke Probasco on Dec 4, 2019 12:00:00 AM

New, scalable pricing for Alliance Key Manager customers running in edge computing environments.

Townsend Security is extending support of its cloud, container, and VMware Ready key management solution, Alliance Key Manager, to customers running applications and databases in edge computing environments. This new offering provides scalable pricing for customers running a large number of edge computing environments in remote cloud or on-premise deployments. The new offering is called Alliance Key Manager for Edge Computing and will make it easy and affordable for customers to take encryption and proper key management everywhere it needs to go.

Podcast: Living on the Edge“Edge computing requires that applications and infrastructure move closer to end users to achieve performance and availability goals. For edge computing customers, this often means that application deployments move to cloud or remote on-premise facilities. Think of a retail box store that may have hundreds of applications in every store. Or, think of an HMO with multiple hospitals, clinics, and remote providers. There is often a pain point around encrypting that information and deploying encryption key management at the edge to protect sensitive data,” said Patrick Townsend, CEO of Townsend Security. “Encryption key management solutions are too expensive and too difficult to manage in these highly distributed edge computing environments. Those are the problems that we are helping to solve with our new offering.”

Encryption and key management have become a critical aspect of security and compliance management. Edge computing deployments can involve VMware clusters, Cloud web services, Big Data IoT collection, and many other architectures. Protecting encryption keys mitigates the risk of data breaches and cyber-attacks, as well as protects an organization’s brand, reputation and credibility. Alliance Key Manager for Edge Computing addresses these needs by helping enterprises reduce risk, support business continuity, and demonstrate compliance with regulations like PCI DSS, HIPAA, GDPR, etc.

“With the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) due to go into effect on January 1, 2020, it becomes more important than ever to protect sensitive consumer and household data with strong encryption. Strong encryption with proper encryption key management is the only protection from class action lawsuits under the CCPA. Wherever your data goes it is subject to a data breach. With edge computing, the data is in more places and is more exposed to loss,” continued Townsend. “Townsend Security’s new Alliance Key Manager for Edge Computing provides the technical support and affordability that businesses need to protect sensitive data at the edge for CCPA.”

Alliance Key Manager for Edge Computing is available for a free 30-day evaluation.

Podcast: Living on the Edge

Topics: Press Release, Alliance Key Manager for Edge Computing

Press Release: Alliance Key Manager Now Supports Encryption Key Management for MySQL Enterprise Edition Database

Posted by Luke Probasco on Nov 19, 2019 12:00:00 AM

Townsend Security’s Alliance Key Manager for MySQL offers unparalleled security, flexibility and affordability for all users of MySQL Enterprise Edition and MySQL Cluster CGE. 

What Data Needs Encryption In MySQL?Townsend Security today announced Alliance Key Manager for MySQL, an affordable FIPS 140-2 compliant encryption key manager to help users of the MySQL Enterprise Edition database meet compliance requirements (PCI DSS, GDPR, CCPA, HIPAA, etc.) and security best practices. Users of the MySQL database can now easily protect private data like customer PII and intellectual property without modifying existing applications or the database by using the database’s Transparent Data Encryption (TDE) coupled with Townsend Security’s Alliance Key Manager for MySQL.  

While MySQL offers industry standard 256-bit AES encryption, it is recommended to use an external encryption key management solution like Alliance Key Manager for MySQL to manage the encryption keys. Alliance Key Manager uses the industry standard Key Management Interoperability Protocol (KMIP) to access encryption keys and MySQL users can deploy the solution and install the PKI certificates on the database server to easily begin protecting encryption keys.

"MySQL is the world’s most popular open-source database, and consequently, stores enormous amounts of sensitive data," said Patrick Townsend, CEO of Townsend Security. "MySQL Enterprise Edition includes standards based encryption, along with KMIP support for key management, and MySQL users can be confident that they are protecting their private data against a breach and meeting compliance requirements.” 

MySQL encrypts data at rest in real-time using industry standard AES algorithms prior to writing to storage and decrypted when read from storage. As a result, hackers and malicious users are unable to read sensitive data from tablespace files, database backups or disks. By using native MySQL command line operations, encryption is easy to deploy and keys can automatically be protected by Townsend Security’s Alliance Key Manager. MySQL users can deploy the key management solution as a hardware security module (HSM), VMware virtual machine, or in the cloud as a native AWS EC2 instance or Microsoft Azure virtual machine. Alliance Key Manager supports seamless migration and hybrid implementations. 

