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Townsend Security Data Privacy Blog

Nine Guidelines for Choosing a Secure Cloud Provider

Posted by Patrick Townsend on Jul 8, 2014 11:25:00 AM

Public and private organizations want to take advantage of cloud-based solutions to reduce costs and improve business performance. Organizations understand that the ultimate responsibility for the security of their data remains with them. Justifiable concerns about the security of cloud-based applications continue to worry security professionals and business executives.

eBook The Encryption GuideThe following list of nine guidelines is intended to serve as a baseline indicator of the maturity and adequacy of the security of a cloud platform and cloud application offering. They are not intended to be exhaustive, but only serve as a set of key indicators. Additional security review of any cloud provider and cloud application should be performed before deployment or migration.

Security professionals (CIOs, CISOs, compliance officers, auditors, etc.) and business executives can use the following set of key indicators as a way to quickly assess the security posture of a prospective cloud provider and cloud-based application or service. Significant failures or gaps in these nine areas should be a cause for concern and suggest the need for a more extensive security review.

The sources for these guidelines include the Cloud Security Alliance, Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the SANS Institute, and others.

The nine key indicators:

1) Inventory of Sensitive Data

All sensitive data processed and stored by the cloud application and service should be properly inventoried and published to stakeholders. Data retention policies should be published for all sensitive data.

2) Data Protection

The use of industry standard encryption for data at rest should be implemented for all sensitive information such social security numbers, credit card numbers, email addresses, and all other personally identifiable information. Encryption keys used to encrypt sensitive data should be protected by appropriately strong key encryption keys, and encryption keys should be stored away from the sensitive data and managed according to industry best practices (separation of duties, dual control, split knowledge, key rotation, etc.). Minimally, encryption key management systems should be validated to the FIPS 140-2 standard.

3) Business Continuity Plan

The cloud and application providers should have a published business continuity plan (BCP) that meets the minimum baseline needs of your organization. The business continuity plan should address backup and recovery, geographic redundancy, network resilience, storage redundancy and resilience, and other common components of a BCP.

4) Incident Response Plan

Both the cloud provider and the application provider should have a current incident response plan available to stakeholders. The plan should cover how incidents are discovered, the response plan for breaches, staff training, and management. All stakeholders should understand that security events are a matter of “when”, not “if”.

5) Active Monitoring

Actively monitoring of all aspects of the cloud and application environment is a core security principal. Real time log collection and monitoring is a minimum component of active monitoring. Additionally application and operating system configuration changes and access to decrypted sensitive data should be monitored (File Integrity Monitoring). Cloud provider infrastructure monitoring should be in place as well as stakeholder access to critical event information.

6) Multi-tenancy Data Isolation

Cloud-based applications and services inherently share computing resources across multiple customers. Proper segregation of your data from other customers using the application is crucial for your security posture. The cloud and application provider should provide credible assurance that there is adequate logical or physical separation of your data from all others sharing computing resources.

7) Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Testing

Periodic vulnerability and penetration testing should be performed on the cloud provider infrastructure as well as the application environment. Any identified weaknesses should be addressed in a timely manner and disclosed to you and other stakeholders.

8) Independent Security Assessment

The cloud provider’s infrastructure used to host the application should be independently assessed for security compliance and best practices on a periodic basis, and no less than annually. The results should be available to you and other stakeholders. Examples would include SOC 2, SOC 3, SSAE 16, PCI assessment and letter of attestation, etc.

9) Contractual and Legal

Cloud and application providers should provide you with proper legal agreements including a Service Level Agreement (SLA) that defines mutual obligations. Be sure that you understand where you data will be stored and processed and that you understand geographic boundary controls. Additionally, be sure that the agreement between you and your cloud and application provider apply to any third parties who may have access to your data, or who may take possession of your data. Lastly, be sure that you receive prior notification before your data is released to law enforcement or any other governmental agency.

