The US Federal Communications Commission has recently reported that “theft of digital information has become the most commonly reported fraud, surpassing physical theft.” Businesses can do a lot to protect themselves. The FCC issued a Tip Sheet for small businesses to promote employee security training, firewalls, securing of WiFis, and more. But for business operating in (or migrating to) cloud environments; data security, cloud computing security issues, and challenges take on new meanings and require new strategies.
Security in the Cloud: Unique Challenges
In the cloud, data security poses new risks and challenges. We are no longer concerned just with burglars breaking into our offices to steal computers, but rather with the data belonging to complete systems deployed to the cloud.
When using public cloud infrastructure like that of AWS, VMware, Microsoft Azure, or HP Helion, we also have little fear of “bad guys” breaking into their datacenters. These large providers take access controls and infrastructure security very seriously.
Instead, security in the cloud becomes not about protecting our hardware, but rather protecting the sensitive information regardless of its physical location. For this, burglar alarms are irrelevant and firewalls are only one part of the approach for security in the cloud.
A way to visualize the unique challenges of data security in the cloud is that where before we had brick walls and steel locks to keep us safe; we now must construct mathematical walls as barriers to our data.
An important aspect in cloud security is cloud encryption. By properly encrypting the data we store in the cloud, we ensure that even if our security perimeter is breached, our data is rendered unreadable, unusable, and unsellable.
But, as it turns out, cloud encryption in and of itself is also not enough. Companies have encrypted well, using best-in-class algorithms to protect their business data, and still been compromised. The important piece is the encryption key. When businesses store the key to decrypt their data in the cloud, alongside the encrypted data itself, they make it easy for a hacker to use the same access point used to get the data to then get the key to decrypt it. In other examples, companies have entrusted their encryption keys to their cloud provider: the cloud provider essentially owns the sensitive data in this situation. The best practice must be different.
Security in the Cloud: Unique Solutions
The cloud has posed interesting obstacles to data security. And, as it turns out, the cloud has also brought forth even more interesting solutions.
In our new software-defined existence, the solution to cloud challenges resides in software built for the cloud.
For example, a pair of new technologies known as split key encryption and homomorphic key management have reinvented the way cloud encryption keys are handled; thus solving the issue of cloud key management.
By splitting encryption keys into two (or more) parts, this software-defined approach mimics the successful security of Swiss banks, where the account owner holds one key, the banker holds one key, and both keys are required to access the contents. Split key encryption is the first of two important cloud advancements toward total security in the cloud.
The next advancement is homomorphic key management, which is also a software-defined, cloud approach. With it, the encryption keys themselves are encrypted. This way, even while the key is being used in the cloud, it is never in unencrypted form, never to be seen “bare” by hackers, and renders the data it protects totally inaccessible to anyone but the data owner.
Security in the Cloud to Protect Privacy and Achieve Compliance
It is not just businesses themselves that have been concerned with data security in the cloud. Regulatory bodies in many industries view cloud security has a major concern and have amended their regulations to match. The approaches of split key encryption and homomorphic key management help businesses protect the privacy of their customers while also enable them to achieve compliance with HIPAA, PCI, and other regulations.
Read more about spftware-defined key management on our white paper.