+1.800.357.1019

+1.800.357.1019

Feel free to call us toll free at +1.800.357.1019.

If you are in the area you can reach us at +1.360.359.4400.

Standard support
6:30am - 4:00pm PST, Monday - Friday, Free

Premium support
If you own Townsend Security 24x7 support and
have a production down issue outside normal
business hours, please call +1.800.349.0711
and the on-call person will be notified.

International customers, please dial +1.757.278.1926.

Townsend Security Data Privacy Blog

Looking Back on 2015 Data Breaches

Posted by Michelle Larson on Jan 5, 2016 8:08:00 AM

Data Breach Statistic for 20152015 was a year of large and sometimes very controversial data breaches across a broad industry spectrum.  The Identity Theft Resource Center 2015 Breach List contains 780 breaches and 177,866,236 exposed records. Here are just a few that everyone should be aware of:

HEALTHCARE

Anthem

    • 78.8 million highly sensitive patient records
    • 8.8 to 18.8 million non-patient records
    • Names, birth dates, Social Security numbers, addresses, employment information, and income data

Premera

    • Over 11 million subscribers
    • Names, birth dates, Social Security numbers, member identification numbers, and bank account information.

Excellus

    • 10 million members
    • Names, birth dates, Social Security numbers, member identification numbers, financial account information, and claims information

ENTERTAINMENT

Avid Life Media (ALM), the parent company of Ashley Madison

    • 37 million user accounts
    • Email addresses, first and last names, and phone numbers.

VTech

    • 6.4 million children accounts
    • 4.9 million customer (parent) accounts
    • Photos, names, passwords, IP addresses, download history, and children’s gender and birth dates.

Hello Kitty (SanrioTown)

    • 3.3 million customers, including children
    • Full names, encoded by decipherable birth dates, email addresses, and encrypted passwords, along with password reset questions and answers.

TECHNOLOGY

T-Mobile via Experian

    • 15 million records
    • Names, birth dates, addresses and social security numbers and/or an alternative form of ID, such as drivers’ license numbers. (This was an unusual hack because the company itself (in this case T-mobile) didn’t have a data breach rather Experian (a credit reporting company) had a data breach which leaked T-mobile’s consumers’ data)

TalkTalk

    • 3 breaches affecting up to 4 million user records
    • Names, addresses, dates of birth, phone numbers, email addresses, TalkTalk account details and payment card information

Comcast

    • Over 200,000 users
    • Login credentials were sold on the dark web

GOVERNMENT

Office of Personnel Management (OPM)

    • Over 4 million personnel files
    • Over 21 million federal employees and contractors
    • Social Security numbers, security clearance information, fingerprints, and personal details that could leave federal personnel vulnerable to blackmail.

Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

    • Over 100,000 taxpayers
    • Online transcripts and significant personal information was accessed as a result of access to previously stolen identity information.

Wrapping up the year; on December 20th, 191 million registered U.S. voter records were exposed online. The database that was discovered contained more than the voter’s name, date of birth, gender, and address; which on their own is a good amount of personally identifiable information (PII). It also include the voter’s ethnicity, party affiliation, e-mail address, phone number, state voter ID, and whether he/she is on the “Do Not Call” list.

As we head into 2016, we will be focused on prevention and how we can best provide information and solutions to protect your sensitive & valuable data.

Let us know how we can help you!

The Encryption Guide eBook

Topics: Data Security, Encryption, eBook, Encryption Key Management, Data Breach

State of Encryption Key Management

Posted by Liz Townsend on Nov 24, 2015 9:32:00 AM

Looking into 2016, what is the role encryption key management will play in securing sensitive data?

Encryption and key management are the Fort Knoxes of security technologies for organizations wanting to protect sensitive data from hackers and data breaches. While commonly used by retail and financial institutions (and gaining even more traction after the onslaught of retail data breaches we saw in 2014), we still see major gaps and problems with implementation of these technologies across multiple industries. In 2015, with over 181 million records exposed in data breaches by mid November, we ask ourselves, what are the challenges of implementing encryption and key management, how widely are they used today, and what can we expect from encryption and key management vendors looking forward? eBook The Encryption Guide

While encryption has become an easily accessible technology, it remains a major point of struggle for most companies. Since organizations have multiple departments with siloed technical infrastructure, many different tools must be used to manage data across the enterprise. From HR to Accounting to stored customer data, many different platforms, operating systems, databases, and applications are used to store and process sensitive information. This makes locating this data extremely difficult as well as achieving consistent data encryption that can be managed from a single, central location.

Boards of directors and executives are becoming more aware that data security is not just a technical problem, but a governance, risk management, and compliance problem that deserves the same level of attention to risk as financial, legal, and corporate aspects of their business. However, employees at the IT level still hold the most buying influence over encryption and key management technologies.

