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Townsend Security Data Privacy Blog

AES Encryption Performance on the IBM i (AS/400, iSeries):

Posted by Michelle Larson on Feb 8, 2016 7:39:00 AM

Understanding the basics can help you avoid problems! 

As enterprise customers deploy data security solutions to meet various compliance regulations (PCI DSS, HIPAA, etc.), they are frequently surprised by the performance impacts of encryption. Inadequate preparation in an encryption project can lead to increased costs, delayed (or even failed) projects, inability to meet compliance requirements, and even exposure in the event of a data breach.AES Encryption 30-day free trial

By its very nature, encryption and decryption are resource intensive processes. Enterprise customers can be surprised to discover that encryption from one vendor can perform very differently than the very same encryption from another vendor. While the various vendor solutions accomplish the same tasks, they vary greatly in how efficiently they do these tasks. The differences can vary by a factor of 100 or greater! This can have a large impact on business applications that perform encryption and decryption tasks. One vendor’s solution may encrypt a data in 10 minutes, and another vendor’s solution may take 10 hours to perform the same task!

Avoid surprises, ask for performance metrics:

Armed with the knowledge that encryption performance is important, you can take action to avoid potential problems. Before acquiring an encryption solution, ask your data security vendor to provide performance metrics for their solution. How long does it take to encrypt one million credit card numbers? Can they provide you with source code and demonstrate this performance on your server? Optimizing software for performance is a complex task and usually involves specialized technical talent and some experimentation with different computational techniques. Unless an encryption vendor is deeply committed and invested in encryption technologies, they may not make performance enhancements to their applications.

Create your own proof-of-concept applications that measure encryption and decryption performance in your application environment. Be sure to measure how well the encryption solution performs under your current transaction loads, as well as anticipated future transaction loads. A good rule of thumb is to be sure you can handle three times your current encryption volume. This will position you for increased loads due to unexpected changes in the market, or an acquisition of another company. It also insures that you are seeing real-life performance metrics, and not just the vendor’s marketing message.

Avoid hidden costs, ask for pricing calculations:

Ask your purchasing and accounting departments to include performance upgrade costs in the pricing calculation during vendor evaluation. Be sure these costs include any increases in software license fees. If an encryption solution consumes one third of the CPU processing power of a server, you might want to include the cost of upgrading to a processor twice as powerful as the one you have. Working these costs in during the product evaluation phase can provide a more realistic view of the actual cost of a vendor encryption solution. Upgrading hardware can lead to unexpected additional software costs. Some software vendors license their solutions to the number of processors, or speed of the processors, in your server. Upgrading hardware to solve a performance problem can result in increased software license fees.

Avoid red flags, not all AES encryption solutions are the same:

Some encryption solutions use “shadow files” (files external to your application) to store encrypted data. The use of shadow files normally indicates that the vendor has an incomplete implementation of the AES encryption suite, or that the system architecture is limited in some way. The use of shadow files can impose severe performance penalties. In order to perform an encryption or decryption task an addition file read or write is required which essentially doubles the file activity. This may also increase processor loads as your application mirrors the data to a hot backup system. You will want to be very careful in measuring the performance impacts of encryption solutions that use shadow files.

If an encryption vendor will not provide you with a fully functional evaluation of their solution, this represents a clear warning signal. Your application environment is unique and you will need to be able to evaluate the impact of encryption in your environment with a limited test. A vendor who refuses to provide you with a clear method of evaluating the performance of their solution may not have your best interests in mind.

Avoid frustrations, take a test drive with us:

Despite an organization’s best efforts, data will get out. The best way to secure sensitive information is with strong encryption that is NIST compliant and FIPS 140-2 compliant key management that meets or exceeds the standards in PCI, HIPAA/HITECH, and state privacy laws. For a more technical look at AES encryption, including FieldProc exit points and POWER8 on-board encryption, check out this blog by Patrick Townsend, Founder and CEO of Townsend Security: How Does IBM i FieldProc Encryption Affect Performance?

