+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

Interview with website planet

Posted by Patrick Townsend on Apr 14, 2022 10:13:26 AM

 

Web developers have some unique challenges when it comes to securing data at rest. It is now standard practice to implement secure connections via HTTPS to protect data in motion. This was probably helped along by Google search as it prioritizes secureProtecting Encryption Keys in AWS websites. But in my opinion there has not been the same focus on securing sensitive data at rest in web files and databases. So I accepted an invitation to talk to the folks over at Website Planet. You can find the interview here:

https://www.websiteplanet.com/blog/townsendsecurity-interview/

Disclaimer: Neither I nor Townsend Security have any business relationship with Website Planet.

Enjoy.

Patrick

 

 

Podcast: State of Encryption Key Management

Topics: Encryption, Key Management, Defense-in-Depth, Cloud Security

Ransomware evolution - “Devastating innovation”

Posted by Patrick Townsend on Feb 22, 2022 4:40:02 PM

The new Sophos Threat Report for 2022 is just out and it is a good read (the link is below). In addition to ransomware the report talks about the increasing role of Artificial Intelligence as a part of both defense and offense, and other topics I think you would find interesting. Sophos is on the front lines of trying to help organizations who have fallen victim to ransomware. This statement in the threat report about new ransomware techniques really struck me:

“Ransomware is only as good as your backups, or so an adage might go if any existed. The truth of this statement became the basis for one of the most devastating “innovations” pioneered by some threat actor groups involved in ransomware schemes in the past several years: the rise of extortion in ransomware attacks.”

Delivering Secure VMware Hosting with Encryption and Key ManagementWe all know that we have to have a really good backup and recovery strategy to deal with a ransomware attack. From the Threat Report:

“Increasingly, large organizations have been getting the message that ransomware attacks were costly but could be thwarted without the need for a ransom payment – if the organization kept good backups of the data the attackers were encrypting and have been acting on it by engaging with large cloud backup firms to keep their systems cloned. After all, if, for instance, you only lost one day’s worth of work, it would be a manageable loss, completely survivable for the targeted organization, if they chose to restore from backups rather than pay the ransom.”

But did you know that the attackers have innovated with a “double extortion” strategy? Backups can help you recover from the loss of your systems due to poisonous encryption. But the attackers are now stealing your sensitive data and threatening to publicly release it if you don’t pay the ransom. That is the second part of the “double extortion”, and is the “devastating innovation.”

“We have to presume that the ransomware groups were also getting the message because they weren’t getting paid. They took advantage of the fact that the average “dwell time” (in which they have access to a targeted organization’s network) can be days to weeks and started using that time to discover an organization’s secrets—and move everything of value to a cloud backup service themselves. Then, when the ransomware attack struck, they’d layer on a second threat: pay up or we release your most sensitive internal documents, customer information, source code, patient records, or, well, anything else, to the world.”

How do we respond to this new, double extortion ransomware threat?

First, we have to do the things we’ve always done:

  • Backup everything to be prepared to restore systems and data.
  • Monitor our environments for anomalous events and behavior.
  • Educate our employees and service providers on good technology and email practices.

Now we need to add one more practice:

  • Encrypt sensitive information to deny it to the attackers.

To defend against the “double extortion” we now have to deny hackers access to our sensitive information through the use of defensive encryption. If the attacker steals our data but can’t read it, we have defeated the new “Devastating Innovation”. I know that it is a bit ironic that we have to use the same tool as the hackers – encryption – to defeat the hackers. But it is a tool that we have readily at hand. All major database, virtualization, and storage solutions make it easy to encrypt data. And that’s what we need to do now. As in, right now!

Here is one critical thing to consider when you start implementing encryption as the next part of your ransomware strategy:

Your encryption is only as strong as your management of encryption keys.

When you encrypt your sensitive data, you have to protect the secret key that unlocks the data. That is actually the hardest part of an encryption strategy. It is important to get this right from the start. This is where Enterprise Key Management systems come into play. They give you the means to protect your encryption keys away from the data they protect.

We are helping our customers deploy encryption to defeat ransomware with our Alliance Key Manager solution. You can encryption databases, VMware infrastructure, Cloud data, Big data, and much more. More information here:

https://townsendsecurity.com/products

If you are a Managed Service Provider (MSP, MSSP) or IT Services Organization (ITSO), you can find out more about how we empower our partners to meet this challenge. More information here:

https://townsendsecurity.com/msp

Stay safe,

Patrick

Resources:

The Definitive Guide to Encryption Key Management Fundamentals:

https://info.townsendsecurity.com/ebook-definitive-guide-to-encryption-key-management-fundamentals

The Sophos 2022 Threat Report:

https://www.sophos.com/en-us/medialibrary/pdfs/technical-papers/sophos-2022-threat-report.pdfDownload Alliance Key Manager

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

Why Online Gaming Sites Need to Prioritize Data Privacy & Digital Security

Posted by Patrick Townsend on Nov 9, 2021 12:05:07 PM

 

Whilst the pandemic has caused untold stress for many around the planet, some businesses and industries have thrived from people experiencing a more sedentary lifestyle. The boom in online shopping and particularly online gaming has been phenomenal. However, with that growth has also brought another concerning issue of its own.