These sorts of buying decisions have historically landed in the wheelhouse of IT Operations; however, the primary issue that arises in these decisions is that  complicated data security projects are often perceived as a threat to operational continuity. When an IT professional feels they must choose between security and functionality, they will always choose function to avoid the dreaded business-down scenario. Companies should not have to chose between security and continuity, and today, security professionals advocate that executives assign an IT security team to advocate for security solutions and work with IT Operations to implement these technologies.

According to the Ponemon Institute 2015 Global Encryption & Key Management Trends Study, meeting compliance requirements such as PCI-DSS remains the primary driver for encryption and key management implementation. PCI-DSS and federal and financial regulations such as FISMA and GLBA/FFIEC also continue to set the strictest data security regulations. However, despite compliance with industry regulations, organizations still experience breaches, often by a hacker accessing their network through a third party vendor or through employee mistakes. Sadly, often these breaches reveal that data was not encrypted, despite industry compliance.

This flagrant lack of encryption begs the question, will our data security ever get better, or will hackers continue to be one or even two steps ahead?

The answer to that question may come from the fact that in many large corporations, about 80% of resources allocated for data security apply towards network and anti-virus security. This includes firewalls, malware detection, and other intrusion-prevention software. The problem with relying mostly on network security is that hackers continually succeed in breaking through these barriers, often using social engineering and phishing scams to achieve enough authority to open a door and walk right in. Once inside, they discover sensitive data stored in the clear and steal it.

Network security is always an important part of a data security plan, but time after time we see encryption, which is also a critical part of that plan, implemented after-the-fact. This comes back to the issue of sensitive data being difficult to locate inside an enterprise, but the sheer amounts of unencrypted data that hackers are able to discover leads one to believe that some organizations simply do not implement encryption very well. This may be backed up by the discovery that only 37% of companies in the U.S. deploy encryption extensively (as opposed to partially) across their enterprise.

Diving deeper into the challenges surrounding encryption, one of the most painful parts of encrypting data is managing encryption keys. Even if a company encrypts a database of customer credit card numbers, if they do not protect the encryption key, a hacker could easily find the key and decrypt the data, rendering the encryption useless. Unfortunately, protecting and managing encryption keys away from encrypted data is still something organizations fail to do.

As organizations begin to move into the cloud and virtualized environments, as many already have, another stumbling block will be lack of availability of hybrid (cloud and in-house) encryption and key management solutions.

Looking into 2016 and beyond, the key management solutions that will excel will be the solutions that can manage encryption keys anywhere your sensitive data is located whether that be in the cloud, virtual platforms, or hardware. A majority of companies believe that hybrid deployment in both cloud and on-premise is the most important feature of an encryption solution. Without strong hybrid key management, encryption of data spread across an enterprise and the cloud will become even more difficult. Key management vendors that follow their customers into virtual environments will, in the long term, deliver more comprehensive data security.

It’s hard to imagine that data breaches will begin to diminish any time soon, but hopefully organizations will learn from others’ mistakes. It is clear from the evidence that deployment of encryption is nowhere near complete across most organizations, and lack of encryption key management continues to be a challenge, but working with the right encryption key management vendor can ease this pain.

When looking for a key management vendor that can help you manage encryption keys across your enterprise, including the cloud, look for a key management vendor that has:

  • No hidden or additional fees for nodes or client-side applications
  • Commitment to innovation and development
  • Commitment to legacy products
  • Excellent reputation for customer support

 

The Encryption Guide eBook

Topics: Data Security, Encryption, eBook, Encryption Key Management, Defense-in-Depth

Basics of Keeping Data Safe in the Cloud

Posted by Michelle Larson on May 1, 2015 9:47:00 AM

Encryption & Key Management… why that ampersand is so important!

We frequently talk about a variety of different data security measures and the difficulty of making information truly secure in a multi-tenant environment. What steps are we taking to protect the most valuable assets we have as companies, such as our customer’s Personally Identifiable Information (PII)? Are we starting with the most critical steps in the process and then building out from there?  Let’s make sure we have the basics covered! eBook - Encryption Key Management Simplified

Encryption is the first step to keeping information secure from anyone who accesses it maliciously, it is also a clear compliance requirement and critical part of protecting data in any environment. Use industry standard encryption such as Advanced Encryption Standard (AES, also known as Rijndael) which is recognized world-wide as the leading standard for data encryption. Never use home-grown or non-standard encryption algorithms. Make sure your security partner will supply you with all of the sample code, binary libraries, applications, key retrieval and other tools you need to implement encryption and key management fast and easily. Whether your data resides in the cloud, in a virtual environment, or in your own data center; always make sure you are using the right type of encryption to protect it.

The second step to the security solution is Encryption Key Management. While encryption is critical to protecting data, it is only half of the equation. Most regulations require that encryption keys must be stored and managed away from the data they protect because storing encryption keys with the data they protect, or using non-standard methods of key storage, will not protect you in the event of a data breach. When encrypting information in your applications and databases, it is crucial to protect encryption keys from loss and securely managed from key creation, management, distribution, and archival or destruction (the full key lifecycle). In the past, key management used to be a complex and difficult task that required hardware and a team of security specialists to implement. Our key manager is available as a ready-to-use, easy-to-deploy solution that is compliant with the NIST FIPS 140-2 standard in a variety of instances:

In the Cloud - If you're running on Microsoft Azure, or in Amazon Web Services (AWS), the encryption key manager can run as a true cloud instance in a standard cloud or deploy in a virtual private cloud for added data protection for sensitive applications.