Our proven AES encryption solution encrypts data 115x times faster than the competition. But don’t just take our word for it, we provide a fully functional evaluation!  Request a free 30-day trial (full version) of our popular Alliance AES Encryption and see for yourself.

AES Encryption 30-day free trial

Topics: Alliance AES/400, IBM i, AES Encryption, iSeries, AS/400, Evaluation

Securing your IBM i (AS/400, iSeries) - Webinar Q&A

Posted by Michelle Larson on Dec 4, 2015 10:41:00 AM

Data security doesn’t need to be a challenge! 

Whether your data is stored within your database files or transmitted to your trading partners, using the right tools can mean the difference between meeting compliance and security best practices or suffering a data breach. Webinar: Securing Data on Your IBM i

Townsend Security is well known for providing security solutions for a wide variety of platforms (IBM i (AS400, iSeries), IBM mainframe, VMware, Windows, Linux). Recently, our founder and CEO produced an excellent webinar on “Securing Your IBM i Using the Right Tools”. Many of our IBM i customers are under multiple compliance requirements including PCI, HIPAA, SOX, GLBA, and others which require securing data-at-rest and data-in-motion, real-time security event logging, file integrity monitoring, and two-factor authentication. The webinar covers encryption and key management as well as a number of our other auxiliary products specifically for the IBM i (AS400, iSeries) platform.

There were a number of excellent questions asked after the presentation, and the following is a brief recap of that Q&A session with links to additional information:

Q:  Can I use FieldProc to protect multiple fields in a file?

A:  The short answer is yes, encrypting multiple fields is a fully supported capability. FieldProc does allow, from both DB2 and from our solution, protecting multiple columns or fields in a DB2 file. You can define multiple fields and then enable FieldProc with one command on all those fields within our solution. People often ask if indexes can also be encrypted and yes, that is fully supported as well. There are a few limitations in legacy RPG applications, while with a native SQL application there are no limitations.

To learn more about Field Procedures on the IBM i, check out this blog:  5 Common FAQs About IBM i Encryption Using FIELDPROC 

Q: Can’t I just transfer my file from IBM i to Windows and then PGP encrypt it there?

A:  This is a great compliance question and comes up often with QSA Auditors. Yes, of course you can move a file from one machine to another using operations navigator. The problem is that it exposes data in the clear during the movement, either across the network if it is an unsecured connection or when the data lands on the other side of the transfer. Any of these exposures will likely result in an audit failure.

Good security practice, regardless of the platforms involved is:

  •   Encrypt at the Source
  •   Decrypt at the Destination

Make sure to securely move it in encrypted form and don’t let it get loose anywhere in between!

Learn more about the core components of a total encryption strategy in this blog: Secure Managed File Transfer and PGP Encryption

Q: How does key management work with older back-up copies of data that was secured with earlier keys?

A:  Any Enterprise key management solution should maintain encryption keys under policy for as long as they are needed. As you generate new keys, the older keys are retained and made available for decryption purposes, until you retire those keys. Our solution will maintain multiple versions, and doesn’t have a limit on how many keys or generations you can have of master or key encryption keys. If you have a loss or need to delete data that is out of your control, you can then delete the key. 

For more information on the full life cycle of keys, check out this blog: Why Key Management is So Critical in the Life Cycle of an Encryption Key

Q:  Your two-factor authentication product is supported in which countries?

A:  Since our 2FA solution is through TeleSign, a global company, it has a broad presence in more than 200 countries around the world and in 87 languages.  By leveraging an individual's mobile phone, a reliable means of authentication has become readily available for the IBM i platform. For example, instead of tokens, businesses can simply send an SMS or voice message that contains a one-time authentication code to the individual user’s phone. This means cyber criminals cannot log into the IBM i without physical control of the actual phone. 

This blog will outline Making a Case for Two Factor Authentication: Taking Security Beyond Usernames and Passwords

Webinar: Sec

Topics: Data Security, IBM i, Webinar, iSeries, AS/400, IBM Security Solutions

 

 

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