The Encryption Guide eBook

Topics: Data Security, Cloud Security

Data Security: 10 Things to Consider When Moving to the Cloud

Posted by Michelle Larson on Jun 27, 2014 9:41:00 AM

Encryption and Key Management Can Provide Data Security in the Cloud

Resource Kit: Key Management in the Cloud

Data security is frequently brought up as one of the biggest concerns of moving to the cloud. According to a recent American Institute of CPA’s survey, weighing in at over 63%, the top barrier to adopting or expanding cloud solutions are security concerns. Whether you are looking for a cloud database solution, or moving other sensitive business data to the cloud, choosing your cloud provider will be a critical decision. After all, not all cloud security providers or cloud security solutions are created equal.

If you’re thinking of moving some or all of your sensitive data to the cloud, we’ve compiled a handy list of questions to help you select the right security solutions for your business. Remember every provider is different, so what might be right for one company might not be the best solution for another. It can seem like a daunting process, but as long as you do your research then you’ll be on the right track!

  1. If I have my sensitive data stored in the cloud, am I responsible if my cloud provider has a data breach?
    The short answer is yes you are.
    When you have sensitive data and are moving it into a cloud environment you are still ultimately responsible for protecting that data. This can be confusing because cloud vendors make a lot of statements about encryption and compliance, however you are responsible for your overall data protection strategy. Data security is a shared responsibility in the sense that it is the cloud providers network, datacenter, and hardware and you bring the applications, operating system, and data. You are fully responsible for that data. You are also responsible for making sure the cloud provider can back up their security claims by requiring to see specific written compliance reports such as a SOC 3 audit statement, annual security assessment, and a letter of attestation by a QSA auditor.

  2. Which compliance regulations apply to my business?
    In addition to the 4 listed below, there are also many state laws and regulations that govern security best practices. It is your responsibility to know which ones apply to your company (and which ones apply to your cloud provider location).
    PCI Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) applies to anyone, public or private, who take credit cards for payment. Primary account numbers (PAN) are specifically addressed.
    HIPAA/HITECH Act requires the medical segment (and any business associate) provide data protection for protected health information (PHI) of patients.
    GLBA/FFIEC applies to the financial industry (bank, credit union, trading organization, credit reporting agency) for protecting all sensitive consumer information.
    Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) applies to public traded companies for sensitive data of personally identifiable information (PII).
    In addition to these compliance regulations, the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) has created the Cloud Controls Matrix (CCM) specifically designed to provide fundamental security principles to guide cloud vendors and to assist prospective cloud customers in assessing the overall security risk of a cloud provider.

  3. What type of data will be stored in the cloud, and does it need to be encrypted?
    If you are storing any sensitive data (PAN, PII, or PHI) that information must be protected and will need to be encrypted both at-rest and in-transit. Sometimes your whole database must be encrypted, other times you can select to encrypt at the column level. Make sure options are available to cover all your critical information.

  4. Who will have access to the encrypted data? Will my cloud service provider or other cloud tenants be able to access to my information?
    Only you should have access to your encrypted data and the encryption keys that protect it. In a multi-tenant environment like the cloud, it is even more important to control access. Depending on the value of the data that you store, and your risk tolerance, you may opt to use a virtual private cloud vs. a multi-tenancy cloud environment to store your most sensitive information.

  5. Where should I store and manage my encryption keys?
    Always use an external Key Manager solution to create, store, manage, and properly rotate your encryption keys. Storing encryption keys in the same database as the encrypted data has always been something to avoid!  Moving your data to the cloud still allows you to choose where you store your encryption keys. Hardware Security Module (HSM), Cloud HSM, virtual appliance (VMware), private cloud instance… just as long as they are stored and managed away from the data they protect!

  6. How much control do I retain over my encryption keys?
    With using an external encryption key management solution, you should retain complete control over your encryption keys.

    These next few questions are encryption & key management solution specific. So if you are comparing solutions be sure to ask each vendor!

  7. Do Townsend Security solutions protect data at-rest or in-transit? What type of encryption is used?
    Yes.  We use industry standard AES Encryption to protect data-at-rest.  We also use 128-bit SSL encryption to protect data-in-transit.