VMware - Businesses are able move their VMware infrastructure beyond traditional data centers and into the cloud with VMware’s vCloud.  By using the same FIPS 140-2 compliant software found in physical appliances, enterprises can provably meet compliance requirements with a VMware based encryption key manager running in the cloud.

A Cloud HSM is a physical appliance hosted in a secure cloud with real-time encryption key and access policy mirroring.  Dedicated HSMs are hosted in geographically dispersed data centers under an ITIL-based control environment and are independently validated for compliance against PCI DSS and SOC frameworks. No access is available to the cloud vendor or any unauthorized user.

A Hardware Security Module (HSM) is a physical appliance or security device that is protected and tamper evident. Built for high resiliency and redundancy it has hot swappable RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) disc drives, dual power supplies, dual network interfaces, and is deployed in your IT data center. Cloud applications can connect to a remote HSM over a secure, encrypted connection.

Do you have the basics covered? If you are unsure about the status of your defense-in-depth strategy to data security, contact one of the experts on the Townsend Security team. We have a variety of resources to help you answer your most pressing questions and a variety of solutions to make sure you are protecting your data the best way possible. At Townsend Security we also take a very different philosophy and approach:

  • We think that when you buy an encryption key manager, you should be able to easily deploy the solution, get all your encryption projects done properly, and have very affordable and predictable costs.
  • We understand that we live in a world where budget matters to our customers, so we do not charge client-side application or connection fees.
  • We know that IT resources are limited and have done a huge amount of work to make our solutions easy with out-of-the-box integrations and simplified deployments. We also provide ready-made client-side applications, encryption libraries, source code samples, as well as SDKs for developers who need them.
Check out this eBook for more information: 

Encryption Key Management Simplified eBook

Topics: Alliance Key Manager, eBook, Encryption Key Management, Cloud Security

Overcome Security Challenges with Your VMware Environment

Posted by Michelle Larson on Apr 15, 2015 10:29:00 AM

Prioritize Your Data Security Plan and Encryption Strategy

New Call-to-action Many businesses migrating to VMware environments are storing or processing credit card numbers, financial information, health care data, and other personally identifiable information (PII) in a virtual, shared environment. How does an organization meet industry data security requirements and prevent unwanted access to sensitive data?

In order to achieve a comprehensive data security plan in a VMware environment, organizations should consider the following steps:

Take Inventory of Your Sensitive Data

Every data security project should start by making an inventory of sensitive data in your IT environment. If you do not know where to start, first consider the compliance regulations you fall under. For example, do you process credit cards? If so, you must locate and encrypt primary account numbers (PAN), expiration date, cardholder name, and service codes where they are processed, transmitted, or stored in order to meet PCI compliance. If your company is a financial institution, include Non-Public Information (NPI) about consumers, and if you are in the medical segment, you must also locate all Protected Health Information (PHI) for patients. Finally, locate all data that is considered Personally Identifiable Information (PII) which is any information that can uniquely identify an individual (social security number, phone number, email address, etc.). Business plans, computer source code, and other digital assets should make the list, too.

Once you have a list of the kinds of information that you should protect, find and document the places this information is stored. This will include databases in your virtual machines, unstructured data in content management systems, log files, and everywhere else sensitive data comes to rest or can be found in the clear.

After you have a full inventory of your sensitive data, prioritize your plan of attack to secure that information with encryption and protect your encryption keys with a key management solution. The most sensitive information, such as credit card numbers, medical or financial data, is more valuable to cyber criminals and should be encrypted first. Creating this map of where your sensitive data resides and prioritizing which data to encrypt is not only a requirement for many compliance regulations, but will help to focus your resources as well.  

What to do:

  • Define sensitive data for your organization.
  • Using manual and automated procedures, make an inventory of all of the places you process and store sensitive data.
  • Create a prioritized plan on how you will encrypt the sensitive information affected by compliance regulations.

Implement Encryption and Encryption Key Management

While encryption is critical to protecting data, it is only half of the equation. Your key management solution will determine how effective your data security strategy ultimately is. When encrypting information in your applications and databases, it is crucial to protect encryption keys from loss. Storing encryption keys with the data they protect, or using non-standard methods of key storage, will not protect you in the event of a data breach.

For businesses who are already encrypting data, the most common cause of an audit failure is improper storage and protection of the encryption keys. Doing encryption key management right is often the hardest part of securing data. For this reason, it is paramount to choose a key management solution that is compliant and tested against the highest standards:

  • Your VMware key management solution should be based on FIPS 140-2 compliant key management software (find out if your key management vendor offers FIPS 140-2 compliant key management on the NIST website look it up on the NIST web site.
  • A key management solution should also conform to the industry standard Key Management Interoperability Protocol (KMIP) as published by OASIS. Ask for the KMIP Interoperability Report from the KMIP testing process.

