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Townsend Security Data Privacy Blog

Dreamforce to You: Protecting Sensitive Information

Posted by Luke Probasco on Jan 17, 2012 8:04:00 AM
Dreamforce to YouAs the social revolution moves into the business world, protecting your data is more important than ever.  This was a key takeaway for attendees of the recent “Dreamforce to You” event in Seattle, WA, hosted by Salesforce.

Similar, yet smaller in scale to the Dreamforce conference held annually in San Francisco, this event brought together sales and marketing professionals who use Salesforce.com (a cloud-based Customer Relationship Manager) to see what is new with the CRM, how it can help you do your job better, as well as allow attendees to network with peers.  Additionally, Peter Coffee, an IT visionary who acts as the VP and Head of Platform Research at Salesforce.com, delivered an inspirational keynote titled “Toward the Social Enterprise: Trust; Vision; Revolution”.

The focus of both Dreamforce and “Dreamforce to You” is that by and large  business is embracing the social revolution.  Whether you are Bank of America and helping your customers find the nearest ATM or are collaborating with co-workers internally using social tools, businesses are migrating to the social world.  During the keynote, Peter Coffee presented a slide titled “Social is a model, not an app.”  By being social, businesses are able to work more efficiently and reach more customers in ways that were never thought possible.  “Salesforce is not just using social tools but instead is driven and formed by the social network.”

As Peter Coffee continued to discuss cloud computing, the future of IT platforms, and how businesses are “going social”, he conveyed a key concept – companies need to protect their sensitive information.  

Insist on NISTWe couldn’t agree more.  As a security company, this is something we have been saying since the beginning.  We have offered NIST-validated AES encryption for all the major enterprise platforms for over ten years, been securing managed file transfers with PGP encryption, and recently stepped up our game with a FIPS 140-2 compliant encryption key management HSM.  Simply put, we are helping organizations protect their sensitive information and meet compliance regulations with certified encryption solutions.

Occasionally we hear “I don’t need encryption, nothing can get inside my network” (De-Perimeterization concept). The truth is, no matter how many of the latest and greatest network security devices you implement, there is still nothing as fail-safe as properly encrypting your data.  As keynote speaker Peter Coffee would say about investing in the wrong technology, “doing it better is still doing the wrong thing.”

For more information on data privacy, download our podcast Data Privacy for the Non-Technical Person.  Patrick Townsend, our Founder & CTO, discusses what PII (personally identifiable information) is, what the most effective methods for protecting PII, as well as the first steps your company should take towards establishing a data privacy strategy.

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Topics: NIST, De-Perimeterization, Data Privacy, Trade Shows, FIPS-140, AES Encryption

Data Privacy in a De-Perimeterized World

Posted by Patrick Townsend on Feb 25, 2011 8:33:00 AM
De-perimeterizationI just listened to a discussion of database security hosted by Oracle that was very well done. At one point the discussion turned to current threats and how the Enterprise has lost the ability to use perimeter protection for sensitive data. This has been a topic of much discussion in the security area for the last few months. Perimeter protection is based on the use of Firewall and similar technologies to keep the bad guys out, but this approach is failing with the advance of more sophisticated attacks, the use of social media by large organizations, the advance of mobile technologies, insider threats, and the migration of applications to cloud platforms. The trend is called “de-perimeterization” and represents a bit of a challenge to organizations that need to protect sensitive data.

Vipin Samir and Nishant Kaushik did a great job of describing the how the process of de-perimeterization has forced companies to fall back on user access controls to protect data. But user access controls are notoriously weak.  Weak passwords and sophisticated password cracking routines make it almost impossible to properly secure a database. So what is a security administrator to do?

Here are the suggestions from the panel that are a part of a defense-in-depth strategy:

Use Encryption to Protect Data:
Companies should use encryption at the database level or column level to protect data. This will secure data at rest on backup tapes and on disk in the event a drive is replaced. Encryption is an important part of the data protection strategy, but it needs to be combined with other techniques.

Use Good Key Management:
Protecting encryption keys is the most important part of the encryption strategy. Good key management techniques are needed, and the keys must be separated from the data they protect. Without this separation from protected data it is impossible to implement separation of duties and dual control – important parts of the key management strategy. See our Alliance Key Manager solution for more information about securing encryption keys.

Separation of Duties:
Because the threat from insiders is rising, it is important that the management of encryption keys be separate from the management of databases. Database administrators responsible for our relational databases should not have access to encryption key management, and security administrators should not manage databases. This is a core principal in data security regulations such as PCI DSS, but is often overlooked.

Context Sensitive Controls and Monitoring:
The last important step is to be sure that data access controls are sensitive to the data and its context. Bill in shipping has access to the order database, but should he really be decrypting the credit card number? Does your encryption solution detect and block this type of event? How will you monitor this security event? Or, Sally is authorized to view HR data from the accounting application, but should she really be using FTP to transfer this data? Normal encryption functions would not provide adequate protection from these types of data access. Context sensitive controls are needed to augment encryption.

When we started planning for automatic encryption in our Alliance AES/400 product two years ago, we took care to implement context sensitive controls right in the decryption APIs. That is now available in V7R1 of the IBM i operating system. We avoided the error of basing these controls on user account authorities and native OS security. Just because the operating system says you have read access rights to a database table, doesn’t mean you should be decrypting the social security number or using FTP to transfer the file. I’m happy with our implementation that is based on explicit authorization by a security administrator, and application white lists.

You can get more information and request an evaluation version of our Alliance AES/400 solution here.

You can find the Oracle presentation here. Look for “How secure is your Enterprise Application Data?”

Patrick

Topics: Key Management, De-Perimeterization, Oracle, Separation of Duties, Alliance AES/400, Encryption Key Management, Defense-in-Depth, automatic encryption, AES Encryption

 

 

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