  8. Can Townsend Security solutions grow to meet my business needs? How scalable are the solutions, is there a limit to how many applications I can (connect)?
    Yes. We believe you should get a flexible solution that will be able to scale up as your business grows, and not have a limit on how many application connect to it!

  9. Are Townsend Security solutions validated by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)?
    Yes. Our solutions are NIST validated and also FIPS 140-2 compliant.

  10. Does Townsend Security Have a “Test Drive” Offering?
    Yes. We always offer a complimentary 30 day evaluation of all of our solutions. Providing a free trial allows you to fully test the concept first, which can help allay fears and and answer any questions before making a commitment. With cloud deployments, you may still need to pay for their implementation services associated with the evaluation period, but in the new world of cloud computing, it is important to look for proof points and results before you make your investment.

Data stored in the cloud can be as secure or accessible as you make it. It is up to each and every cloud user to assess their business risk and uphold an expected standard of security.

It is ultimately your responsibility to make sure your data security plan meets compliance regulations. Make sure you have a strong defense in depth strategy in place and are using industry standard encryption and proper key management to protect your data wherever it resides. Learn more by downloading our Resource Kit on Key Management in the Cloud:

Key Management in the Cloud Resource Kit

Topics: Alliance Key Manager, Data Security, Encryption, Encryption Key Management, Defense-in-Depth, Resource Kit, Cloud Security

Cloud Resellers: Meeting Customer Concerns About Data Security in Azure, AWS, and Other Clouds

Posted by Liz Townsend on Apr 18, 2014 10:17:00 AM

Today, cloud resellers need to know that companies searching for a cloud provider to host their information technology have several good options. Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services (AWS) are two popular and trustworthy cloud platforms, and there are many other smaller cloud and private cloud platforms that can meet specific technological needs. However, when moving to the cloud, organizations must also consider the security options provided by that cloud service in order to address their own concerns about data security. This can be an issue for cloud resellers whose customers need good security in order to move to the cloud.

Click to request the webinar: Encryption & Key Management Everywhere Your Data IsFinding good security on a cloud platform can be difficult when cloud security seems to be far more expensive than the cloud solution itself. Many companies need to encrypt sensitive data such as cardholder data, protected health information (PHI), and other personally identifiable information (PII), as well as manage their own encryption keys to meet compliance regulations.

This is why third-party cloud encryption and key management solutions are becoming more and more popular with cloud resellers who need to provide their customers easy and cost-effective encryption and key management. Third-party security can help a company choose the cloud provider they want without having to compromise their data security due to cost.

Cloud resellers for Azure, AWS, and other cloud providers should consider these concerns their customers’ may have about data security on cloud platforms:

1. Multi-Tenancy

Since it is shared by many users, the cloud is inherently less secure than a hardware solution. Cloud solutions utilize shared resources such as disk space and RAM, which is why the cloud is much less expensive than purchasing your own hardware; however, this means you have less control over who has access to your data. This is why encryption is critical to organizations who are storing sensitive data in the cloud.

2. Standards-Based Encryption

Many organizations attempt “in-house” or do-it-yourself encryption in an attempt to avoid difficult or costly third-party encryption solutions. However, these DIY projects tend to be difficult and rarely result in strong, defensible security. They can lead to huge problems down the road, especially when it comes to meeting compliance regulations, and it is common for these solutions to fail data security audits.

One major reason a DIY approach to encryption often fails is a lack of strong cryptography and and encryption key management. The management and documentation of encryption key lifecycle, rotation, creation, and deletion is mandated by many regulations such as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS). Anyone handling sensitive data must meet specific encryption and key management requirements set forth by the industry or government regulations they fall under.

For these reasons, most organizations chose a certified third-party encryption and key management vendor to help them meet compliance as well as centralize and streamline the encryption and key management of all of their sensitive data in the cloud.