“Encryption and key management is easier than ever and I think that MySQL Enterprise Edition users will be delighted to find how easy and affordable it is to deploy an enterprise-class centralized encryption key management solution,” continued Townsend. “Protecting PII, enterprise IP, and meeting compliance regulations are all things that enterprise’s are concerned with on a daily basis. MySQL databases are used in mission-critical applications by large and small organizations, so the real-time high availability failover capability of Alliance Key Manager will make IT administrators very happy. By pairing MySQL and Alliance Key Manager, security teams can rest a little bit easier.”

Alliance Key Manager for MySQL is available for a free 30-day evaluation.

What Data Needs To Be Encrypted in MySQL?

Topics: Press Release, Alliance Key Manager for MySQL

Don’t Let Your Application or Database Limit Your Encryption Strategy

Posted by Luke Probasco on Sep 23, 2019 8:37:27 AM

Historically, encryption and key management have been deployed at the application or database level. There are even several databases who’s “Enterprise” edition (like Microsoft SQL Server or MongoDB, for example) include options for encryption and external key management built right in the database. Unfortunately, these types of databases are the exception, rather than the rule. If you were to examine an organization's IT infrastructure, you are more likely to find a wide variety of databases and applications, some natively supporting encryption, some not, and many containing unprotected private information or personally identifiable information (PII). Simply put, their encryption strategy has been limited due to cost and resources required to properly protect private information. 

Podcast: Don't Let Your Application or Database Limit Your Encryption StrategyFortunately, these same enterprises have deployed VMware infrastructure, and starting with vSphere 6.5 and vSAN 6.6, are able to encrypt sensitive workloads in VMware using the advanced cryptographic features in vCenter. To put it a little more simply, businesses can protect their sensitive information in their internal applications and databases that don’t natively support transparent encryption with tools offered by VMware.

I recently sat down with security expert and CEO, Patrick Townsend, to talk about how enterprises can leverage VMware’s vSphere and vSAN to encrypt private data - regardless of whether their applications or databases support encryption. 

Hi Patrick. Let’s jump right in. With the introduction of vSphere encryption in 6.5 and vSAN 6.6, it has become much easier for businesses to encrypt private data. In the past they have relied on encryption at the application level or used the encryption that comes with their database. With so many enterprises deploying VMware, they no longer need to let their application or database limit their encryption strategy.

That’s absolutely correct. There are databases like Microsoft SQL Server and MongoDB EA, for example, that have encryption built right in - which makes it easy. But there are other times when encryption can be much more difficult. SQL Server Standard edition and the Community edition of MySQL, for example, do NOT support encryption. So, you have these widely used databases, with lots of unprotected data because that can be a challenge to encrypt. Using vSphere and vSAN encryption is a great way to address these gaps in an organization's encryption strategy with industry standards-based encryption. 

Sometimes the barrier to encryption is the cost of upgrading databases to “Enterprise” editions. Almost all of us are running VMware in our infrastructure anyway, so in many cases we already have the tools we need - the encryption support is there, we just need to use it. VMware even provides excellent guidance for encrypting databases, like Oracle and SQL Server, for example.

So, one of the most obvious questions. How is performance?

This is always a concern that people bring up. I can say that VMware has done a great job with performance in both encrypted VMs and vSAN - and performance continues to improve. These days, you can even deploy a large database on vSAN. This is a technology that has matured and gained the trust of customers, and they are adopting it at a rapid rate. There is also some really good material from VMware about performance expectations - white papers, solutions briefs, etc. Furthermore, both vSphere and vSAN take advantage of the Intel AES-NI on-chip accelerator for encryption, which provides a great performance boost.

Of course the key manager is the critical component that ensures the encrypted data stays encrypted. Without proper key management, it is like leaving the keys to your house under the welcome mat. What should our readers be looking for in a key manager?

