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Townsend Security Data Privacy Blog

Understanding the Challenges of Data Protection in AWS

Posted by Michelle Larson on Mar 13, 2015 10:40:00 AM

An excerpt from the latest white paper “How to Meet Best Practices for Protecting Information in AWS” by Stephen Wynkoop, SQL Server MVP, Founder & Editor of SSWUG.org

How to Meet Best Practices for Protecting Information in AWS by Stephen Wynkoop Working in the cloud presents several challenges unique to that environment, including significant growth and change in the area of data protection and encryption. There is much confusion about what is - and is not - encrypted and protected.  This encryption of information, and the management of the keys and access controls is a core objective of this paper. If you can render information useless if accessed illegitimately, you have successfully addressed a whole host of regulations, compliance and best practices.

The very definition of protection by cloud providers is an important part of understanding the requirements and challenges of your configurations and information protection. AWS approaches data protection in several ways that impact your systems. The first is the configuration and design of your infrastructure. This consideration includes establishing Virtual Private Clouds (VPC) and providing for encryption of some information stores. The challenge exists in understanding the protection of these information stores and determining what you need to do to bring these protections in line with your requirements and compliance areas.

As you consider your systems, data protection will come down to several important areas:

  • Physical access controls – This refers to the doors, secure access controls and other protections at the physical server and server room level.
  • Logical access controls for your systems – These are the controls you put in place to prevent unwanted access to information.
  • Data access – Data access controls are typically enforced at the information stores level.
  • Protection of data in case of a breach – This is addressed by making the information in your systems unusable if accessed in a way that is unwanted.

Stephen’s white paper also covers the impact on data protection in public vs. private clouds, security fundamentals in AWS, and the best practices for deploying an encryption key management solution including:

  • Segregation of Duties
  • Dual Control and Split Knowledge
  • Key Creation (and understanding strong keys)
  • Key Rotation
  • Protection of Keys
  • Access Controls and Audits (Logging)

In his white paper, Stephen also discusses cloud-provider-based key management services and some of the important features, options, questions, and concerns that should be considered before selecting a service or a key management solution. Some important aspects to understand are:

  • Control, Ownership, and Access - By managing your own encryption services and providing for industry-compliant key management and data protection practices, you help ensure that your data remains managed by your own secure keys.
  • Multi-Tenancy and Key Management - In a worst case scenario it’s possible that keys could be compromised.
  • Access to Keys - Many systems and architectures are based on hybrid solutions. Cases where there are systems on-premises combined with systems in the cloud are areas that will be problematic with the AWS services. Systems not on the AWS hosted services will not have access to the key management services on AWS.

There are many different considerations when thinking about the choices in your key management solution. Be sure to fully understand logs, key management, backups and other elements that provide the utility you require. Finally, be sure you’re checking for proper compliance and certification of the solutions you are considering. It is important that any solution you choose has been through a FIPS 140-2 validation, and that you have a full understanding of any PCI, HIPAA or other regulatory body requirements.

Please download the full document to learn more about protecting information in Amazon Web Services and how Townsend Security’s Alliance Key Manager for AWS provides a FIPS 140-2 compliant encryption key manager to AWS users who need to meet data privacy compliance regulations and security best practices.

How to Meet Best Practices for Protecting Information in AWS by Stephen Wynkoop

Topics: Best Practices, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Encryption Key Management, White Paper, SSWUG, Cloud Security

Get to Know Microsoft SQL Server Data Security Options

Posted by Michelle Larson on Nov 7, 2014 8:22:00 AM

From the PASS Summit to the Worldwide User Group (SSWUG)

From Developers to Database Administrators, we have met another amazing group of people at the PASS Summit 2014. Over 5,000 members of the Professional Association for SQL Server converged on Seattle, WA and we got to talk about security with people from all over North America and from as far away as Norway, Spain, Australia, Colombia, Germany, and even Iceland.

Shayna at the PASS Summit 2014 booth

We spent most of our time talking about the importance of encrypting sensitive data, and about using an encryption key management solution to protect encryption keys away from the database. There is a huge need to meet compliance regulations, and with all the options now available (Hardware appliance, Cloud HSM, VMware virtual environment, and cloud instances in AWS or Azure) there is a solution for each scenario we encountered.

Encryption & Key Management in Microsoft Azure If you are working with SQL Server, we hope you are familiar with the SQL Server Worldwide User Group (SSWUG).  If you don’t know about them, please allow me a moment to introduce you to Stephen Wynkoop who is the founder and editor for SSWUG.org. This website is a wealth of information about everything you would want to know about SQL Server (and they are even branching out to other database systems like Oracle and IBM DB2). The emphasis at SSWUG has been on SQL Server and you will find a large number of articles, blogs, videos and other content on wide variety of topics related to it. Stephen features weekly video programs about the database and IT world, webcasts, articles, online virtual community events and virtual conferences several times a year. He is a Microsoft SQL Server MVP and the author of more than 10 books, translated into at least 7 languages. Stephen has been working with SQL Server since the very first version, with a prior experience in database platforms that included dBase and Btrieve.

SSWUG has dedicated a section of their web site to the SSWUGtv Security Edition Townsend Security Series where they present videos of Stephen and our own industry expert, Patrick Townsend, discussing security topics ranging from securing data with encryption and key management on SQL Server (not just with EKM) to protecting data in the cloud. Additionally, they post a new security segment just about every week on their homepage, so there is always something fresh. A few of the sessions include topics such as What top industries do Hackers focus on and why? and Cross-platform security: How do you have a hybrid environment and keep it secure?  

Check out this one on: PCI Compliance and Security in the Cloud - (11 minutes) 

Stephen and Patrick have a great time recording these videos, and if you haven’t seen any yet, I urge you to check them out. In addition to all the great content on the SSWUG website, SSWUG also holds virtual conferences and Summer Camps that are great online resources for developers.

You are also invited to download this latest white paper, authored by Stephen Wynkoop, on understanding options and responsibilities for managing encryption in the Microsoft Azure Cloud.

Encryption & Key Management in Microsoft Azure


Topics: Extensible Key Management (EKM), Encryption Key Management, White Paper, SQL Server, Cell Level Encryption, SSWUG


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