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Townsend Security Data Privacy Blog

A Data-centric Approach to Securing Sensitive Data

Posted by Michelle Larson on Feb 25, 2016 1:11:00 PM

Data-centric security means planning for and implementing encryption and the proper management of encryption keys regardless of the environment.Request the Podcast: Compliance for Coders

All data security plans should constantly evolve to reflect changes in business and compliance regulations, as well as policy and infrastructure changes. Because of this evolution, developers are often called upon to modify existing applications, and to implement new or better security solutions. They also are often required to add new security applications in order to meet data protection best practices or prepare for an audit to meet compliance requirements (PCI DSS, HIPAA, FFIEC, etc.).  

What do developers need to know about coding for compliance?

From the ground up, regardless of the platform or language you use, it is the data security mindset that is critical. Developers need to be aware of protecting sensitive data when writing code because ever-evolving compliance requirements call for that disposition. There should be an emphasis to meet industry compliance standards from the beginning design stages. Code needs to be built with those data protection requirements in mind so that is doesn’t have to be reengineered. Projects can sink or fail due to inadequate data security measures, which can put a whole organization at risk.

Whether you are working in hardware, virtual, or cloud environments, understanding and identifying where sensitive data will reside is very important from day one. There needs to be an understanding of the criminal mindsets that will be trying to breach the systems you create, proper preparation for security audits, and a full knowledge of the compliance guidance available to meet industry standards. Developers should also develop for every possible platform/application that the project might be deployed on. As applications move more to multi-tenant cloud environments, you want to make sure you are not locked into or out of a particular platform. You want your code to be compatible from day one with hardware, VMware virtual environments, and cloud platforms. As more organizations move away from using only hardware, VMware technology is at the center of a revolution around virtual and cloud environments. VMware (the company) has done a great job with providing educational materials, helping developers program in a compliance fashion, and producing reference architecture for PCI compliance.

As developers know, their customers want “out of the box” third-party solutions that already meet required security validations. A few of the fundamental basics to keep in mind when developing for data security compliance:

    • Use encryption standards such as AES encryption for data-at-rest.
    • Use proper Encryption Key storage and management tools
    • Do not burn the keys in code
    • Do not store keys on the same server as the protected data
    • Plan for a compliance audit from the beginning stages

It is also important to look for solution providers that will talk with you before just giving you an instant trial download, it is a good idea to make sure their solution is a technical fit, and not a waste of your time. This is something we do here at Townsend Security with all of our products. We offer a 30-day full version trial of all our software so that you can do a full proof-of-concept and test in your environment. We also feel it is important to supply client-side applications, SDK’s and modules that fit naturally into the platforms and languages that match your development environment. I encourage you to take a little time to listen to this podcast and hear from Patrick Townsend, the Founder & CEO of Townsend Security, on his perspective for developers.

Request the Podcast: Compliance for Coders

Topics: Data Security, Developer Program, Encryption Key Management, Defense-in-Depth, Podcast, Key Life Cycle

So, What is Encryption & Key Management Anyway?

Posted by Michelle Larson on Nov 18, 2014 12:38:00 PM

James and Shayna at PASS Summit 2014

Questions from the Tradeshow Floor  (Part 1)

November was a very busy month for tradeshows, conferences, and speaking engagements for the team at Townsend Security.  We love getting out to meet our current and potential customers and other than “giant Tetris”, our favorite things are the great questions we get asked at events. Giant Tetris at Re:Invent

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.

Is there more to encryption key management than just storing my encryption keys?

There is far more to encryption key management than just storing the encryption key somewhere. Generally, a key storage device only provides storage of the encryption key, and you need to create the key elsewhere. Also, just storing your encryption keys “somewhere” doesn’t work very well for compliance regulations. With an encryption key manager, there is a whole set of management capabilities and a suite of functions that provide dual control, creates separation of duties, implements two factor authentication, generates system logs, and performs audit activities, along with managing the key life cycle. Beyond storing the encryption key, a cryptographic key manager manages the entire key life cycle. Some of the most important functions the key management administrator performs are the actual creation and management of the encryption keys. The keys are generated and stored securely and then go through the full cycle to become active, go into use, expire, retire (post-activation), and then be backed up in escrow, and then deleted (the “destruction” phase).  There is a very real need, and very specific compliance regulations & guidelines that require you to store and manage your encryption keys away from the data that they protect.

How easy is securing and protecting sensitive data on SharePoint?