Encrypting sensitive data on your virtual machine protects your data at the source, and is the only way to definitively prevent unwanted access to sensitive data. With VMware environments, businesses that need to protect sensitive data can use encryption and encryption key management to secure data, comply with industry security standards, protect against data loss, and help prevent data breaches.

What to look for:

  • Use industry standard encryption algorithms such as AES to protect your sensitive data. Avoid non-standard encryption methods.
  • Your encryption solution should support installation in any application workgroup that you define for your trusted applications. Be sure your encryption vendor explains any limitations in the VMware deployment.
  • Your encryption key management solution should support deployment in a separate VMware security workgroup. Ideally, the key management solution will include internal firewall support to complement the VMware virtual firewall implementation.
  • Your key management solution is a critical part of your VMware security implementation. It should support active collection and monitoring of audit logs and operating system logs. These logs should integrate with your log collection and SIEM active monitoring systems.

As your IT environment evolves, make sure your key management evolves with you. In addition to support for VMware, be sure your key management solution is available as a hardware security module (HSM), as a Cloud HSM subscription, and as a native cloud application on major cloud service provider platforms such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. Even if you do not have these non-VMware platforms today, it is important to consider that the evolution of your IT infrastructure is inevitable. The encryption and key management solutions you deploy today in your VMware data center should be prepared to move to cloud or hosted platforms quickly and seamlessly. A merger, acquisition, rapid growth, competitive challenges, and technology advances can force the need to migrate your solutions to new platforms.

For more detailed information, check out our eBook on VMware Encryption – 9 Critical Components of a Defensible Encryption Strategy:

VMware Encryption eBook

Topics: Alliance Key Manager, Data Security, eBook, Encryption Key Management, VMware

Securing Web Sites and Applications with Encryption & Key Management

Posted by Patrick Townsend on Jan 9, 2015 2:20:00 PM

Web site and application data security can be greatly enhanced by encrypting sensitive data. An encryption strategy is only as good as the protection of the encryption keys. Poor protection for encryption keys will lead to compliance audit failures, regulatory failures, and brand damage due to poor security practices.

eBook The Encryption Guide The following topics discuss how encryption and key management improves web application security:

Separation of Encryption Keys from Data
The separation of encryption keys from the data they protect is a core security best practice. Cybercriminals may steal sensitive data, but if that data is encrypted and the keys are not readily available, the data remains protected. The separation of keys from the data they protect is also fundamental to implementation of Separation of Duties and Dual Control. Townsend Security's Alliance Key Manager provides the mechanism by which keys are separated from the data they protect.

Separation of Duties
For critical systems, security is always improved by dividing responsibility among multiple administrators. In data protection, this concept means that people who have access to the data (users, DBAs, etc.) should not be the people who have access to the encryption keys. And the reverse is true. In order to achieve Separation of Duties you must separate the system, network, and database functions from the encryption key management functions. This is a core concept in PCI-DSS, HIPAA, GLBA/FFIEC, and other regulations. Alliance Key Manager provides for Separation of Duties by allowing different people to manage the web application data and the management of the encryption keys.

Dual Control
All critical business operations that can impact the health and existence of an organization should be managed with Dual Control. Dual Control means that it takes two individuals to perform the critical operation. Because encryption keys are the crucial secret that must be protected, Dual Control means that at least two people must authenticate to create and manage encryption keys. Alliance Key Manager implements Dual Control in the security console to meet this security best practice and regulatory requirement.

Limited Access
Security best practices require that as few people have access to encryption keys as possible to minimize the risk of loss. Be managing encryption keys in a key manager designed for this purpose, keys can be used by the applications that need them, but managed by a small number of security administrators. Alliance Key Manager allows you to grant access to only those security administrators who have the need to manage the encryption keys.

Secure Key Retrieval
Encryption keys and the Encryption Services available with Alliance Key Manager are always accessed via encrypted TLS connections. Secure connections help prevent capture of encryption keys across public and private networks, memory scraping routines, etc. Unencrypted access to Alliance Key Manager is not allowed.

Authenticated Key Retrieval
Unlike normal web servers which provide access to anyone with a certificate signed by a public certificate authority, Alliance Key Manager creates its own private CA unique to you, creates client-side certificates and private keys signed by that CA, and restricts access to only those clients who present a known certificate. This prevents outsiders from accessing the key server using publicly available certificates and keys.

Protection of Credentials
Because certificates and private keys are used as credentials for access to Alliance Key Manager, they must be protected in the Web application server. Credentials should be stored outside of the web root directory and access permission should only be granted to the web application user. For a Drupal installation, the same precautions should be taken.

