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Townsend Security Data Privacy Blog

Encryption is Like Going to the Gym

Posted by Luke Probasco on Jul 7, 2011 9:00:00 AM
data protection projectMuch like going to the gym, not many people wake up in the morning and say that they want to start an encryption project.  It can take a little knowledge and some hard work to be done correctly.  But the results of both provide benefits far beyond their initial investment.

First, like a proper workout, there are two parts.  There is the encryption process and the often after-thought of key management.  You need both for a successful and compliant data privacy solution.  This is much the same as hitting the gym.  You need to do your weights as well as run on the treadmill for a comprehensive workout.  Just because you are encrypting, doesn’t mean that you are doing it correctly, or will pass any sort of audit for that matter.

Next comes the personal trainer, or in the case of data privacy, regulatory compliance regulations (PCI DSS, HIPAA/HITECH, FFIEC, etc). Privacy regulations show you proper form.  They spell out exactly what you need to be doing to meet compliance regulations.  Check out the concepts in PCI DSS Section 3 for encryption and key management requirements.  Not only are privacy regulations helpful for providing best practices, but also in most cases apply directly to your business (PCI DSS, state privacy laws, etc.). 

Sometimes difficult to meet, compliance regulations are a good thing.  They are what protect your and my personal information.  One good way to ensure you are going down the right path is to use NIST-certified AES encryption and FIPS 140-certified encryption key management.  These certifications assure that the solution is proven and validated by a third-party.  It is a very expensive and time intensive process, but ultimately assures the encryption and key management solutions can meet the most stringent privacy regulations.  Only the very best encryption and key management offerings can do this.

Why make your workout harder than it needs to be?  Start your workout right from the beginning and you won’t be throwing your back out later (did you know an average data loss costs a company over $200 per record?).  Believe it or not, there are still some “encryption” solutions that aren’t NIST-certified.  Some companies say “we meet the standards of NIST and FIPS regulations”, but have nothing to prove it.  If you dig a little deeper you’ll see NIST has no record of them.  It’s kind of like trusting an infomercial that says all you need to do is use their contraption for three minutes a day and you’ll look like a body-builder.  I’d rather spend my time and efforts sticking to a proven method for getting in shape.

For more information on encryption and key management, download our white paper titled “AES Encryption and Related Concepts.”


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Topics: Encryption, NIST, Encryption Key Management

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