Here is something that I think VMware did right. You must use a key manager in order to activate vSphere encryption of VMs or vSAN encryption. Within vSphere you are able to create a KMS cluster, define failover key managers, multiple KMS clusters, etc. They did a great job. Furthermore, VMware based their interface on the Key Management Interoperability Protocol (KMIP) industry standard. Other databases vendors, for example, allow local storage of encryption keys. That is really such a BAD security practice, so I am glad that VMware saw implications of that. If you are going to use VMware data-at-rest encryption, you are going to use proper encryption key management and that will be much better from a security perspective. I also think that this reflects on VMware as a company and their concern for their enterprise customers.

What to look for in a key manager? All enterprise level key managers are validated to FIPS 140-2 by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Be absolutely sure you key management vendor has completed this validation. Secondly, your key manager should support the KMIP protocol. Finally, if you are taking credit cards for payments, look for a PCI validation. We validated our Alliance Key Manager with both Coalfire and VMware, as a joint project. This helps our customers easily get through an audit, which can be quite difficult.

While I have you, I was hoping you could also offer some clarification on the term KMS. For example, VMware defines KMS as a Key Management Server. Amazon defines their KMS as a “Key Management Service.” How should our readers be thinking about a KMS in regards to VMware encryption?

Ah, the chaos of three letter acronyms. KMS, in general terms, means Key Management Server. It is a broad term covering key management devices that manage the entire lifecycle of a key - from creation to destruction. You are right, Amazon does call their key management service KMS, which can lead to some confusion. This service is NOT to be confused with a key management server - and does not give you full control over the entire key lifecycle. It is a shared administrative environment where you share access to the keys with Amazon.

You need to approach cloud service provider (CSP) implementations of key management services with trepidation. It is important for YOU to hold exclusive access to your keys and that only you have the only administrative control. Cloud lockin can be another concern as well.

To hear this conversation in its entirety, download our podcast Don’t Let Your Application or Database Limit Your Encryption Strategy and hear Patrick Townsend further discuss Encrypting applications and databases that don't natively support encryption, encryption performance, and other fundamental features of an enterprise grade key manager.

 

[Podcast] Don't Let Your Application or Database Limit Your Encryption Strategy

 

Topics: Encryption Key Management, VMware, vSphere, vSAN

Case Study: Indus Systems

Posted by Luke Probasco on Jul 16, 2019 8:13:57 AM

indus-LogoIT Solution Provider Helps Customer Protect vSphere and vSAN Encryption Keys with Alliance Key Manager for VMWare

 


“As our customers face new and evolving compliance regulations that require them to encrypt private data, we needed a partner that could provide easy and affordable encryption key management for VMware.

- Kushal Sukhija, Technical Director

 
Indus Systems
Indus Case StudyAs processes are becoming more complex, competitive and demanding, businesses are constantly exploring new ways to deploy effective solutions. Indus Systems (www.indussystem.com), over the years, has synchronized their team to offer best-of-breed solutions from leading technology partners, coupled with their Professional Services to help customers to protect their Information Technology investment, reduce costs and grow business. Their IT Solutions increase people efficiency, reduce infrastructure footprint, which acts as catalyst towards quantum business growth. Indus Systems thrives to be a hand-holding partner in their customers’ journey.
With over 15 years of experience and 300+ happy clients, Indus Systems offers solutions in:
  • Business Continuity
  • Core Infrastructure
  • Network & Security
  • Mobility
  • User Devices
  • Professional Services 

 

The Challenge: vSphere / vSAN Encryption Key Management

Based in India, Indus Systems is increasingly finding their financial customers concerned with meeting the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) requirements for protecting private information. According to the SEBI framework, which came into force on April 1, 2019, “Critical data must be identified and encrypted in motion and at rest by using strong encryption methods.”

JM FinancialWith SEBI’s new cyber security framework, JM Financial Asset Management Ltd turned to Indus Systems for guidance on how to better protect their data. JM Financial Asset Management Ltd, an Indus Systems customer of 10 years, were due for a technology refresh. As part of the project, the company would rely heavily on VMware and protecting private data with vSphere and vSAN encryption.

Knowing that for encryption to be truly effective it needs to be coupled with encryption key management, Indus Systems and JM Financial Asset Management Ltd visited VMware’s Solution Exchange in search of a VMware Ready key management solution.