Active Monitoring
Active monitoring is a core security requirement and applies to all encryption key management activity. Alliance Key Manager provides real-time audit and system logging off all key retrieval, encryption services, and key management tasks. This helps meet regulatory requirements and security best practices for all key management activity.

For more information on encryption, download the eBook:

The Encryption Guide eBook

Topics: Data Security, Encryption, eBook, Encryption Key Management

Data breaches are often avoidable...

Posted by Ken Mafli on Nov 21, 2014 9:14:00 AM

Many companies, however, do not know how they are being attacked.

Today we want to expose and explore the ways bad actors gain access to, and exploit, your sensitive data.  Follow along as we look at the costs, the causes, and the preventative measures of data breaches. You can click on the info graphic to download additional resources!

Data Breach Infographic

Don't forget to click on the info graphic to request additional data security resources!

Topics: Encryption, eBook, Info-graphic, Encryption Key Management

Why is Encryption & Key Management So Important?

Posted by Michelle Larson on Nov 20, 2014 12:50:00 PM

Shayna at SecureWorld Seattle 2014

More Questions from the Tradeshow Floor (Part 2)

In our last blog we touched on a few of the questions asked at events we attended in November.  There were so many great conversations that I’ve decided to share a few more!Session on encryption and key management

With the various platforms that I can deploy an encryption key manager in, how do I know which one is right for me?

There are several factors that will come in to play when deciding where you deploy your key management:

  • Compliance regulations that you need to meet can be a factor in whether you deploy an Hardware Security Module (HSM) or a cloud HSM or a virtualized instance. If you are working with an auditor or going through a QSA audit, you'll want to have a conversation with them to understand their expectation from a compliance point of view around where you deploy your encryption key manager.
  • Risk tolerance will also come into play. You may have a security group within your organization with strong feelings about how to deploy encryption key management and how to mitigate risk. If you have large amounts of sensitive data to protect you might decide to deploy an HSM in your secure data center. If you're dealing with a very small amount of data and you do not process credit cards or personally identifiable information, your risk assessment may indicate a cloud deployment.
  • Budget is certainly always a factor to consider. It is important to consider the cost benefits of security however, we all understand that leaving our data in the clear is no longer an option. It is a matter of understanding your industry regulations and risk assessment, then deciding what encryption and key management to deploy.

While they are generally the most secure solution, Hardware Security Modules (HSMs) can be more expensive than a virtual environment, dedicated cloud instance, or virtual private cloud. Once you look at all the factors that affect your company, we will be there with the right solution that will work for your needs.

Tell me more about all these different options you have for the Alliance Key Management Solution… are they all going to help me meet compliance requirements?

There are still our original hardware security modules (HSMs) and now there are new options for deployment of cloud-based HSMs, virtual appliances (VMware), and true cloud instances of encryption and key management in AWS and Microsoft Azure.

  • Hardware Security Module (HSM) is a physical appliance or security device that is protected and tamper evident. Built for high resiliency and redundancy it has hot swappable rated disc drives, dual power supplies, dual network interfaces, and is deployed in your IT data center.
  • Cloud HSM is a physical appliance hosted in a secure cloud with real-time encryption key and access policy mirroring.  Dedicated HSMs are hosted in geographically dispersed data centers under an ITIL-based control environment and are independently validated for compliance against PCI DSS and SOC frameworks. No access is available to the cloud vendor or any unauthorized user.
  • Virtual Appliances are the exact same key management solution - the same binary software that runs inside the hardware HSM - available as a VMware instance.
  • In the Cloud - If you're running on Microsoft Windows Azure, vCloud, or in Amazon Web Services (AWS),the encryption key manager can run as a true cloud instance in a standard cloud or deploy in a virtual private cloud for added data protection for sensitive applications.

Because encryption and key management is so important, we offer all of the options listed above as NIST and FIPS 140-2 compliant solutions.

How is Alliance Key Manager Priced?

We have a wide set of options for our customers, and are dedicated to helping find affordable solutions. We have perpetual license or subscription options for classic HSMs, Cloud HSM, and virtualized environments. Our cloud offerings are true usage-based subscriptions, so if you're used to deploying in Amazon Web Services or Windows Azure, our encryption & key management solutions will fit that same strategy for pricing.  

We really believe that the encryption should go everywhere you need it to go! Your key management should work across a wide set of application environments, and it must be affordable, so that we can all get where we need to be in terms of protecting sensitive data. Regardless of where your data is or what platform you are using, there's a key management solution that can work for you!

How can Encryption and Key Management improve my bottom line?

Whether you choose a designated hardware security module (HSM), something designed specifically for virtualized environments (VMware), or data storage in the cloud, encryption and key management solutions can help you:

  • Gain competitive advantage and build loyalty by protecting your customers data against access by unauthorized users
  • Reduce hardware costs by leveraging virtual environments in the cloud
  • Significantly improve your data security strategy while satisfying data compliance and privacy requirements

Overall, data encryption offers many benefits and provides solid protection against potential threats or theft. In addition to the many benefits, encryption is also efficient, easy to use, and affordable!