3. Encryption Key Management

Encryption key management is a major concern for cloud users. Even if their cloud vendor offers a native encryption option, how that vendor manages encryption keys can be a barrier for organizations who need to manage their own encryption keys in order to meet compliance. In accordance with many compliance regulations, businesses must document how they manage their encryption keys away from their encrypted data. This can be very difficult if your encryption keys are being stored in the cloud and accessible by the cloud provider. Some cloud providers offer encryption key management; however, they do so at a cost that makes using the cloud an unattractive choice. Cloud resellers must be aware that this, too, can be a barrier to cloud adoption.

Cloud resellers need to know that security is a barrier for many companies who wish to move to the cloud. Building a toolbox of certified cloud encryption vendors can help them win these customers and gain new revenue.

To learn more about encryption key management for the cloud, view our webinar, “Encryption & Key Management Everywhere Your Data Is,” featuring data privacy expert Patrick Townsend.

Request the webinar: Encryption & Key Management Everywhere Your Data Is

Topics: Encryption, Encryption Key Management, Cloud Security

Three Features That Enable Easier Encryption & Key Management

Posted by Liz Townsend on Mar 20, 2014 2:39:00 PM

In light of the recent, massive Target data breach, and the fact that Target had passed a PCI DSS audit yet lacked proper security controls, many organizations are searching for stronger data security. Using encryption to protect sensitive data should be considered a top priority for organizations that want to protect themselves from a potential data breach. Strong, defensible encryption used in conjunction with strong key management and a system logging solution can enable a business to catch a breach in real time when it happens, and know that any sensitive data that has been accessed is undecipherable by the attacker. Even with sophisticated and expensive malware detection software, the only way to secure the breach and avoid breach notification is with encryption and encryption key management.

Click to request the webinar: Encryption & Key Management Everywhere Your Data IsFew organizations are aware of the extreme criticality of encryption and key management, and for the ones that are aware, many still consider encryption a last-effort solution and grapple with its reputation for being difficult and costly. Encryption and encryption key management can be difficult and costly; however, it doesn’t need to be. Different encryption key management vendors offer varying features and applications as well as pricing structures, and finding a solution that can integrate easily into your IT infrastructure is an achievable task. The key is to look for specific features that increase ease of use while decreasing costs.

  1. Easy to use client side applications - A security expert and developer once said to me, “People say a lot of things aren’t ‘rocket science,’ but encryption key management is like ‘rocket science’. This is why businesses very rarely develop their own encryption and key management solutions internally. How easy an encryption key management vendor makes their solution to use is a major factor of a purchasing decision. If encryption is going to become as widely used as it needs to be, the client-side applications that manage encryption keys must be usable and intuitive to the average security administrator.
  2. Scalable pricing structure - Scalability results in affordability. Not every company can invest in millions of dollars of malware detection and security consultants, and we’ve found out that the companies who can afford those services still have data breaches. Data breaches don’t discriminate, which is why encryption and key management solutions must be affordable for organizations, regardless of size. Five years ago, the only encryption key management solutions available were very expensive hardware solutions. Many vendors charge extra fees per network connection, which is neither an easy or scalable solution for companies that are growing. These hardware security modules (HSMs) are still widely used and preferred by businesses with a low tolerance for security risk, but many are turning to newer cloud solutions that offer the same certified technology with a lower price tag.
  3. Cloud compatibility - Moving applications and data centers to the cloud is a natural step for organizations attempting to consolidate their IT infrastructures and lower operational costs. Security, however, remains the number one concerned for the cloud--a multi-tenant environment that shares resources with other users. Encryption and key management is essential to protecting any sensitive data processed or stored cloud applications or databases, and cloud-based or hosted solutions are readily available. Just remember that your key management solution must be FIPS 140-2 compliant and not share services with other users in order to be compliant with most data security regulations.

Encryption and encryption key management are essential, proactive technologies that help organizations remain intact in the event of a data breach. Look for these three features in a certified solution to protect yourself and your customers.

Townsend Security’s FIPS 140-2 compliant “one-click” ready-to-use key management solutions enable cloud users to easily protect their data in the cloud or data center at an affordable price. Learn more by viewing the webinar, “Encryption & Key Management Everywhere Your Data Is,” featuring data security expert Patrick Townsend.