With more people inputting their data across the web, and companies relying on modern technologies, it has given hackers more scope to aim their sights at unsuspecting victims.

Earlier this year it was estimated by Homeland Security Secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, that $350 million was handed out to just some of the hackers who engage in ransomware schemes. With Colonial Pipeline CEO, Joseph Blount, admitting that they paid out $11 million following an attack which saw their Eastern Seaboard gasoline supply shut down. This was all down to not having a multifactor authentication login system. It shows how easy it can be. It’s exactly why modern, digitally based businesses, should be very mindful of the impact that having a lax attitude to security can have.

Growth of online gaming

With the online gaming industry being valued at almost $174 billion in 2020, it’s easy to see why this is one area where criminals are looking to get a foot in the door. The industry is an ever-evolving animal, with some journalists suggesting that online video gaming is the new social media. This extra social interaction, could be said to lower inhibition and present more opportunities for exploitation. It is not only about losing money, if data is exploited then accounts can easily be ‘taken over’. Account takeovers are not uncommon. This results in players losing access to games and potentially more, due to unintentionally giving away their account details.

This is something, which if not taken seriously, will also affect the online casino industry. Although CNBC have reported this is an area which is already being targeted by cyber criminals more than ever before.

With the potential prizes on offer, and the subsequent amounts held and deposited by players, the criminals are waiting to pounce. At the time of writing, the slot games on Gala Bingo, for example, are openly advertising jackpots of $96,000 and $22,000. So, at any point players could have those large amounts and more in their account. Then if you consider hacking attempts on the gaming industry have already risen by 261% during the second quarter of 2021. That’s in comparison to the same time last year. So, almost in parallel with the growth of the industry, the hackers are looking to exploit players new and old.

What are companies doing to stop these attacks?

In the online casino industry, some companies have moved to using cryptocurrency as a means of tightening security. The blockchain technology affords its owners added safety, by design it’s almost impervious to the risk of data substitution and corruption. Utilizing blocks of transactions stored in chronological order, it becomes near impossible for this chain to be interrupted. One change would break the chain, therefore rendering the 'currency' valueless.

Adding another layer of added security is, two-factor authentication. This is something which is certainly becoming more prevalent in both video and casino gaming. This is where users will need two forms of ID to login to their accounts. Typically this will include not only your password to your account, but then a code would be sent via a cellphone application like Google Authenticator or Authy, an email or sometimes via text message to a cellphone. This code needs to be inputted within a certain time period to access your account. Now, unless you’ve lost your cellphone too, it makes it much harder for people to access the account.

Lastly, it is important to encrypt sensitive data at rest. If other protections fail and hackers are able to steal the data, they won’t be able to use it to threaten its release and extort payments from you. In this case encryption is your friend! We don’t hear much about data breaches where encrypted data is stolen for good reason. If hackers don’t have the encryption key, they can’t use the data against you.

Companies are certainly doing what they can to help stave off the threat of cybercrime to themselves and their customers. However, there's still a long way to go. But as you can see with the amount of growth in the industry, it's clear why gaming sites should continue to prioritize data and digital security.

If you need any help or information, we have all the resources to assist you and your business here at Townsend Security.

PatrickeBook: Definitive Guide to Encryption Key Management

Topics: Encryption, Key Management, CyberSecurity

Colonial Pipeline, ransomware and encryption – what to do right now

Posted by Patrick Townsend on Jun 8, 2021 11:21:40 AM

The Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack and resulting crisis that affected millions of people was shocking because of its scale and impact. Shocking, but it was not surprising. We have been watching an increase in the number of ransomware attacks over the last few months. No organization, large or small, has been immune from the attacks. Hospitals, schools, local governments, national agencies – even police departments and courts – have suffered from debilitating ransomware infections. Colonial Pipeline was the first publicly known attack on critical energy infrastructure, but it won’t be the last.

Most modern ransomware attacks have two components:

  • Encryption of your systems to deny you operational access, and
  • Theft of unencrypted sensitive data.

The attackers encrypt your data with a secret key and then promise to restore it when you pay the ransom. This is the well-known part of a ransomware attack. You typically must pay the ransom to a secret Bitcoin account controlled by the attackers. After payment, if you are lucky, the attackers will give you the secret key to unlock your data.

Case Study: Concensus TechnologiesThere is another, less well-known aspect of ransomware attacks. And that is that the attackers often steal sensitive data before they encrypt it. Why do they do this? Well, if you are able to restore your systems without paying the ransom, they can then use the threat of releasing that data to extort the payment from you. And it is very effective. More on protecting yourself from this aspect of ransomware below.

There is good guidance from security groups and governmental agencies on how to protect yourself from a ransomware attack. Having good backups that are not connected to the network is an important part of that guidance. You should also deploy other security measures like active monitoring for anomalous behavior, appropriate segmentation of users, proper network controls, and so forth. And, never forget that training users in good security hygiene is absolutely essential.

I think a number of organizations have gotten reasonably good at this part of ransomware protection. There are still big gaps, of course. And smaller to midsize organizations are lagging in the deployment of these basic protections. But what to do is no longer the question. Getting it done and doing it right is the challenge.

