Townsend Security Data Privacy Blog

What Data Needs To Be Encrypted In Drupal?

Posted by Luke Probasco on Jul 10, 2014 9:20:00 AM

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

What Data Needs To Be Encrypted In Drupal? 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.

Federal/State Laws and Personally Identifiable Information (PII)

Federal and State laws vary in terms of what they consider Personally Identifiable Information (PII), but there is a lot of commonality between them. PII is any information which either alone or when combined with other information, which can identify an individual person. Examples include email addresses, first name, last name and birth date.
[Download white paper for complete list]

Educational Information Covered by FERPA

Educational institutions who fall under the FERPA regulation must protect PII as well as information like student names, student ID numbers, and family member names.
[Download white paper for complete list]

Federal Agencies and FISMA

Federal Agencies must evaluate their systems for the presence of sensitive data and provide mechanisms to insure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the information.  Sensitive information is broadly defined, and includes PII, as well as other information classified as sensitive by the Federal agency.  Sensitive information might be defined in the following categories: medical, financial, proprietary, contractor sensitive, or security management.[Download white paper for complete list]

Medical Information for Covered Entities and HIPAA/HITECH

The HIPAA/HITECH Act defines Protected Health Information (PHI) to include PII in addition to the following PHI: Patient diagnostic information, payment information, health plan beneficiary numbers, full facial photographs, etc.
[Download white paper for complete list

Payment Card Data Security Standard (PCI DSS)

The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS) require that merchants protect sensitive cardholder information from loss and use good security practices to detect and protect against security breaches.  If you accept or process credit card or other payment cards, you must encrypt the Primary Account Number (PAN).

Financial Data for FFIEC

Banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions must protect Non-public Personal Information (NPI) which includes personally identifying financial information.  In addition, you should protect income, credit score, etc.
[Download white paper for complete list]

Encrypting Data in Drupal

Townsend Security is helping the Drupal community encrypt sensitive data and properly manage encryption keys. Developers who need to protect sensitive data know that storing their encryption keys within the content management system (CMS) puts their data at risk for a breach. With Key Connection for Drupal and Alliance Key Manager, administrators are now able to keep their encryption keys secure by storing them remotely and only accessing them when the encryption/decryption happens.

The Key Connection for Drupal module is a plugin for the Encrypt project that allows you to easily encrypt sensitive data with NIST-validated AES encryption and securely retrieve and manage encryption keys from Townsend Security’s FIPS 140-2 compliant Alliance Key Manager. With an easy to use interface and certifications to meet compliance requirements, you can rest assured knowing your data is secure.

What Data Needs Encrypted In Drupal?

Topics: Encryption, Higher Education, Drupal

Drupal CMS and Higher Education Compliance

Posted by Michelle Larson on Jun 4, 2014 2:44:00 PM

Securing data with encryption and protecting the encryption keys with proper key management is enforced by many compliance regulations (and recommended as a security best practice).

New Call-to-Action When working with private schools, colleges, and universities, Drupal developers who need to protect their customers’ sensitive data with encryption know important compliance elements include the following:

  • Awareness of how records are managed by the institution.
    … (Do you know who will have access?)
  • Awareness of relevant regulations/laws.
    … (Do you know what they need to follow?)
  • Approach to complying with each item.
    … (Do you know what they should do to follow the law?)
  • Management of institutional records.
    … (Do you know what they need to keep and for how long?)

It is important to remember when developing a higher education framework, the ultimate core of higher education is information. Each institution gathers, stores, analyzes, retrieves, and secures the information necessary for proper functioning. Without continued and uninterrupted access to that information, as well as assurances that the information is secure and reliable, they would be unable to fulfill their educational, research, and service missions.

For entities in the education sector, it is important to note that data security and IT solutions for colleges and universities also fall under some of the more familiar compliance regulations due to the various programs offered by each institution:

  • PCI DSS will come into play with accepting payments from tuition, books, food services, and housing
  • GLBA/FFIEC covers the student loan and financial offices at most institutions
  • HIPAA/HITECH is also important to consider as most higher education institutions have their own health centers

Driven by student privacy concerns and the need to comply with regulations such as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, educational institutions must also make sure to secure sensitive data and protect their networks from data loss even when that information must be shared.