The path to implementing encryption and key management for SharePoint is one of the most straightforward and easy paths. Townsend Security’s Alliance Encryption Key Management solution fully supports automatic encryption in SQL Server and integrates with ease.  SQL Server Enterprise and higher editions (starting with 2008) fully implement extensible key management (EKM) and encryption to protect data. Installing encryption on that platform is the first step. Administrators can then leverage the automatic encryption capabilities of SQL Server with only a few commands and no application changes.

What impact does encryption have on SQL Server performance?

Encryption will always be a CPU intensive task and there will be some performance impact due to extra processing power needed for encryption and decryption. However, the Microsoft encryption libraries as well as the .NET environment are highly optimized for performance. We have always seen very good performance on SQL Server and the native encryption capabilities that it provides. Microsoft reports that Transparent Data Encryption (TDE) on SQL Server may cost you 2-4% penalty in performance, and our own tests show similar results that fall on the 2% end of things.

Is there any limit to the number of servers that I can hook up to your encryption key manager?

There are no restrictions, and no license constraints on our encryption & key management solution. We don't meter or count the number of client-side platforms that connect to our Alliance Key Manager, so you can hook up as many client side applications, servers, and processors as you need to. This is one of the things I think is different about how we approach encryption and key management with our customers. We also know the applications you are running today may not be the applications you need to be running tomorrow and we really want you to deploy encryption to all your sensitive data and scale up when & where you need it.

I am collecting data in Drupal. What data do I need to encrypt?

Organizations starting an encryption project always have this question on their minds. It is a simple question, but can be hard to answer. Generally speaking, you should encrypt any information that alone, or when combined with other information, can identify a unique, individual person. This is called Personally Identifying Information, or PII. This should be your starting point, but you may need to address other information depending on the compliance regulations you must meet.

  • 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.

We encourage all developers to check out Townsend Security’s Developer Program, it allows developers to design strong and secure applications from the ground up using NIST compliant AES encryption and FIPS 140-2 compliant encryption key management.

Developer Program Encryption


Topics: Alliance Key Manager, Data Security, Encryption, Developer Program, Encryption Key Management, Trade Shows

Why Encrypt Data in Your Drupal Websites?

Posted by Liz Townsend on Oct 3, 2014 10:44:00 AM

The internet has become a portal for the transmission and storage of sensitive data. Most websites today gather information from potential or current customers, clients, and users. From credit card numbers to email addresses and passwords, few websites exist today that don’t collect some sort of personal data. Therefore, website developers are becoming more and more interested in learning how to build websites that can easily encrypt sensitive data that their client’s website may be collecting.Drupal Developer Program

Encryption isn’t as widely used at the application and module level in websites as it probably should be. Protecting sensitive data using strong encryption from the moment a website accepts a customer’s information, and throughout transmission and storage of that data is the only method to ensure that data is never compromised. This is critical for websites using commerce modules or forms that collect a person’s health information, financial information, or other personally identifiable information (PII); and for businesses who wish to avoid a data breach.

As Drupal grows and more Drupal developers are beginning to interact with larger clients, the need to provide strong security to those businesses grows as well. The need for encryption will continue to grow as potential clients ask Drupal developers for standards-based security solutions that will help them meet compliance regulations and mitigate risk.

  • Government websites, for example, will need to pass FISMA regulations around encryption.
  • Large retail websites will need to pass Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS).
  • Colleges and Universities have multiple compliance requirements, as well as FERPA, to adhere with.

Helping clients meet compliance regulations will also require, in some cases, the need for encryption key management. Historically, developers only had three choices for encryption key storage: they could store the key in a file protected on the server, in the Drupal database, or in Drupal’s settings file. None of these options are secure, and would not meet several compliance regulations and general security best practices.

Encryption key management is more than a “key storage” solution. An encryption key manager protects encryption keys on a separate server (located in the cloud or as a physical Hardware Security Module (HSM) or in a (VMware) virtual environment) that implements control layers such as dual control and separation of duties. An encryption key manager manages encryption key creation, deletion, lifecycle, rollover, and archival. Key managers that are FIPS 140-2 compliant have undergone NIST validation and are based on industry standards. Choosing an encryption and key management solution based on standards will ensure your solution will stand up to scrutiny in the event of a breach.

If you are a Drupal developer, you can now join the Townsend Security Drupal Developer Program, work with our encryption and key management technology free of charge, and learn how to secure sensitive data in Drupal for your clients concerned with security.

Using Key Connection for Drupal, the first encryption & encryption key management module, Drupal developers can now build NIST compliant AES encryption and FIPS 140-2 compliant encryption key management into their Drupal websites.  