The Solution

Alliance Key Manager for VMware

“After visiting VMware’s Solution Exchange and finding Townsend Security’s Alliance Key Manager as a VMware Ready solution that had been certified by VMware for use with vSphere and vSAN encryption, we knew that we could easily help customers like JM Financial Asset Management Ltd meet SEBI’s encryption requirements,” said Kushal Sukhija, Technical Director, Indus Systems.

With Alliance Key Manager for VMware, organizations can centrally manage their encryption keys with an affordable FIPS 140-2 compliant encryption key manager. Further, they can use native vSphere and vSAN encryption - agentless - to protect VMware images and digital assets at no additional cost. VMware customers can deploy multiple, redundant key servers as a part of the KMS Cluster configuration for maximum resilience and high availability.

“Alliance Key Manager proved to be an affordable and easy to deploy solution that we will be able to offer our customers beyond JM Financial Asset Management Ltd,” continued Sukhija. “Further, as part of our due diligence, we started
a Proof of Concept (POC) with another key management vendor as well. After getting halfway through the project, we could quickly see that their solution was getting complicated and expensive - something that we could not recommend and deploy for our customers.”

By deploying Alliance Key Manager for VMware, Indus Systems was able to meet their organization’s and client’s needs to protect private data at rest in VMware.

Integration with VMware

“VMware’s native vSphere and vSAN encryption make it easy to protect VMware images and digital assets. With Townsend Security’s Alliance Key Manager, we were able to protect our data with no additional agents or additional costs as JM Financial Asset Management Ltd scales their IT infrastructure,” said Sukhija. With a low total cost of ownership, Alliance Key Manager customers can leverage the built-in encryption engine in VMware enterprise, with no limits imposed to the number of servers or data that can be protected.

By achieving VMware Ready status with Alliance Key Manager, Townsend Security has been able to work with VMware to bring affordable encryption key management to VMware customers and the many databases and applications they run in VMware Enterprise. VMware Ready status signifies to customers that Alliance Key Manager for VMware can be deployed in production environments with confidence and can speed time to value within customer environments.

Indus Case Study

 



Topics: Alliance Key Manager, Case Study

Townsend Security Announces Alliance Key Manager for VMware Cloud on AWS

Posted by Luke Probasco on Apr 9, 2019 12:01:00 AM

Alliance Key Manager for VMware Cloud on AWS provides customers with dedicated key management in AWS – with no access to encryption keys by cloud service provider (CSP).

Townsend Security today announced Alliance Key Manager is available to customers of VMware Cloud™ on AWS. VMware Cloud on AWS brings together VMware’s enterprise-class Software-Defined Data Center (SDDC) software and elastic, bare-metal infrastructure from Amazon Web Services (AWS) to give organizations consistent operating model and application mobility for private and public cloud. Alliance Key Manager for VMware Cloud on AWS enables the flexibility and security of a native VMware encryption key manager to customers of VMware Cloud on AWS.

As VMware users turn to VMware Cloud on AWS, they bring their sensitive data with them – customer names, email addresses and other personally identifiable information (PII). While compliance regulations require protecting this information, encrypting this data has been a challenge for organizations who want the flexibility and security of a native VMware encryption key manager. By deploying Alliance Key Manager for VMware Cloud on AWS, customers can achieve their security and efficiency goals in a cloud environment.

“With subscription and perpetual licensed options for the Alliance Key Manager for VMware Cloud on AWS, we have licensing options to fit the needs and budgets of our customers. Additionally, there are never extra fees for deploying additional nodes, databases or applications - giving your encryption strategy the freedom to scale without having to come up with budget for added licenses,” said Patrick Townsend, CEO & Founder, Townsend Security.

VMware Cloud on AWS technology partners enable customers to deploy the same proven solutions seamlessly in both the public and private cloud. VMware simplifies the deployment and eliminates the need for partners to refactor solutions for VMware Cloud on AWS. If a partner solution works on-premises in a VMware vSphere environment, it will easily support VMware Cloud on AWS. VMware technology partners complement and enhance native VMware Cloud on AWS service and enable customers to realize new capabilities.

“VMware Cloud on AWS provides customers a seamlessly integrated hybrid cloud offering that gives customers the SDDC experience from the leader in private cloud, running on the leading public cloud provider, AWS,” said Kristen Edwards, director, Technology Alliance Partner Program, VMware. Solutions such as Alliance Key Manager for VMware Cloud on AWS enable IT teams to reduce cost, increase efficiency, and create operational consistency across cloud environments. We’re excited to work with partners such as Townsend Security to enhance native VMware Cloud on AWS capabilities and empower customers with flexibility and choice in solutions that can drive business value.”