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)
Statute: 20 U.S.C. § 1232g Regulations: 34 CFR Part 99

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that affords parents the right to have access to their children’s education records, the right to seek to have the records amended, and the right to consent to the disclosure of personally identifiable information from education records, except as provided by law. When a student turns 18 years old, or enters a postsecondary institution at any age, the rights under FERPA transfer from the parents to the student (“eligible student”).

The Higher Education Information Security Council (HEISC), actively develops and promotes awareness and understanding, effective practices and policies, and solutions for the protection of critical IT assets and infrastructures. HEISC also produces the Information Security Guide: Effective Practices and Solutions for Higher Education, an excellent resource for anyone involved in securing student information with encryption.

Drupal adoption in higher education has skyrocketed with over 71 of the top 100 US Universities and educators around the world publishing websites in Drupal. Arizona State University alone hosts over 800+ websites built in Drupal CMS!  To meet the growing need for NIST validated and FIPS 140-2 compliant encryption and key management, the data security experts at Townsend Security partnered with Chris Teizel, CEO of Cellar Door Media and Drupal developer to create the Key Connection plug-in for the Drupal Encrypt module. Key Connection for Drupal provides a secure key management system (Alliance Key Manager) outside of the Drupal installation in order to provide secure key storage and retrieval options. Now when personally identifiable information (PII) is collected or stored in a database it can easily be encrypted and the encryption keys properly managed. Key Connection for Drupal allows developers and users to choose whether they retrieve a key and encrypt/decrypt locally or to send the data to Alliance Key Manager to perform on board encryption.

For more information, download the Drupal Compliance Matrix:

Drupal Compliance Matrix

Topics: Alliance Key Manager, Encryption, Higher Education, Key Connection for Drupal, Encryption Key Management, Drupal

University Websites Built on Drupal Should Encrypt Sensitive Data

Posted by Liz Townsend on Feb 25, 2014 1:11:00 PM

On February 19th the University of Maryland disclosed to the public a data breach exposing over 300,000 records of students, faculty, and alumni including names, social security numbers, and dates of birth.

Securing Sensitive Data in Drupal Universities and colleges using their website to communicate with students are aware of the fact that their website is a massive portal for student data. From the moment a potential student applies to a university through its website, up through each time a student submits financial and health information, thousands of personal records are being collected by the website and stored for internal use in databases.

Why is this data not being protected? That’s the big question asked by data security experts and concerned students alike, who are aware of the massive number of data breaches that occur yearly through websites. The information submitted on higher education websites includes nearly everything a hacker or malicious user wants including: home addresses, social security numbers, phone numbers, email addresses, passwords, parent names, credit card, and financial data. Many universities run teaching hospitals, not to mention their own student health services. Protected health information (PHI) entered through patient portals also poses a huge risk if the data isn’t protected.

This information should not only be encrypted to protect students, faculty, and patients alike, but it should be encrypted because the collection of financial data, credit card data, and PHI fall under industry regulations such as HIPAA/HITECH and PCI-DSS which require the encryption of this data.

Here’s the good news: Many college and university websites are built using the common content management system (CMS) Drupal. Drupal is one of the most widely used CMS platforms, and is used by both small start-ups and Fortune 100 enterprises. It is very commonly used for higher education sites. Drupal has a long history with addressing security in its modules, and in fact has even supported an Encrypt module to encrypt sensitive data. Although the Encrypt module made encrypting data easy for Drupal users, it lacked a very important component of successful encryption: encryption key management.

Encryption key management is the foundation of a successful encryption strategy. If the encryption key is stored locally with the encrypted data, then a hacker who gains access to the data can immediately decrypt the data, making the encryption useless. If the key is protected, away from the encrypted data, then the data remains safe, even if accessed by an attacker.

Ok, here’s the actual good news: Stronger encryption and encryption key management is now available for Drupal users. Chris Teitzel and Rick Hawkins, Drupal developers and owners of Cellar Door Media have recently teamed up with Townsend Security to create Key Connection for Drupal--a module that enables NIST-validated AES encryption and FIPS 140-2 compliant key management for data in Drupal.