But what about the second part of the ransomware attack? What happens when the attackers steal your unencrypted sensitive data?

We have to give credit where it is due. Cybercriminals who deploy ransomware are very good at what they do. They’ve learned to adapt to a changing landscape. As you got better at doing backups and recovering your data in a timely fashion, they added another technique to extort a payment – They are taking your very sensitive data. If you refuse to pay the ransom they threaten to release the data. To prove their point they will often release a very small amount of your data.

Imagine your shock when you see highly sensitive medical information showing up on the attacker websites. Or sensitive information about students, or sensitive court records. Suddenly the urgency is much greater, and many pay the ransom when this happens.

Having a good backup is not going to help you now. So, what can you do? It is time to add another tool to your defenses – encryption of your own sensitive data.

You should encrypt your sensitive data to deprive the attackers of access to it. If the attacker steals your data in an encrypted state, it is not usable. Encryption is the security control that you need to add to your ransomware strategy. I know, you’ve been putting implementing this important security control. But the stakes are higher now. If Sony or Equifax had encrypted their data, we would not still be talking about the massive loss of data and the disruption they experienced.

Here are some basics to keep in mind as you deploy encryption:

  • Create a map of your sensitive data, and a plan. You should encrypt the most sensitive data first.
  • Encryption key management is critical to your security. Use a professional key management system to store keys away from the data. Never store encryption keys on the same server that hosts the data.
  • Restrict access to the databases with sensitive data. Only those people in your organization who have a need to access sensitive data should be able to do so. Your DBA will know how to do this.
  • Monitor user access to your sensitive data and take immediate action for unautorized access. Use a professional SIEM solution to do this.
  • Monitor access to your encryption key management solution. Your KMS is a critical part of your encryption strategy.
  • Take advantage of database and storage vendor support for encryption and key management. Using VMware for your infrastructure? Implement encryption of VMs and vSAN. Using Microsoft SQL Server? Implement Transparent Data Encryption with an external KMS for the keys. It is fast and easy, and supported by the database vendor.

There are a lot of reasons why organizations are lagging in terms of encrypting their sensitive data. Fears about performance, fears about lost encryption keys, fears about the cost of key management systems, and so forth. All of these challenges have been overcome in recent years. Put your fears aside and protect your data.

Here is a hint:

Don’t let the PERFECT be the enemy of the GOOD. For example, you don’t have to encrypt everything at one time. Tackle the most sensitive data first, and tackle the easy projects first in order to build experience. Then tackle the remaining projects as quickly as you can. Also, don’t be afraid to deploy key management solutions from different vendors. KMS systems are so easy to manage now that having more than one system rarely increases administrative costs. Find the best, most cost effective KMS solution for your database and use it!

Encryption is your friend when you control it. It can provide protection from cybercriminals who attempt to steal your data in order to extort a payment. You can get encryption done quickly and at a reasonable cost. You don’t have to pay exorbitant licensing fees for a good key management system. If you have cost concerns, give us a call.

If you are a managed service provider trying to help protect your customers, you might like to know about our MSP Partner program. Give us a shout to learn more.

Patrick

Download Alliance Key Manager

Topics: Encryption, Key Management, Defense-in-Depth, Security News, Ransomware

2019 SQL Server Encryption Survey

Posted by Ken Mafli on Jan 15, 2020 6:00:00 AM

This last November (Nov. 6-8, 2019) we had a chance to participate in the 21st annual PASS Summit in Seattle as an exhibitor. It was a great time as SQL Server professionals from around the world attended. We had an opportunity to ask them about their company's encryption and key management practices. Below are the results as well as some expert weigh-in on the findings. Enjoy!

The SQL Server Encryption Survey—2019

 

2019-SQL-Server-Encryption-Survey

 

A special thanks to our contributors for their expertise and guidance. You all are clear-minded professionals that have a lot to offer those looking to better secure their data:

-Ed Leighton-Dick, Kingfisher Technologies
-Tim Roncevich, CyberGuard Compliance
-Justin Garren, LyntonWeb
-Sharon Kleinerman, Townsend Security
-Patrick Townsend, Townsend Security

If you are looking to protect your encryption keys for your sensitive data in SQL Server, you need a FIPS 140-2 compliant centralized key manager that:

  • Never charges you additional fees for connecting a new end-point.
  • Never limits the number of end-points based on the model of the KMS.
  • Never limits the number of encryption keys generated or stored.
  • Never forces you to pay extra fees for software patches.
  • Never forces you to pay extra fees for routine software upgrades.
  • Always gives you unmatched customer service.
  • Always protects your keys, 24/7.

You need Alliance Key Manager for SQL Server.

Alliance-Key-Manager-for-SQL-Server 

 

 

Topics: Key Management, Extensible Key Management (EKM), SQL Server 2008, Microsoft, Info-graphic, SQL, Encryption Key Management, SQL Server, Transparent Data Encryption (TDE), SQL Server encryption

vSAN Encryption: Locking Your vSAN Down (Part 2)

Posted by Ken Mafli on Dec 16, 2019 6:30:00 AM

What is vSAN Encryption?