Request the webinar: Encryption & Key Management Everywhere Your Data Is

Topics: Encryption, Encryption Key Management, cloud, Cloud Security

Encryption & Key Management in Windows Azure

Posted by Michelle Larson on Feb 13, 2014 3:05:00 PM

Providing Data Security IN the Cloud

The excitement level has been palpable around our office this week as we released the first encryption key manager to run in Microsoft Windows Azure, solving the data security problem that has held many companies back from adopting Microsoft's cloud.  In preparation for this new product, we have had a number of questions to answer, so I thought we should recap a few of them and share an excellent podcast resource with our readers!Encryption Key Management in Windows Azure

What is the main issue that Microsoft Windows Azure customers are experiencing?

The number one concern reported by companies or organizations when they think about moving to any cloud environment is security. The studies show that their biggest concerns revolve around exposure of personally identifiable information and preventing data loss. It is a big enough concern that many companies have held back from migrating mission-critical applications with sensitive data from their traditional data centers into the cloud.  

A few things that are common across many industries and compliance regulations can really help with protecting data in cloud platforms like Windows Azure:

  • Use industry-standard AES encryption.
  • Keep your encryption keys are separate from the data that's being protected.
  • Use dual control and separation of duties to protect your encryption keys.
  • Follow best practices in terms of protecting data-at-rest and data-in-motion.

What strategy do you use for deploying a key manager in Windows Azure?

When you are running AKM as a Windows Azure virtual instance it is in a standard or virtual private cloud environment (VPC) allowing for better segmentation and isolation of your key management implementation. You definitely do not want to store encryption keys in the same virtual machine or instance of Windows Azure where sensitive data is stored. That would be like taping your house key to the front door when you leave home! In fact, the core concept for key management is to always separate the encryption keys from the data they protect. 

We know key management is critical to meeting compliance regulations, but is there any guidance about securing data in the cloud?

It is very important for cloud users to protect data using good practical guidance from PCI Security Standards Council (PCI SSC) even if not storing credit card information.  PCI SSC has issued Cloud Computing Guidelines as well as guidance around virtualization of data protection solutions, so you can be PCI compliant with a cloud-based key management and encryption solution.

The Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) has also issued good guidance around security in cloud environments in version 3 of their documentation (domain 11 applies to encryption and key management).

National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) also has produced a guidance for security in cloud environments (NIST Special Publication 800-144) which provides excellent guidance for people looking to move into cloud platforms and protect data there.

How does your Alliance Key Manager help protect data in Windows Azure?

Our founder and CEO Patrick Townsend says, “I'm rather proud of the fact that we have the first fully cloud-based key management solution in Windows Azure.  Our Alliance Key Manager for Windows Azure solution is a cloud instance that you can deploy directly into Windows Azure to manage encryption keys and protect data. It can be deployed in standard Windows Azure Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) environment and you can deploy it directly into a virtual private cloud.  It's the same binary code that is in our HSM which is FIPS 140-2 validated and it's running purely within that Windows Azure environment. I am proud of our development team for bringing forth our Alliance Key Manager for Microsoft Windows Azure users as an affordable solution.”

Along with Alliance Key Manager comes applications that deploy, such as our EKM provider, which gives you full protection of Microsoft SQL Server databases and the Microsoft solution applications that run on top of SQL Server. This includes:

  • Custom-built SQL Server applications
  • Applications in SharePoint using SQL Server as its content database platform
  • Microsoft dynamics applications such as CRM and AX and GP that run on top of SQL Server

For custom applications we provide a .NET assembly that you can use to add to your applications to perform encryption either on versions of SQL Server that don't support transparent data encryption (TDE) or on unstructured data that you may be storing in the Windows Azure platform. You are also able to encrypt data going into SQL Azure as well as MySQL or Oracle or any other database that you might be running. Alliance Key Manager comes with a complete library of SDKs and sample code for developers, along with purpose built applications that are ready to plug in and perform encryption, which will get encryption projects up and running very quickly.

