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Townsend Security Data Privacy Blog

Overcoming the Top 4 Fears of Encryption and Key Management

Posted by Liz Townsend on Aug 8, 2014 8:29:00 AM

Implementing strong data security to protect sensitive data is a top priority for many businesses. Not only does processing and storing sensitive data put you at risk for data loss or breach, it also means that you must meet certain industry regulations and possibly undergo periodic data security audits. Encryption and key management is required if not strongly recommended by many industry regulators such as the Payment Card Industry (PCI) and HIPAA; however, these technologies have a reputation for being difficult, costly, and causing severe impact on server or application performance.

eBook - Encryption Key Management SimplifiedToday this reputation doesn’t holds true, and these common fears can, in fact, get in the way of implementing a strong security solution.

Fear #1 : Encryption & Key Management Will Affect Performance On My System and Applications
One of the most common fears about encryption and encryption key management is that encrypting data will severely impact system performance. It’s true that encryption will have some impact on performance, but if done right, encryption should should never impact your performance more than 2-4%. Performance impacts can also vary based on the amount of data you’re encryption and whether you’re doing whole disk, column and field level, or application level encryption. Because encrypting data at any level is difficult to get right, many organizations who attempt “do-it-yourself” encryption solutions see a much higher performance impact.

Application level encryption is considered the best way to encrypt sensitive data as well as the most difficult. Within an application, an administrator can be selective about which types of data should be encrypted, and which data can be stored in the clear. Therefor the encryption is targeted and only performed on necessary data, which reduces overall performance impact. If done properly, application level encryption will not interfere with your applications.

Fear #2: What if I Lose an Encryption Key?
While the fear of losing a key is legitimate, the keystone of a successful encryption solution is encryption key management, which is the primary solution for managing, storing, and most importantly, protecting encryption keys. Unlike a “key storage” solution, a cryptographic encryption key manager is typically a NIST FIPS 140-2 compliant hardware security module (HSM) or virtual machine in the cloud that manages key storage, creation, deletion, retrieval, rotation, and archival. Many key management solutions are also produced in pairs, with one located in a different geographical location for high availability. If doing encryption key management right, you will never lose an encryption key.

Fear #3: Encryption Key Management Is Too Expensive
Perceived cost is a common barrier for many organizations. However, cutting corners and choosing a third-rate solution is a lot like choosing the cheapest and least reputable car insurance policy: it might get you through the day, but should you ever have an accident, you’ll deeply regret it. Data breaches are no longer a matter of “if,” but “when,” and when a breach happens, it might be the kind that costs you your entire business. Luckily, strong, certified encryption key management solutions are becoming less costly as demand rises and data moves to the cloud. Cost should never be a barrier to good security, and choosing a subscription-based cloud key management solution might be your best way to overcome any cost barriers.

Fear #4: My IT Staff is Too Small
Another common fear is that an organization’s IT department is too small to handle a project like implementing encryption and encryption key management. Encryption key management has a reputation for being incredibly difficult to implement, and many administrators assume that the time and manpower that must be diverted to complete an encryption key management project isn’t worth doing the project at all.

Although this reputation held true ten years ago, encryption key management today has become so simple that in many scenarios can be implemented in less than ten minutes. Of course, ease of implementation always varies depending on your IT infrastructure, platforms, and applications; however, a reputable encryption key management vendor knows that IT departments vary and can work with a variety of platforms in multi-platform environments.

To learn more about encryption key management, download the eBook, Encryption Key Management Simplified.

Encryption Key Management Simplified eBook

Topics: Encryption, Encryption Key Management

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


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