As of VMware vSAN 6.6, you can now encrypt your vSAN datastore. vSAN encryption protects your stored data in case a device is removed or hacked. vSAN encryption only requires the vCenter Server, a third-party Key Management Server (KMS), and ESXi hosts to work. It is standards based and KMIP compatible.

 

(Part one of this series deals with VM encryption. This post will cover vSAN encryption)

How vSAN Encryption Works
 
 

The Rise of Storage Area Networks

Nowadays, VMware vSAN provides hyper-converged storage for the enterprise business. As VMware puts it, “in addition to being incredibly simple to deploy and provision, Virtual SAN allows you to scale storage and compute resources, eliminating costly forklift upgrades.”

But, as most know, vSAN, first released in 2014, did not grow in a vacuum. Physical SANs started to gain traction in the early 2000’s as our need for data storage exploded. The SANS Institute, in 2002, highlighted these trends and the advantages that a SAN provided:

  • Higher availability of systems and applications
  • Costly IT purchases reduced
  • Higher scalability of storage architecture
  • Increased IT staff efficiency
  • Higher ability to utilize the full value of a company’s information assets

Encryption and Key Management for VMware - Definitive GuideBut even though a SAN brought these advantages to its user, it had one major limitation: Storage administrators were still tied to managing the data via where it physically lived, needing to pre-allocate storage on various servers.

vSAN, however, overcomes the limitations of a purely physical SAN. Since vSAN is a software layer that sits on-top of the server, it allows for greater flexibility of your storage capacity. According to MicroAge:

“vSAN is software-defined storage that enables organizations to pool storage capabilities and automatically provision virtual machine storage. They can dynamically scale performance and storage capacity as needed and render underlying physical storage accessible to virtual machines through a policy-driven control pane. [O]rganizations use SANs to interconnect shared pools of storage devices to different servers. vSAN extends this local storage to a shareable storage in each server, enabling other servers to access data over the LAN without a traditional shared storage device.”

Another advantage of vSAN: greater (and much easier to implement) data security. With version 6.6 of vSAN, VMware introduced native encryption for your data-at-rest. vSAN encryption is baked right into vSAN and, as Jase McCarty of VMware puts it, “with a couple of clicks, it can be enabled or disabled for all items on the vSAN datastore, with no additional steps.”

This gives the enterprise business much greater control in how and when they secure their data. That said, let’s take a look at some additional advantages of using vSAN encryption.

 

Expert Weigh-in:
When it comes to database development and administration, there is often an emphasis on securing the data inside the database. Unfortunately, that’s not only one place that data resides. We all know that data exists outside the database engine. It’s important to take steps to protect your data no matter where it may lie. vSAN encryption allows for you take that extra step to protect your data-at-rest sitting in JSON, XML, or CSV files.
~Thomas LaRock, Head Geek, SolarWinds

 

The Advantages of vSAN Encryption

Advantages of vSAN Encryption

 

Minimizes Impact on Performance

With encryption there will always be a performance impact. It is just the nature of the beast. But with vSAN encryption, VMware reports:

  • Minimal impact to CPU cycles while data is being encrypted.
  • A 5-15% CPU penalty and no performance overhead. This overhead is representative of running vSAN with dedupe and compression turned on.

This is great news for those needing to encrypt large amounts of stored data. You can now protect your data and, in large part, maintain the integrity of your performance.

Streamlines Operations

As mentioned earlier, vSAN encryption is easy to configure and entire clusters can be encrypted with just a few clicks. There is zero guess-work with:

  • No third-party encryption to install, configure, and maintain.
  • No encryption at the hardware layer. Encryption at the hypervisor layer (vSAN encryption) has considerably less overhead than deploying encryption at the hardware layer.

Bring Your Own Key Manager

You can bring your preferred key manager to manage your encryption keys. Since vSAN encryption is KMIP 1.1 compatible, you are free to use a FIPS 140-2 compliant encryption key manager, like our Alliance Key Manager.

How Do I Enable vSAN Encryption?

 

The last and biggest advantage: vSAN encryption is easy to enable and use. This means that securing your sensitive data with AES encryption is not a time-intensive task. To prove the point, here is a quick guide to getting encryption up and running for your vSAN clusters:

  • First, install and configure your key management server, or KMS, (such as our Alliance Key Manager) and add its network address and port information to the vCenter KMS Cluster.
  • Then, you will need to set up a domain of trust between vCenter Server, your KMS, and your vSAN host.
    • You will do this by exchanging administrative certificates between your KMS and vCenter Server to establish trust.
    • Then, vCenter Server will pass the KMS connection data to the vSAN host.
    • From there, the vSAN host will only request keys from that trusted KMS.
  • The ESXi host generates internal keys to encrypt each disk, generating a new key for each disk. These are known as the data encryption keys, or DEKs.
  • The vCenter Server then requests a key from the KMS. This key is used by the ESXi host as the key encryption key, or KEK.
  • The ESXi host then uses the KEK to encrypt the DEK and only the encrypted DEK is stored locally on the disk.
  • The KEK is safely stored separately from the data and DEK in the KMS.
  • Additionally, the KMS also creates a host encryption key, or HEK, for encrypting core dumps. The HEK is managed within the KMS to ensure you can secure the core dump and manage who can access the data.

That’s it! VMware has made encrypting your data in vSAN both simple and secure.