About VMware Cloud on AWS

Delivered, sold and supported by VMware and its channel partners as an on-demand service, and running on elastic, bare-metal AWS infrastructure, VMware Cloud on AWS is powered by VMware Cloud Foundation, the unified SDDC platform that integrates vSphere, VMware vSAN and VMware NSX virtualization technologies. With the same architecture and operational experience on-premises and in the cloud, IT teams can quickly derive business value from use of the AWS and VMware hybrid cloud experience. For more information on the VMware Cloud on AWS partner ecosystem, visit: http://cloud.vmware.com/vmc-aws

Townsend Security‘s product information, collateral and other assets are listed within the online VMware Solution Exchange at https://marketplace.vmware.com/vsx/solutions/alliance-key-manager-for-vmware-cloud-on-aws-4-60?ref=search. The VMware Solution Exchange is an online marketplace where VMware partners and developers can publish rich marketing content and downloadable software for our customers.

# # #

VMware, VMware Cloud, vSphere, Cloud Foundation, vSAN, and NSX are registered trademarks or trademarks of VMware, Inc. in the United States and other jurisdictions.           

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Topics: Press Release, Alliance Key Manager for VMware Cloud on AWS

Encryption Service Performance with Alliance Key Manager

Posted by Luke Probasco on Mar 18, 2019 10:31:02 AM

For applications that require the highest level of security, developers can use the on-board, NIST-compliant encryption and decryption services on Alliance Key Manager, rather than encrypting at the application or database level. Under this strategy, encryption keys never leave the key manager. With on-board encryption services, small chunks of data, such as credit card numbers, Social Security numbers, e-mail addresses, etc are encrypted on the server (physical HSM, VMware, or virtual appliance in the cloud). Because data is securely transferred to the key manager for encryption, it is recommended for smaller amounts of data. For larger amounts of data, it is still recommended to encrypt at the database or application level.

Using an Encryption Service
Businesses can use onboard encryption effectively to improve their security posture and reduce their attack surface. This strategy is helpful in situations where they don’t want to expose the encryption key in their application or server environment. For businesses who have their data in the cloud, this also alleviates the risk of exposure of the encryption key in cloud memory.

Encryption Service Performance
The performance of an encryption service is one of the biggest concerns that businesses have when taking this approach to protecting data. To shed some light on these concerns, we did some testing using our Java SDK on small blobs (<16KB) and with our .NET Key Client for large blobs.

Small Blob Performance
Quant. | avg enc/dec | avg rate
< 1KB | 48ms | 21 ops/sec
3KB | 50ms | 20 ops/sec
5KB | 51ms | 20 ops/sec
7KB | 52ms | 19 ops/sec
10KB | 53ms | 19 ops/sec
16KB | 55ms | 18 ops/sec

As a general metric, it is fair to say that for small pieces of data, the average latency for AES encryption (using CBC mode) is 50ms, yielding a rate of 20 operations per second.

Large Blob Performance

The results of testing with the .NET Key Client for large blob:

Quant | Avg. enc. time
1MB | 462 ms
2MB | 535 ms
5MB | 949 ms
7MB | 1.16 s
10MB | 1.74 s
15MB | 2.34 s
25MB | 3.61 s
50MB | 7.60 s
70MB | 10.65 s

This can be represented as a graph:

Seconds vs Size

Taking this data and calculating the rate at which Alliance Key Manager is encrypting data, we were able to generate this graph:

AKM size of data being decrypted
The horizontal axis is the size of the data being encrypted--the larger the file, the more likely it will approach maximum speed. For encrypting small pieces of data, the process of establishing a connection to Alliance Key Manager and sending the data vastly outweighs the actual encryption, so the rate shows as very low. It spikes up to about 6.5 MB/s when the size of the data is around 5MB--larger than that, and the time to encrypt can be predicted using that rate.