What sets Townsend Security apart from other key management vendors?

We want to protect data and make sure encryption is available everywhere you need it, so at Townsend Security we have a very different philosophy and approach:

  • We think that when you buy an encryption key manager, you should be able to easily deploy the solution, get all your encryption projects done properly, and have very affordable and predictable costs.
  • We understand that we live in a world where budget matters to our customers, so we do not charge client-side fees.  
  • We know that IT resources are limited and have done a huge amount of work to make our solutions easy with out-of-the-box integrations, simplified deployments, and also provide along with our solution ready-made client-side applications, encryption libraries, source code samples, as well as SDKs for developers who need them to get their projects done very quickly.

Want to learn more about how to properly secure your data and protect your business against a data breach? Download our eBook “The Encryption Guide”:

The Encryption Guide eBook


Topics: Alliance Key Manager, Compliance, Data Security, Encryption, eBook, Encryption Key Management, Trade Shows

The Most Frightening Data Breaches of 2014… So Far!

Posted by Michelle Larson on Oct 31, 2014 5:11:00 AM

It’s not just “Target”… everyone has a bullseye painted on their information!

Unprotected Data is Way Scarier than this guy! Forget about vampires, werewolves, and other things that go bump in the night.  If you want to be truly frightened this Halloween, just take a look at some of the 395 data breaches reported in the first half of 2014 alone.

According to the Identity Theft Resource Center there has been a 21% increase in breaches (and that is just the ones that have already been reported to regulators) in the same period as last year.  Some of these you may be familiar with, others might surprise you:

  • eBay - online retailer
    The breach is thought to have affected the majority of the 145 million members when a database containing customer names, encrypted passwords, email addresses, physical address, phone numbers, and dates of birth was compromised.
  • Home Depot
    In a large nationwide malware attack, 56 million card records were stolen through point-of-sale systems. In a second attack in Atlanta, 20,000 employees personal information was stolen and used to open fraudulent credit cards by 3 human resource employees.
  • Michaels Stores - craft stores nationwide
    The point-of-sale (POS) systems at 54 stores were attacked using malware and up to 3 million payment card numbers and expiration dates were obtained.
  • Snapchat (online photo app and delivery service)
    4.6 million accounts were hacked and millions of images stolen. The information (phone numbers and user names) database posted online at Reddit and another site that has now been taken down.
  • Neiman Marcus (retailer)
    1.1 million payment cards were compromised over a period of 8 months as hackers repeatedly breached the point-of-sale systems through a central processing server.
  • AIG (American International Group)
    774,723 customers - The insurance provider confirmed the theft of a file server and two laptops that held personal information was by a former financial adviser.

Those are some pretty significant numbers, and most likely everyone that reads this blog has been affected in some way by at least one of these events. What we all need to remember is that cyber crime isn’t limited to “Black Hat” hackers that only go after the big piles of data.  Sometimes it is a disgruntled employee that destroys or releases sensitive data. Sometimes it is an unintentional employee error, or loss of an employee’s laptop/thumbdrive that thieves go after.  Often it is the smaller company or mid-sized Enterprise that hasn’t yet implemented security steps, like encryption and authentication, to protect their sensitive information.  

If the first list didn’t give you a fright, here is another that might make you tremble with fear. However, we would prefer if it resulted in the topic of data security brought up at your next security and risk management meeting!

Data Breaches are even more terrifying than this

University of Maryland
307,079 individuals - personal records
*Hackers broke in twice and stole data

North Dakota University
291,465 student and staff records

Sutherland Healthcare Solutions
168,000 patients
*Stolen computer equipment containing personal health & billing information

Sally Beauty Holdings (retailer)
25,000 customers lost credit card data to a hacker

Catholic Church - Archdiocese of Seattle
90,000 employees and volunteers - database records

Goodwill Industries (charitable resale)
868,000 customers from approximately 330 stores

Jimmy John’s (national sandwich shop)
*undisclosed number of customers from 216 corporate and franchised locations

Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
20,000 individuals affected
*Employee incident - loaded an unsecure drive into insecure home network

Assisted Living Concepts
43,600 current and former employees in 20 states, had their payroll files breached when the vendor’s system was hacked.

Coco-Cola
74,000 people lost unencrypted personal information to a former employee from Atlanta who stole 55 laptops. Company policy requires laptops to be encrypted, but they weren’t.

The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services
A server holding names, addresses, dates of birth, and Social Security numbers of approximately 1.3 million people was hacked.

Spec’s - wine retailer in Texas
Affecting as many as 550,000 customers across 34 stores, hackers got away with customer names, debit/credit card details (including expiration dates and security codes), account information from paper checks, and even driver’s license numbers.

St. Joseph Health System
Also in Texas, a server was attacked that held approximately 405,000 former and current patients, employees, and beneficiaries information.  This data included names, Social Security numbers, dates of birth, medical information, addresses, and some bank account information.