 

Expert Weigh-in:
In traditional SAN infrastructures, layering key-based security and integrating with key managers has always been wrought with expense and complexity. It usually meant leveraging very few but very difficult to manage key management appliances which required very specialized skills. But with vSAN along with Alliance Key Manager, a lot of that complexity is removed—letting you focus on protecting your data instead of managing it.
~Christopher Kusek, vExpert and Tech Evangelist

 

Final Thoughts

Encrypt Everything in vSAN

 

Let’s face it, storage area networks are a target-rich environment for malicious actors. Whether it’s:

  • Customer data
  • Intellectual property
  • Financial transactions
  • Legal records
  • Patient information
  • And much, much more….

It all needs to be protected. Network administrators, though, face these challenges:

  • They have little control over what gets put into storage.
  • Sensitive data, many times, is stored by end users with little thought to encrypting it.
  • There is a dizzying array of compliance regulations, internal security standards, and best practices that must be complied with.

vSAN encryption can help. With a few clicks in vSAN entire virtual disks can be encrypted. And with a FIPS 140-2 compliant encryption key manager, like Alliance Key Manager, the keys for your AES-NI encryption will be properly protected and full lifecycle managed.

If you are not protecting your data in vSAN, get started today! It’s not a matter of if your data will be hacked, but when.

 

New call-to-action

 

Topics: Encryption, Key Management, VMware, vSAN

2018 SQL Server Encryption Survey

Posted by Ken Mafli on Jan 21, 2019 6:51:00 AM

This last November (Nov. 6-9, 2018) we had a chance to participate in the 20th annual PASS Summit in Seattle as an exhibitor. It was a great time as SQL Server professionals from around the world attended. We had an opportunity to ask them about their company's encryption and key management practices. Below are the results as well as some expert weigh-in on the findings. Enjoy!

 

SQL-Server-Survey-2018

 

A special thanks to our contributors for their expertise and guidance. You all are clear-minded professionals that have a lot to offer those looking to better secure their data:

-Sebastian Meine, Ph.D., sqlity.net
-Steve Brown, Rutter Networking Technologies
-Tim Roncevich, CyberGuard Compliance
-Sharon Kleinerman, Townsend Security
-Patrick Townsend, Townsend Security

If you are looking to protect your encryption keys for your sensitive data in SQL Server, you need a FIPS 140-2 compliant centralized key manager that:

  • Never charges you additional fees for connecting a new end-point.
  • Never limits the number of end-points based on the model of the KMS.
  • Never limits the number of encryption keys generated or stored.
  • Never forces you to pay extra fees for software patches.
  • Never forces you to pay extra fees for routine software upgrades.
  • Always gives you unmatched customer service.
  • Always protects your keys, 24/7.

You need Alliance Key Manager for SQL Server.

Alliance-Key-Manager-for-SQL-Server 

 

 

Topics: Key Management, Extensible Key Management (EKM), SQL Server 2008, Microsoft, Info-graphic, SQL, Encryption Key Management, SQL Server, Transparent Data Encryption (TDE), SQL Server encryption

Dangers of Encryption on the IBM i (AS/400, iSeries): Avoid These Pitfalls

Posted by Patrick Townsend on Nov 14, 2016 8:35:13 AM

IBM has done a good job of implementing security from the ground up on the IBM i platform. But that doesn’t mean that it is immune from data breaches. All of the PCs and servers on your network with the IBM i server are potential attack points for a data breach. And make no mistake, cyber criminals know that the IBM i server is a rich target. Implementing encryption in IBM i DB2 is an essential part of a defense in depth strategy. But there are lots of pitfalls to avoid. Let’s take a look at some of them (I am shamelessly plugging our Alliance AES/400 solution, too):

Key Management for IBM i - Audit FailuresLocally Stored Encryption Keys and Key Management

One of the surest ways to defeat your encryption strategy is to store encryption keys on the same system that stores sensitive data. The IBM i server is no exception. Compliance regulations and security best practices require that you store encryption keys away from the IBM i server in an encryption key vault designed for this purpose. Why is this a security best practice? Cybercriminals are often able to achieve privilege escalation on a compromised IBM i server and then get access to locally stored keys. Storing encryption keys off of the IBM i server makes the compromise of the sensitive data much harder.

How Townsend Security Can Help

The Townsend Security Alliance AES/400 product integrates seamlessly with Townsend Security's Alliance Key Manager solution for protection of encryption keys and key management best practices. Alliance Key Manager stores encryption keys in a hardware security module or VMware instance that is attached to the IBM i server by a secure, authenticated TLS connection. As a FIPS 140-2 compliant key management solution, Alliance AES/400 with Alliance Key Manager solves the key management problem!

High Availability and Key Mirroring

Encryption key management is a part of your critical infrastructure. The loss of an encryption key means the loss of your data! Your encryption key management solution should implement real-time key mirroring and real-time security policy mirroring. In the event the key manager is unavailable due to a hardware or network failure, the failover to a secondary key server should be automatic without business interruption. A key management solution based on the IBM i master key facility cannot achieve real-time mirroring and protection from these failures.