The major take-away: encrypting large blobs on AKM using the .NET Key Client occurs at a rate of 6.5MB/s. It is likely that the Java SDK, and other SDKs, would have about the same level of performance. This data was compiled on an AKM with 1CPU and 2GB of memory. Doubling those resources yields a small increase in performance--up to 6.9 MB/s .

Conclusion

While there are performance impacts when encrypting large amounts of data with an encryption service (as opposed to encrypting an entire database or column within), it does provide improved security on smaller amounts of data for business wanting to minimize their encryption key exposure. Further, by utilizing Townsend Security’s encryption service, businesses can have confidence that they are protecting their data with NIST-compliant AES encryption. NIST compliance means that the encryption implementation has been reviewed by an independent testing lab who reports the results to NIST for validation.

eBook: Definitive Guide to Encryption Key Management

Topics: Alliance Key Manager, On-Board Encryption

Don’t Forget About FIPS 140-2 and Other Fundamental Key Management Features

Posted by Luke Probasco on Jan 28, 2019 1:04:00 PM

Over the last several years, encryption key management has attained “essential infrastructure” status. When done properly, key management can protect encrypted data - and in the event of a data breach, can even provide a company with an exemption for a breach notification.

Don't Forget FIPS 140-2 and Other FundamentalsI recently sat down with Patrick Townsend, Founder and CEO of Townsend Security to talk about encryption key management and the importance of standards, what to look for in a key manager, and fundamental features of an enterprise grade key manager. While Townsend Security isn’t alone in the key management game, there are a few telltale signs that differentiate a key manager that meets industry standards and one that will leave you with a breach notification on your hands. Let’s jump in.

Hi Patrick. Townsend Security has been in the key management game for close to 10 years now. Back when Alliance Key Manager was brought to market, people weren’t really sure what key management was. Now it is considered essential infrastructure.

Yes, it sure is. Things have changed so dramatically over the last few years. Encrypting sensitive data is now a requirement for businesses who need to meet data privacy compliance regulations. And it is also achieving visibility at the executive level as a part of a GRC (governance, risk, compliance) plan. The landscape really has changed a great deal, and I think organizations are stepping up and doing a better job.

We are also seeing databases implementing encryption directly into the database engine. MongoDB Enterprise is an excellent example of this by incorporating AES encryption into the WiredTiger storage engine and providing KMIP for good key management. Microsoft SQL Server Enterprise has also built the encryption engine right into the database with transparent data encryption (TDE) and provides extensible key management (EKM) for vendors like us to plug in to and allow users to properly manage encryption keys.

Let’s spend a minute on compliance. What regulations require key management?

It is true that there are a lot of compliance regulations and most of us fall under multiple. Certainly, GDPR and the new Australian law have come on board and are affecting the way companies all over the world, even outside of the EU, who are now taking steps to protect that data. Almost all regulations require the protection of data, which encryption can help with. Regarding encryption, from a best practices point of view, if you don’t have proper key management, you don’t have encryption.

PCI DSS and the payment industry has now been with us for a decade and that also drives the protection of a lot of sensitive data. While PCI DSS is a private regulation between merchants who accept credit cards and the industry, it is a strong regulation with strong penalties. Because of the longevity and focus on security, PCI DSS often informs other regulations and corporate governance boards.

While we live in a very complex set of compliance requirements, there are fortunately some similarities. When we set out to protect sensitive data, and do it right, which I am sure you know by now means based on standards and security best practices, we find business meeting a broad set of regulations.

As I mentioned earlier, key management is considered essential infrastructure. Back when Townsend Security first entered the market, there were just a few options for the enterprise to choose from. Today, options have dramatically increased. With that said, there are a few ways to distinguish a key manager that meets industry standards and one that will leave you with a breach notification on your hands.

There are a few key quality indicators when assessing key management systems. First off, a key management server must be validated to FIPS 140-2. That is the US and Canadian standard for cryptographic modules and it is just a fundamental indicator of the seriousness of a company and its ability to build good key management solutions. Unfortunately, there are claims of FIPS 140-2 compliance by vendors who have systems which have actually not completed a validation. It’s always a good idea to ask your key management vendor what their certificate number is so that you can look it up yourself on the NIST website. Additionally, key management vendors should be able meet KMIP requirements by demonstrating interoperability. These sorts of validations and certifications show that a key management vendor is stepping up to the technical requirements that customers expect.