The US Department of Health and Human Services has a breach database of incidents related to exposure of personal health information.  Due to late entries, dates weren’t listed, but the following were reported:

  • 25,513 records at Dept. of Medical Assistance Services in Virginia
  • 22,511 records at Cook County Health & Hospital System
  • 18,000 records at Terrell County Health Dept. in Georgia
  • 10,000 records at Health Advantage in Arkansas
  • 84,000 records at St. Francis Patient Care Services in Tulsa, OK
  • 10,024 records at Missouri Consolidated Health care

A new study from researchers at Gartner indicates that it is markedly less expensive for companies to invest in new security and encryption technologies than it is for them to respond to a data breach. According to the analyst firm, businesses pay roughly $6 per year per user for encryption tools, or $16 per user per year for intrusion prevention software licenses, versus paying out an average of $90 per user to address problems after a breach has occurred.

Five steps you can take to make sure this doesn’t happen to you:

  1. Have a defense-in-depth strategy that meets your level of risk tolerance
  2. Make sure you know where all of your sensitive data is stored, and who has access to it
  3. Use standardized encryption algorithms to make that data unreadable
  4. Use an encryption key management solution to protect keys away from the data
  5. Use two-factor authentication whenever possible, because passwords are no longer enough

To help open up the conversation around your conference table, download this eBook “Turning a Blind Eye to Data Security” and find out more about the tools & resources to begin discussions about data security in your company!

Turning a Blind Eye to Data Security eBook

Topics: Alliance Key Manager, Data Security, Encryption, eBook, Encryption Key Management, Defense-in-Depth, Data Breach, Security News

Are You Turning a Blind Eye to Data Security in Your Business?

Posted by Michelle Larson on Oct 3, 2014 9:58:00 AM

It seems like everyday there is a new data breach in the news.

eBook Turning a Blind Eye to Data Security From malicious hackers to unintentional employee mistakes, loss of sensitive data is skyrocketing. Risk management has brought the data breach issue out of the IT department, and into the offices of Enterprise executives. Data loss is considered such a critical issue that encryption and encryption key management is mandated not only by many industry compliance regulations, but also by most state and governmental laws.

Here are a few key thoughts to consider:

5 Misconceptions About Data Security That Put You At Risk

1   If we have a breach, we’ll just pay the fine.

In many cases there will be fines for a data breach, but it is only a small part of the total cost. The cost of a breach also typically includes a forensics investigation, credit monitoring for customers, lost sales due to brand damage, and litigation costs.

2   We’ve never had a problem, so things are probably OK.

This type of thinking is not a form of risk assessment. Since data breaches often take months to discover, you may not know that a breach has already occurred. Wishful thinking won’t help you prevent a breach.

3   My software vendors and consultants say they have everything under control.

Today, many software vendors have not moved quickly enough to add encryption to their core products. It is not wise to rely on vague statements about data security from vendors and consultants. Make sure their solutions have been through a NIST FIPS 140-2 validation, using best practices, and based on industry standards such as AES.

4   My IT staff says we’ve done everything we can.

IT departments may not have the resources or management directives they need to accurately assess and address data security issues. Meeting management’s goals and objectives within a set of operational and budgetary constraints is not the same as meeting security best practices.

5   We are encrypting our data, we are doing everything we should.

If you are encrypting your sensitive data, you’ve already made a good step forward. Do you know how and where your encryption keys are stored? Making sure your keys are not stored with your data is only the first step.  Good key management practices will truly protect your data.

5 Steps to Take to Reduce Security Risk

1   Talk About It

Discuss the importance of data security as it relates to risk management with all members of the organization’s leadership team. Data security is an ongoing process that involves every member of the organization, and will extend beyond your organization’s boundaries to vendors and service providers. Responsibility for data security belongs to everyone.

2   Assess Your Current Data Security Posture

If you have not had an external audit and assessment of your organization’s data security practices by a qualified security professional, now is the time to start. First, perform a data security assessment with an in-house consultant, security audit firm, or platform vendor to evaluate your current security posture. Find the location of all sensitive data. Lastly, evaluate the security of your backup tapes. The right security assessor will help you identify the most urgent problems, and help you prioritize your efforts.    

3   Invest in Encryption and Key Management

When you have located sensitive data that is not encrypted, start a project to encrypt it now. Don’t forget to invest in the necessary encryption key management devices to protect the encryption keys. If your risk assessment warrants, provide budgetary exceptions to address the problem. Invest where you need to, as soon as you can. When choosing an encryption and key management solution make sure it uses industry standard NIST compliant encryption and FIPS 140-2 compliant key management.

4   Strengthen your technology acquisition processes

Every organization relies on off-the-shelf software solutions to manage and run their business operations. If your core applications do not provide encryption and key management to protect data, put your vendors on notice that they must address this issue immediately, and ask for updates. All new technology acquisitions should incorporate data security requirements into the RFP process.