How Townsend Security Can Help

Alliance Key Manager implements real-time key mirroring to one or more backup key servers. The mirroring implementation is active-active meaning that any changes you make to keys or access policies on the secondary server will be mirrored to the production server when it comes back online. This perfectly matches your IBM i high availability failover strategy if you use MIMIX, iTera, Vision, or IBM DataMirror.

Encryption and Insider Threats

Insider threats include both intentional and unintentional access to and loss of sensitive information. Unintentional losses of data represents the largest insider threat. Accidentally copying data to a PC or development environment can lead to a reportable data breach event. This is especially true when access controls to sensitive data are only controlled by native IBM i object level security. You should certainly use native IBM i security mechanisms, but access to decrypted sensitive data should also be controlled using a “whitelist” approach. This will help minimize the intentional and unintentional access by security administrators. Note that it is not only the security profile QSECOFR that has all access to sensitive data: all users with All Object (*ALLOBJ) authority or who adopt this level of authority through a group profile or supplemental group are at risk for intentional or unintentional loss of sensitive data.

How Townsend Security Can Help

Alliance AES/400 implements a whitelist approach for controlled access to decrypted sensitive data. All configuration changes to security policies are logged to the IBM security audit journal QAUDJRN. You can achieve effective Separation of Duties between managers of the encryption keys and security administrators on the IBM i platform.

Poorly Performing Encryption Libraries

Encryption can also present an operational risk to IBM i customers. In order to meet service level expectations of end users encryption and decryption operations must be efficient. Unfortunately for IBM i customers the native AES encryption software libraries provided in the operating system may not provide an adequate level of performance. Even with the new IBM i POWER8 servers with on-chip encryption, the performance of AES encryption and decryption tasks is poor. It is important to assess the size of your protected databases and the nature of batch operations that require access to unencrypted data in order to avoid negative impacts to both interactive and batch applications.

How Townsend Security Can Help

Alliance AES/400 uses the Townsend Security NIST-validated AES encryption library for encryption and decryption tasks. This optimized AES encryption library is more than 100x faster that native IBM i encryption libraries on POWER7 processors, and more than 50x faster on POWER8 processors.

Encrypted Indexes

Many IBM i customers are surprised to learn that their RPG applications will not work correctly with DB2 FieldProc for encrypted indexes (key fields). FieldProc is IBM’s automatic column level encryption feature implemented at the DB2 database level. FieldProc is attractive to IBM i customers because it does not require modifications to applications. While native SQL applications can easily handle encrypted indexes, RPG applications do not use the native SQL Query Engine (SQE) and will not work properly with encrypted indexes. Most IBM i customers exclusively use RPG or have a mix of RPG and SQL applications. The issue with RPG and encrypted indexes represents a major roadblock to encryption. Be sure that your encryption strategy can support encrypted indexes, or be prepared to modernize RPG applications to use native the SQL Query Engine.

How Townsend Security Can Help

Townsend Security tackled the problem of encrypted indexes and offers a solution to the RPG challenge through its Open Access for RPG SQL library. Changing one line of code in your RPG application can automatically use the native SQL Query Engine for database access. This eliminates the challenges of encrypted indexes with FieldProc encryption.

Data Masking

Compliance regulations such as PCI Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS) and security best practices require that we only allow authorized users access to fully decrypted sensitive data. But other users must have access to our database applications. This means that intelligent data masking should be built into your IBM i applications. As noted above, data masking should be based on a whitelist approach and not purely based on object or database level authority. You should have the ability to define masking rules (mask all but the last 4 characters, etc.) and you should be able to define a default masking rule that applies to all unauthorized users. While Row and Column Access Controls (RCAC) can provide some data masking capability, you must manage individual user level authorities to implement this control.

How Townsend Security Can Help

Alliance AES/400 fully implements data masking using a whitelist approach and provides protections from users with All Object (*ALLOBJ) or Security Administrator (*SECADM) privileges. Data is masked in the internal decryption routines and fully exposed data is never visible in the application program.

System Audit Logs

No security policy or solution can be effective on a stand-alone basis and this includes encryption and key management. A good encryption and key management strategy involves monitoring all access to sensitive data, monitoring changes to encryption and key management configurations, monitoring all use of encryption keys, and storing audit logs for future forensic reference. The use of Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) solutions is highly recommended as a part of your monitoring and alerting strategy. Be sure that all access to encryption and encryption keys is fully audited and logged.

How Townsend Security Can Help

Alliance AES/400 and Alliance Key Manager implement system logging and audit for all aspects of administration, configuration and use. Alliance Key Manager implements full logging of all aspects of key management and the server it runs on, and transmits logs to a SIEM solution in real time. Alliance AES/400 fully logs all administrative operations and decryption tasks to the IBM i security audit journal QAUDJRN. The optional Alliance LogAgent solution transmits these logs as well as all IBM i security events to a SIEM solution or log collection server.

Encryption and key management don’t have to feel dangerous or scary! I hope the above points about encryption and key management for the IBM i help you develop a roadmap for successful (and safe!) encryption.

Patrick

Key Management for IBM i - Sources of Audit Failures

Topics: Encryption, Key Management, IBM i

Speaking Words of Wisdom, Let it Key

Posted by Luke Probasco on May 27, 2016 8:57:00 AM

"This article was originally posted on Drop Guard’s blog. Drop Guard automates Drupal updates to ensure security of your site within minutes after a security release."