Finally, there are individual specific validations to regulations. Our key manager, for example, has been through a PCI DSS validation with a QSA auditor and with VMware. You want to avoid solutions that are simply “key storage” which haven’t been validated and there has not been external review and validation of the cryptographic approach. It is incredibly easy to get encryption and key management wrong from a technical point of view.

Third-party attestations and validations are critically important. You are putting your digital assets, not to mention your company’s reputation, at risk when you use a poor quality key management server (KMS). Fortunately, today there are very affordable solutions available everywhere from a traditional hardware security module, to VMware, to the cloud. 10 years ago, key management servers where terribly expensive.

Yeah, I have been seeing key managers hitting the market that range from open source to cloud service provider (CSP) provided. Some key managers will even claim FIPS compliance when a simple check with NIST shows them nowhere to be found. You also get providers who claim FIPS compliance because they are using a module that has been through a validation, which as I am sure you can tell us more about, doesn’t make your solution compliant.

That’s right. Unfortunately, there is still a fair amount of snake oil in the industry. People claim FIPS 140-2 compliance, but haven’t fully been through the process. As you mentioned, claiming one component as being FIPS 140-2 compliant does not make your entire solution compliant. I like to say, “I drive a Toyota. If I put a Jaguar hood ornament on my car, it doesn't turn my car into a Jaguar. It is still a Toyota!” There is a lot of language used by some solution providers that just isn’t accurate and should be verified before choosing a solution.

You also talked about governance. Let’s take a look at the recent Marriott/Starwood breach. There was an interesting statement where they said “we can’t be absolutely sure that the encryption keys weren’t lost.” If you are using enterprise level key management systems, you have monitoring and audit trails that will show if keys have been retrieved. By them not knowing, it is easy to surmise that they weren’t adequately protecting our information. This was a failure of governance in regards to critical security infrastructure. We might not be talking about the breach right now had they had industry standard key management in place.

Changing gears a little, we have in the past seen cloud vendors offer key management systems in their shared environments. Multi tenant key management presents a concern for enterprises. Just last week I had a conversation with a security professional from a global enterprise who said, “for us, trust is paramount to our brand. We will never allow encryption keys to be stored and accessed by a cloud vendor.” I thought it was a very interesting statement and completely lines up with other enterprises that I speak with.

There is also a bit of confusion on the term KMS. For example, VMware defines KMS as a Key Management Server. Amazon, on the other hand, defines their KMS as a “Key Management Service.”

Well, there is a bit of confusion on this isn’t there? A true enterprise key management system (KMS), is responsible for the entire lifecycle of an encryption key - from generation where admins create provably strong keys, to storage, to provisioning applications and users who need the keys, all the way through to the archival and destruction of the keys. Key management systems manage all of those phases according to industry standards.  

A key management service can better be defined as storage service and offers a mix of capabilities. Some are services that are shared, multi-tenant environments. CSP key managers often work this way (think AWS KMS, Azure Key Vault). Many services don’t give you full access or control over a key’s complete lifecycle. Some services allow you to bring your own key, but then bring that into their own infrastructure, where you then share administrative access and control.

It is very important to know that if you are truly trying to do security the right way, you need a key management system that is built to industry standards and validated to industry standards. One last point, it is possible to do key management correctly in the cloud. There are third-party key management offerings that can be found in the marketplace that meet all the standards that we have been talking about, and are dedicated to you and only you. Our Alliance Key Manager is one, for example.

A feature that we are very proud of with our key manager is that it runs the same software in the Cloud, VMware, or as a traditional hardware security module (HSM). We have customers setting up hybrid cloud/on-prem deployments or even cross-cloud. The way we license our key managers works really well for the modern enterprise which needs a predictable, low TCO. With Alliance Key Manager, there are never added fees for additional databases or applications.

To hear this conversation in its entirety, download our podcast Don’t Forget About FIPS 140-2 and Other Fundamental Key Management Features and hear Patrick Townsend further what enterprises should look for in a key manager, the importance of standards, and other fundamental features of an enterprise grade key manager.