“The recent data breaches experienced by so many retailers just highlight the need to protect data with encryption and properly manage the encryption keys.  We really help answer the challenge of protecting data in cloud environments like Microsoft Windows Azure and we are helping people achieve that data protection that they need to feel comfortable moving to cloud platforms.”

Please download this podcast to learn more about securing data in the Microsoft Windows Azure platform:

Encryption Key Management for Windows Azure

Topics: Alliance Key Manager, Compliance, Podcast, Cloud Security, Microsoft Windows Azure

7 Reasons Why Using VMware Makes Key Management Easier Than Ever

Posted by Liz Townsend on Jan 16, 2014 4:42:00 PM

Every business is trying to save money and reduce complexity in their IT departments, and many are accomplishing this today by using virtual machines such as VMware and moving to the cloud. With these technologies they can consolidate resources and “rent” space in the cloud to run their applications. However, this can be a dangerous move for businesses with applications and servers that contain sensitive information that must be protected under industry regulations such as PCI-DSS, GLBA/FFIEC, and HIPAA/HITECH. That’s why encrypting this data in virtual environments and in the cloud is critical.

How-to-Guide Key Management Best Practices eBoHowever, businesses need to remember that encryption is only half of the solution. They must securely manage their encryption keys as well. How can they accomplish strong key management in a VMware instance, you ask? With virtual encryption key management, of course. 

Virtual encryption key management is available to VMware users, and will make your decision to move to virtual environments easier than ever. If your concern over data security is preventing you from using a virtual environment, there are 7 reasons why choosing a virtual key manager can help you make that step.

1. Strong and defensible security in the virtual world - Encryption key management is required or strongly recommended by most industry regulations. This is because in today’s cyber environment, just using strong passwords and firewalls to deter hackers is not enough. Encrypting data at it’s source and using strong key management is the only way to prevent data loss and exposure. If a hacker or malicious users gain access to the encrypted data, and the keys are protected, then the data will be “scrambled” and useless to the intruder.

2. Less expensive - Virtual environments were designed to help businesses reduce costs and complexity by allowing them to run multiple operating systems on a single piece of hardware Instead of having to buy a hardware system for each operating system. The cost of virtual key management is also less expensive since it has no hardware components and is installed directly onto the virtual platform.

3. Less complex - Without the burden of hardware, virtual encryption key management is easier to deploy than the traditional hardware security module (HSM).

4. Helps you meet compliance - If meeting compliance regulations is a concern, encryption key management for VMware will get you in line with several compliance requirements such as PCI-DSS and GLBA/FFIEC. You should always use  NIST FIPS 140-2 compliant key management software to ensure your key management meets the highest standards.

5. Data protection where you need it - Every business’ IT environment is different. Even if you are moving to a virtualized environment for most of your applications, you may still want to run some databases and applications with very sensitive data on their own dedicated servers. If you choose to, you can manage your encryption keys for that data using the virtual key manager as well.

6. Virtual HA and failover - With virtual encryption key management you can choose to use virtual machines for your high availability (HA) and/or failover key managers as well. Of course you can always choose the option of using an HSM for these services as well.

7. Prepares you to move to the cloud -  The amazing thing about virtual environments is that once you have your data center running in them, moving them to the cloud is a piece of cake. In fact, VMware supports a direct move from VMware to vCloud. Many businesses with sensitive data opt for a private cloud option which offers a little more peace of mind; however, most cloud providers including public vCloud are acceptable if you are using encryption and strong key management to protect your data in the cloud!

Townsend Security’s Alliance Key Manager for VMware enables enterprises to lower operational costs, meet compliance requirements, deploy encryption key management in the cloud, and accelerate deployment of mission critical security technology through a virtualized encryption key manager. Alliance Key Manager for VMware supports VMware ESX, VMware vSphere (ESXi), and vCloud Townsend Security is a VMware Technology Alliance Partner (TAP).

Request the Key Management Best Practices How-to-Guide

Topics: Encryption Key Management, VMware, Cloud Security

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


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