What Data Needs To Be Encrypted In Drupal?

Encryption has gone mainstream. Thanks to the numerous data breaches (781 during 2015 in the U.S. alone) data security is a top priority for businesses of all sizes. Semi-vague language like “we ensure our data is protected” from IT teams is no longer good enough to satisfy the concerns of business executives and their customers. CEOs are losing their jobs and companies are suffering financial losses/fines that reach into the millions of dollars when poorly encrypted or un-encrypted data is lost.

Fortunately, the recent 2016 Global Encryption Trends Study shows that there is a growing shift with businesses developing an encryption strategy – Germany (61%) and the U.S.(45%) are in the lead with the primary drivers including:

  • To comply with external or data security regulations
  • To protect enterprise Intellectual Property (IP)
  • To protect information against specific identified threats
  • To protect customer personally identifiable information (PII)

Before getting too much deeper, let’s first clarify a common misperception. Yes, while the big brands are in the headlines, they aren’t the primary target of hackers. A recent threat report from Symantec found that three out of every five cyber-attacks target small and midsize companies. These businesses are targeted because they have weaker security controls and have not taken a defense-in-depth approach to security. Even though some of these businesses may be encrypting their data, chances are they are not doing it correctly.

How do you then define what properly encrypting data involves? First, it means using an industry standard encryption algorithm such as the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), alternatively known as Rijndael. Standards are important in the encryption world. Standard encryption algorithms receive the full scrutiny of the professional cryptographic community. Further, many compliance regulations such as PCI-DSS, HIPAA/HITECH, FISMA, and others are clear that only encryption based on industry standards meet minimal regulatory requirements. Standards bodies such as NIST, ISO, and ANSI have published standards for a variety of encryption methods including AES.

But wait, my web sites don’t collect credit cards or social security numbers. Why should I care about encryption?

You would be surprised at what can be considered Personally Identifiable Information and should be encrypted. PII now includes information such as (and not limited to):

  • Email address
  • Password
  • Login name
  • Date of birth
  • Address
  • IP address

For a moment, pause and consider how many websites you have built that collect this type of information. As you will quickly realize, even the most basic marketing websites that collect a name and email address should deploy encryption.

Key Management
The second part of properly encrypting data involves key management and understanding the important role that it plays. Your encryption key is all that stands between your data and those that want to read it. So then, what good is a locked door if the key is hidden underneath the “Welcome” mat?

Security best practices and compliance regulations say that encryption keys should be stored and managed in a different location than the encrypted data. This can present a challenge for Drupal developers as the standard has been to store it on the server outside the web root. While there is a suite of great encryption modules (Encrypt, Field Encryption, Encrypted Files, etc.), they unfortunately all stash the key in similar unsecure locations – in the Drupal database, settings file, or in a protected file on the server. Once a hacker compromises a site, they can then take the encryption keys and have access to all the sensitive data.

“Let it Key”
Let’s now bring this back to one of my favorite songs by the Beatles to paraphrase a line (excuse the pun), “Speaking words of wisdom, let it key.” The Key module provides the ability to manage all keys on a site from a singular admin interface. It can be employed by other modules (like the aforementioned encryption modules) to offload key management so the module is not responsible for protecting the key. It gives site administrators the ability to define how and where keys are stored, which, when paired with the proper key storage modules, allows the option of a high level of security and the ability to meet security best practices and compliance requirements. Drupal developers can now easily integrate enterprise level key management systems such as Townsend Security’s Alliance Key Manager or Cellar Door Media’s Lockr (both of these companies have been heavy sponsors of encryption module development).

Enterprise level key managers do more than just store keys outside of the Drupal installation. In addition to safeguarding encryption keys, they manage them through the entire lifecycle—from creation to destruction. Further, a key manager will allow for:

  • Key naming and versioning
  • Key change and rotation
  • Secure key retrieval
  • Key mirroring
  • Key import and export
  • Password and passphrase protection
  • User and group control for key access 

In addition to providing NIST-compliant AES encryption and FIPS 140-2 compliant key management, an encryption key manager also allows administrators to store their API keys outside of Drupal. Private API keys are frequently used within Drupal by services like Authorize.net, PayPal, MailChimp, etc., and all these modules store their keys in the database in the clear. If your site gets hacked, so does access to the services that you have integrated into your site. For example, if your Amazon S3 API key were in your stolen database, hackers would have access to your entire offsite S3 storage. Consider how detrimental it would be for a client to find out that a hacker has gained access to their PayPal account - after all, they were using PayPal because they didn’t want to deal with the security risks and liability of hosting their own payment processing.

By routing all keys within Drupal to a central key management location, it is now possible to have total control over all encryption keys, API keys, external logins and any other value needing to remain secret. This gives developers and site builders a useful dashboard to quickly see the status of every key, and control where it is stored.