Don't Forget FIPS 140-2 and Other Fundamental Encryption Key Management Features

Topics: Encryption Key Management, FIPS-140

Townsend Security and Alliance Key Manager Achieves VMware Ready™ Status

Posted by Luke Probasco on Jan 22, 2019 12:01:00 AM

Townsend Security, today announced that its Alliance Key Manager for VMware has achieved VMware Ready status. This designation indicates that after a detailed validation process Alliance Key Manager for VMware has achieved VMware’s highest level of endorsement and is supported on VMware ESXi  (all supported versions, vSphere 6.5 and later, and vSAN 6.6 and later) for production environments.

Encryption and Key Management for VMware - Definitive Guide“We are pleased that Townsend Security and Alliance Key Manager for VMware qualifies for the VMware Ready logo, signifying to customers that it has met specific VMware interoperability standards and works effectively with VMware cloud infrastructure. This signifies to customers that Alliance Key Manager for VMware can be deployed in production environments with confidence and can speed time to value within customer environments,” said Kristen Edwards, director, Technology Alliance Partner Program, VMware.

By using Alliance Key Manager for VMware with VMware ESXi (all supported versions, vSphere 6.5 and later, and vSAN 6.6 and later) organizations can centrally manage their encryption keys with an affordable FIPS 140-2 compliant encryption key manager. Further, they can use native vSphere and vSAN encryption to protect VMware images and digital assets at no additional cost. VMware customers can deploy multiple, redundant key servers as a part of the KMS Cluster configuration for maximum resilience and high availability.

“By achieving VMware Ready status with Alliance Key Manager for VMware, Townsend Security has been able to work with VMware to bring affordable encryption key management to VMware customers and the many databases and applications they run in VMware,” said Patrick Townsend, CEO of Townsend Security. “Meeting data security compliance in VMware vSphere is now easier than ever.”

The VMware Ready program is a co-branding benefit of the Technology Alliance Partner (TAP) program that makes it easy for customers to identify partner products certified to work with VMware cloud infrastructure. Customers can use these products and solutions to lower project risks and realize cost savings over custom built solutions. With thousands of members worldwide, the VMware TAP program includes best-of-breed technology partners with the shared commitment to bring the best expertise and business solution for each unique customer need.

Townsend Security and Alliance Key Manager for VMware can be found within the online VMware Solution Exchange (VSX) at https://tsec.io/VMwareReadyPR. The VMware Solution Exchange is an online marketplace where VMware partners and developers can publish rich marketing content and downloadable software for our customers.

VMware, VSXi, vSphere, vSAN and VMware Ready are registered trademarks or trademarks of VMware, Inc. in the United States and other jurisdictions. All other marks and names mentioned herein may be trademarks of their respective companies.

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Topics: Encryption Key Management, VMware, Press Release, vSphere, vSAN

Notice to Alliance Key Management users in AWS

Posted by Luke Probasco on Oct 11, 2018 11:36:59 AM

This week Amazon Web Services sent an email to our AWS customers informing them that Alliance Key Manager was no longer available in the AWS Marketplace. This email message was inaccurate and misleading. Townsend Security is committed to providing dedicated, compliant key management solutions to AWS customers, as well as to other cloud platform customers, and continues to make our solution available on the AWS Marketplace.

This is from the email message sent by Amazon:

We are writing to inform you that, as of 10 October 2018, Townsend Security will no longer offer "Alliance Key Manager for AWS" to new subscribers on AWS Marketplace.”

In fact, Townsend Security posted a new version of Alliance Key Manager on AWS this week, and withdrew the older version. The withdrawn version is Alliance Key Manager version 4.5. The new version is Alliance Key Manager version 4.6, which adds new support for VMware vSphere and vSAN encryption key management. You can find the current version of Alliance Key Manager in the AWS Marketplace here:

Both versions of Alliance Key Manager remain under full software support and maintenance. You can upgrade to the new version if and when you wish to.

Please be aware that Amazon prevents us from knowing your customer details when you use the fee-based offering on AWS. Unless you register with us we won't be able to inform you if we have important updates and security patches. If you are an Alliance Key Manager customer on AWS, please register with us here.

Our goal is to provide you with the best key management and encryption solutions on the AWS platform. You always have exclusive control of your encryption keys and – neither Amazon nor Townsend Security can manage or access your keys.

If you have any questions please contact us here.

Townsend Security

Encryption Key Management AWS

Topics: Alliance Key Manager, Amazon Web Services (AWS)

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