Key Connection for Drupal offers these important features:

  • Encryption anywhere you want it - The Key Connection for Drupal APIs allow developers to encrypt data and protect encryption keys anywhere data is collected in a website from student enrollment applications to student health service portals.
  • Onboard encryption - While Drupal developers can still use the encrypt module to encrypt sensitive data, and protect the encryption keys to a cloud or physical key management module, they also have the option to do “onboard” encryption within the key manager using NIST validated AES encryption. This is a critical new feature for business who need to meet PCI-DSS compliance requirements.
  • Multiple key management options - Developers can choose from multiple key management options from key management in the cloud to a physical hardware security module (HSM) that they can rack up in their own IT infrastructure. Townsend Security also offers virtual and hosted options.

To learn more about Key Connection for Drupal and how you can encrypt sensitive data in Drupal using NIST validated AES encryption and protection of encryption keys using FIPS 140-2 compliant key management, listen to the podcast featuring the Key Connection for Drupal developers.

Encryption Key Management Drupal

Topics: Encryption, Higher Education, Encryption Key Management, Drupal

Are Colleges and Universities Under Attack? Four Things to Do Now

Posted by Patrick Townsend on Aug 28, 2012 6:52:00 AM

Download Podcast: Higher Education Under Attack - Data Privacy 101

university encryption

Listen to our podcast to learn why colleges are a top target for data thieves and what they can do today.

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We’ve seen some high profile data breaches at colleges and universities lately. People have been asking if there is any reason why these organizations are experiencing a higher level of attack, and why this is happening now. Are they more susceptible in some way?

There is some good evidence that higher education institutions are experiencing data breaches at a higher rate than other organizations.  Just based on the reported number of reported breaches, number of records stolen, and the number of colleges in the general population of targets, you can conclude that they are, in fact, experiencing a higher rate of loss.

Are college students responsible for the higher levels of breaches?

In spite of the fact that college students are far more knowledgeable about technology, and have a high curiosity index, there is no evidence that students are the source of these breaches. If you look at insider threats and include students in this category, the data doesn’t support this idea. And students don’t want to put their academic opportunities on the line over a break-in, they are way too smart to put that much at risk.

So, why are colleges experiencing higher rates of loss?

Asked why he robbed banks, Willie Sutton supposedly said “Because that’s where the money is.”  A typical college runs retail operations through book stores and cafes, collects critical financial information about students and their families, and may operate a student health service. They are complex modern operations with very large amounts of sensitive data that is often retained for many years. I believe that colleges and universities are considered high value targets because they have a lot of valuable information. 

Here are some things that higher education organizations can do right away:

1) Know where your sensitive data lives.

You should have a good inventory of all of the systems that collect and store credit card numbers, social security numbers, financial information, and student patient information. Having a good map of your data assets is crucial to your data protection strategy.

2) Purge the data you no longer need.

We sometimes forget to take out the trash in our IT systems, and that historical data can be the target of a data breach. Now that you know where your data lives, purge the historical data that you don’t need.

3) Prioritize your attack plan.

We all tend to do the easy things first. There is some satisfaction in getting some points on the score board early in the game. Resist this tendency and protect the most valuable assets first.

4) Protect your data with strong encryption and key management.

There is a lingering belief that encryption is difficult and expensive, especially when it comes to encryption key management systems. That is no longer true! Be sure to include encryption and proper key management in your data protection strategy. If front-line defenses fail, and they will, be sure that the data that is stolen is unusable because it is encrypted.

There are reasons for colleges and universities to be optimistic about improving their data protection posture. Security professionals have learned a lot over the last few years, and there is better guidance and best practices on how to tackle this problem. And security vendors now offer more affordable and easier to use encryption and key management solutions. Download our podcast "Higher Education Under Attack - Data Privacy 101" for more information on what universities can do to prevent data breaches and how to easily get started today.


Download Podcast: Higher Education Under Attack

Topics: security, Higher Education, Data Privacy, Data Breach