5   Create ongoing review processes and procedural controls

Performing one security assessment or passing one compliance audit will not provide the focus and attention needed to protect you from a data breach over time. You must conduct routine vulnerability scans, create new processes, and review points within the organization to ensure that you continue to monitor your security stance. Use good procedural controls to minimize the chances of fraud. Implement Dual Control and Separation of Duties to achieve a defensible data security stance.

To learn more, download the eBook, "Turning a Blind Eye to Data Security: Mending the Breakdown of Communication Between CEOs and CIOs", and authors Kevin Beaver, CISSP, Patrick Townsend, and Todd Ostrander will teach you about:

  • Business risks associated with unprotected sensitive data 
  • Tools and resources to begin the discussion about data security in your company 
  • Actionable steps YOU can take

Download the ebook today!  

Turning a Blind Eye to Data Security eBook

Topics: Alliance Key Manager, Data Security, Encryption, eBook, Encryption Key Management, Executive Leadership

Encryption: Do I Need Key Storage or Key Management?

Posted by Michelle Larson on Aug 4, 2014 11:48:00 AM

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… as it turns out, there is a whole encryption key lifecycle that is (or should be) handled by a certified encryption key management solution. 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, create separation of duties, implement two factor authentication, generate system logs, and perform audit activities, along with managing the key life cycle (including storage). There is a very real need, and very specific guidelines that require you to store and manage your encryption keys away from the data that they protect.

The Encryption Key Life Cycle

key lifecycle

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). Let’s take a closer look at the phases of a key life cycle and what a key management solution should do during these phases:

Key Generation & Pre-Activation:
First, the encryption key is created and stored on the key management server (which can be a hardware security module (HSM), virtual environment (VMware) or a true cloud instance). The key can be created by a sole administrator or through dual control by two administrators. The key manager produces the AES key through the use of a cryptographically secure random bit generator and stores the key, along with all it’s attributes, into the key storage database (which is also encrypted). The attributes stored with the key include its name, activation date, size, instance, the ability for the key to be deleted, as well as its rollover, mirroring, and key access attributes. The key can be activated upon its creation or set to be activated automatically or manually at a later time. The key manager should also be able to create keys of three different sizes: 128, 192, or 256-bit. The encryption key manager should also track current and past instances, or versions, of the encryption key. You can also choose whether or not the key can be deleted, mirrored to a failover unit, and by which users or groups it can be accessed. Your key manager should allow the administrator to change many of the key’s attributes at any time.

Key Activation through Post-Activation:
The key manager should allow an activated key to be retrieved by authorized systems and users for encryption or decryption processes. It should also seamlessly manage current and past instances of the encryption key. For example, if a key is rolled every year and the version is updated, then the key manager should retain previous versions of the key but dispense only the current instance for encryption processes. Previous versions can still be retrieved in order to decrypt data encrypted with such versions of the key. The key manager should use transport layer security (TLS) connections to securely deliver the encryption key to the system and user requesting it, which prevents the key from being compromised. The encryption key manager will also expire the key either through a previously established schedule or manually by an administrator.

Key Expiration & Revocation (Escrow):
An administrator should be able to use the key manager to revoke or deactivate a key so that it is no longer used for encryption requests. In certain cases the key can continue to be used to decrypt data previously encrypted with it, like old backups, but even that can be restricted. A revoked key can, if needed, be reactivated by an administrator, although this would be more an exception to the rule than common practice.

Key Destruction:
If a key is no longer in use or if it has somehow been compromised, an administrator can choose to delete the key entirely from the key storage database of the encryption key manager. The key manager will remove it and all its instances, or just certain instances, completely and make the recovery of that key impossible (other than through a restore from a backup image). This should be available as an option if sensitive data is compromised in its encrypted state. If the key is deleted, the compromised data will be completely secure since it would be impossible to recreate the encryption key for that data.

Crypto Period:
This encryption key life cycle, which is defined by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), also requires that a crypto period be defined for each key.  A crypto period is the length of time that a key should be used and is determined by a number of factors based on how much data is being protected and how sensitive that data is. While NIST has defined and provided some parameters on how to establish crypto periods (see special publications 800-57 - there are 3 parts) and provided guidance on best practices. Each key management administrator needs to determine how long a particular encryption key should be actively used before it is rotated or retired.

These are a few of the factors that go into establishing the crypto period for a key (which maybe a few days or weeks or longer up to one or two years it really depends on the data that you're trying to protect):

  • How is the data being used
  • How much data is there
  • How sensitive is the data
  • How much damage will be done when the data is exposed or the keys are lost

You can see that there is a significant difference between a key storage device and an encryption key management solution. Remember to always look for NIST validated and FIPS 140-2 compliant solutions to meet compliance requirements and follow security best practices!

To learn more about encryption key management download our ebook on Encryption Key Management Simplified.

Encryption Key Management Simplified eBook  

Topics: Alliance Key Manager, Key Management, eBook, Encryption Key Management


Subscribe to Email Updates

Posts by Topic

see all