Summary
By now, I have hopefully conveyed the importance of encryption and key management. Everyone from developers to site owners need to understand the importance of data security and the proper steps they can take to keep their site, and their businesses safe. More secure encryption also has an effect on the Drupal platform as a whole. Whether Drupal is being used to create the most basic brochure site or advanced enterprise web application, encryption and API key management are critical to ongoing success. Many businesses don’t care whether their web site is built with Drupal, WordPress, Joomla, or even Microsoft Word (yes this is still possible) as long as it is secure. By integrating the proper security controls, including encryption and key management, Drupal will continue to proliferate and be the tool of choice for enterprises looking for the highest level of data and site security.

What Data Needs Encrypted In Drupal?

Topics: Key Management, Drupal

Encryption Key Management & Your IT Strategy

Posted by Luke Probasco on May 24, 2016 7:25:00 AM

Excerpt from the eBook "2016 Encryption Key Management: Industry Perspectives and Trends." 


Virtualization Will Continue to Dominate IT Strategy & Infrastructure

Encryption Key Management Industry Perspectives and Trends eBookLarge and small enterprises will continue to grow their virtualization footprints at the same time that they are looking to migrate applications to the cloud. The cost reductions provided by the market leader VMware will ensure that the VMware customer base will continue to consolidate applications and servers on their virtualization technology and that they will continue to be a powerful player in the IT infrastructure space for many years.

While VMware is the dominant technology provider for virtualization, we will see Microsoft attempt to increase their footprint with Hyper-V, and OpenStack solutions will also expand. We expect that all of the virtualization solution providers will attempt to de ne a clear path to the cloud based on their technologies. VMware is already moving in this direction with their vCloud Air initiative, and Microsoft uses Hyper-V as the foundation for the Azure cloud.

Encryption key management solutions that only run in hardware, or that only run on cloud platforms, present substantial obstacles for businesses with virtualized data centers. The rich set of management and security tools are not able to work effectively with solutions that are outside the virtualization boundary. Customers are looking to reduce their hardware footprint, not increase it. And solutions that can’t be managed or secured in the usual way represent additional risk and cost. Encryption key management solutions should be able to run within the virtualization boundary as an approved security application. Key management vendors vary greatly in their ability to support the range of deployments from traditional IT data center, to virtualized plat- forms, to the cloud. Organizations will continue to struggle with key management across these environments.

Take Aways

  • Encryption key management solutions should be able to run as fully native virtual machines in a VMware or Hyper-V environment.
  • Encryption key management solutions should be compatible with security and management functions of the virtual platform.
  • To maintain maximum business flexibility, deploy a key management solution that works well in virtual, cloud, and traditional hardware platforms.
  • Look for key management solutions that carry industry security certifications such as PCI Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), etc.

Key Management Vendor Stability Loses Ground

Merger and acquisitions in the security community continue at a rapid pace. Encryption key management vendors are being absorbed into larger organizations and this trend will likely continue. The public relations around such mergers and acquisitions is always accompanied with glowing prognostications and happy talk. Unfortunately, as often happens with any merger, key management vendors may experience disruption in their organizations as a result of a merger or acquisition. A key management solution may not be strategically important to an acquirer and this can result in disinvestment in the solution negatively impacting customer support. Key management is a part of an organization’s critical infrastructure and these changes can be disruptive.

Organizations can work to minimize the potential impact of key management vendor consolidation by understanding the vendor’s organizational structure, corporate history, and financial basis. Venture backed organizations can be expected to experience an exit through a merger, acquisition, or public offering. Vendors with solutions that are not strategically important to their product mix can also experience change and disruption. Using care in key management vendor selection may be one of the most important efforts you can make. This will be a continuing challenge in the years ahead.

Take Aways

  • Understand your key management vendor’s equity foundation and the likelihood of a merger or acquisition. If the key management vendor is largely funded by venture capital it is almost certain that the company will experience a merger or acquisition event.
  • Understand your key management vendor’s management team. Have key employees been with the company for a longer period of time? This is one good indicator of organizational stability.

Vendor Customer Support is a Growing Concern

As mentioned previously, encryption key management vendors continue to be absorbed into larger organizations and this trend will likely continue. Unfortunately, as can happen with any merger, key management vendors may experience disruption in their organizations as a result of a merger or acquisition. This can directly a effect the customer support organization and your ability to get timely and reliable technical support for your encryption key management solution. Deteriorating customer support can put your organization at risk. Key management solutions are a part of your critical infrastructure and proper customer support is crucial to operational resilience.

Another side affect of reduced or under-funded customer support is the inability of your organization to expand and invest in new applications and systems. These impacts on customer support may not present short-term problems, but can impair long-term resilience and growth flexibility. Many organizations will continue to experience inadequate customer support from key management vendors.

Take Aways

  • Understand the customer support organization of your key management vendor. Does the vendor demonstrate a strong investment in customer support? Is there adequate management of the customer support team? 
  • Review the Service Level Agreement (SLA) provided by your key management vendor. Be sure you understand the expected response times provided by the vendor customer support team. 
  • How do other organizations experience customer support from your key management vendor? Be sure to talk to reference accounts who use the key management product and who have interact- ed with the vendor’s customer support team.
New Call-to-action

Topics: Encryption, Key Management, cloud

Blog-CTA-VMware-CSP
 
The Definitive Guide to AWS Encryption Key Management
 
Definitive Guide to VMware Encryption & Key Management
 

 
 

Recent Posts

Posts by Topic

see all