Just click below to sign up:

Developer Program Encryption 

Topics: Encryption, NIST, Developer Program, Encryption Key Management, FIPS-140, Drupal

Want to Get Bigger Clients? Give Them Encryption & They Will Come

Posted by Liz Townsend on Sep 26, 2014 8:55:00 AM

Businesses leaders are becoming more and more scared of an impending data breach. Most IT security professionals agree that a data breach is no longer a matter of “if” but “when”. While major enterprises are now scrambling to implement strong encryption and encryption key management to protect customer data, for many companies, like Target and Home Depot, these efforts are too little too late.

Drupal Developer ProgramThese medium to large enterprise-sized businesses are now holding their vendors and partners to a higher security standard. As a B2B organization that would like to onboard these larger clients, you should consider learning how to implement strong data security into your hardware, software, and cloud applications.

Encryption is one of the best-kept secrets of companies that have prevented or mitigated the consequences of a data breach. Because encryption renders data unreadable, any unauthorized access to that data is useless to the person who sees it. If the encryption key is adequately protected and not discovered by the intruder, then there is no way to decrypt the data and the breach has been secured. Encryption and encryption key management are the most defensible technologies for data breach protection.

Today encryption and encryption key management is as easy as launching an AMI in Amazon Web Services (AWS) in just a few minutes. Developers can now launch Townsend Security’s key manager, Alliance Key Manager (AKM), in AWS, Microsoft Azure, or VMware and receive up to two free licenses to develop and test encryption and key management in their applications. Alliance Key Manager is FIPS 140-2 compliant and provides NIST compliant AES encryption services so that encryption keys never leave the key server.

Businesses are not only concerned with risk management. Meeting compliance using standards-based solutions is also a critical piece to building defensible data security. Especially for government organizations that must comply with FISMA, many CIOs and CTOs won’t even consider an encryption or key management solution that hasn’t undergone NIST certification.

The importance of NIST compliance is far-reaching. Implementing a solution that meets an industry standard means that your solution will stand up to scrutiny in the event of a breach. NIST compliant encryption and key management have been tested against accepted standards for cryptographic modules and are routinely tested for weaknesses. Can meeting compliance regulations still be a low bar? Of course, but following standards and then implementing accepted best practices is the only way to meet compliance and achieve the highest levels of security.

With the Townsend Security Developer Program, you can develop applications that not only meet compliance but exceed them to give your clients the highest levels of security, you can win enterprise clients that you haven’t been able to work with before, and gain access to a host of Townsend Security APIs that have been designed for easy integration into new development projects.

Language libraries we provide for Alliance Key Manager include: Java, C/C++, Windows .NET application source code, Perl, and Python. Also available are client side applications for SQL Server and Drupal CMS.

To learn more and to join our Developer Program, click here.

Developer Program Encryption

Topics: Developer Program, Data Breach, Business Risk, Executive Leadership

How Much Data Can You Encrypt with RSA Keys?

Posted by Paul Ohmart on Apr 1, 2011 9:36:00 AM

How Much Data Can You Encrypt with RSA Keys?

RSA encryption key

When someone first begins to consider using encryption to protect business data, they discover that there are two general types: symmetric (AES) and asymmetric (RSA). At first glance, which one you would choose can be confusing.

One of the differences between the two is speed. Symmetric encryption is much faster than asymmetric. The exact difference is implementation dependent, but may be on the order of 100 to 1000 times faster.

It is widely known that AES encrypts a 16-byte block of data at a time. However, how much data can be encrypted at one time with an RSA key is usually only discussed in vague terms such as “use RSA to encrypt session keys.” This raises the question of how much data can be encrypted by an RSA key in a single operation.

The typical encryption scenario is to encrypt with a public key and decrypt with the private key. OpenSSL provides the RSA_public_encrypt and RSA_private_decrypt functions to implement this.

The first parameter to the RSA_public_encrypt function is flen. This is an integer that indicates the number of bytes to encrypt. Its maximum value depends on the padding mode. For OAEP padding, recommended for all new applications, it must be less than the size of the key modulus – 41 (all in bytes).

To get the size of the modulus of an RSA key call the function RSA_size.

The modulus size is the key size in bits / 8. Thus a 1024-bit RSA key using OAEP padding can encrypt up to (1024/8) – 42 = 128 – 42 = 86 bytes.

A 2048-bit key can encrypt up to (2048/8) – 42 = 256 – 42 = 214 bytes.

Additional Resources for IT Developers and Professionals

We collaborate with developers and IT professionals around the world and know that they use a wide variety of languages and platforms to accomplish their work.  Our products include documentation, source code examples, and HOWTO guides for developers in order to help projects get done quickly. Visit our Developer Resources section of our web site to learn more and discuss your upcoming project with our development team.

Encryption and key management for SQL Server

 

Topics: Encryption, encryption key, key, Developer Program, AES, RSA

 

 

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