Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.


10:30 AM
Ron Zalkind
Ron Zalkind
Connect Directly
E-Mail vvv

7 Critical Criteria for Data Encryption In The Cloud

Encrypting the huge number of data files stored in a public cloud today is like bubble-wrapping an entire house. Better to focus on the fragile items that matter.

The unprecedented level of access points into corporate domains leaves information security professionals turning to a number of data protection methods. Encryption has been a primary instrument in the information security toolkit for decades, but requires reevaluation in the face of the digital transformation we are witnessing today.

Encryption, in its traditional form, is a resource-intensive endeavor that often creates nearly as many challenges as it solves. Forward-thinking enterprises looking to leverage modern technologies have an opportunity to redefine their data protection strategy and, in the process, evolve security from a necessary safeguard to a business enabler. To accomplish this, seven critical encryption criteria must be considered.

Criterion 1: Exercise discretion
It’s time to think of our old friend, the 80/20 rule. Ask yourself what percentage of data within your organization is truly sensitive? More likely than not, the vast majority of your company’s information could appear on a billboard in Times Square with minimal impact; the planning document for Todd’s birthday party does not need to be encrypted.

Ubiquitous encryption can interrupt application function, particularly reporting and search functionality, an issue that compounds in today’s highly integrated cloud model. A discretionary and selective approach to encryption secures sensitive data without interfering with the benefits of emerging technologies.

Criterion 2: Align with corporate security policy
There’s no need to start from scratch when you develop guidelines to determine when encryption makes sense. Consult existing security policy within the organization to assess what sensitive information may exist within your environment and use this knowledge to build a foundation for your encryption strategy. Don’t forget to consider internal and external compliance regulations relevant to your business.

Criterion 3: Automation-ready encryption
Once a consensus is reached as to which circumstances warrant encryption, it’s time to take action. Leverage security technologies to identify sensitive content within the enterprise, and use encryption as a remediation tool for especially risky incidents. By automating this process, security teams stand to rapidly mitigate the potential of inappropriate data exposure in an intelligent and content-aware manner - and make a tangible impact on organizational security posture.

Criterion 4: Factor in the human element
Now more than ever before, security initiatives must factor in the needs of end users. If a corporate security program interferes with typical user workflows or is too invasive (agents are out of the question), employees will circumvent corporate systems and leverage the endless alternatives made available to them via readily accessible SaaS applications and, if need be, the opportunity to bypass the corporate network entirely thanks to BYOD.

Criterion 5: The cloud is everywhere
The question is no longer when organizations are adopting cloud technologies, it’s how. When was the last time you went to an office supply store and bought software in a physical box? It’s okay, I can’t remember, either.

The challenges associated with encryption in the cloud are owed to three phenomena: the explosion of data in the cloud, the expectations of the modern user, and the criticality of preserving native cloud functionality. From 2014 to 2015, we have witnessed 10x growth in the number of files stored in public cloud applications. Encrypting such a high volume of data is analogous to bubble wrapping an entire house rather than focusing on the fragile items that matter.

Meanwhile, security leaders are beginning to understand individuals are leveraging cloud technologies in their business and personal lives, leading to a more efficient, collaborative, and mobile way of life. Users are accessing SaaS applications both inside and outside of traditional corporate networks. And finally, as we have already discussed, non-discretionary encryption can introduce complications in the cloud in the form of broken search and reporting functionality.

Criterion 6: Adaptive architecture
It follows, therefore, that contemporary encryption strategies must be compatible with the cloud-first mentality many organizations are adopting to enable their workforce with the best tools available. To that end, hardware-dependent encryption gateways or solutions requiring traffic rerouting and network reconfigurations have been rendered ineffective and non-preferential. (Disclosure: Cloudlock is one of many vendors in the market that offer a cloud-focused encryption solution.)

Network devices associated with the traditional on-premises encryption model introduce a single point of failure and lack the scalability, ease of deployment, and mobile / cloud compatibility that has become the new standard. Additionally, they miss the growing volume of cloud-to-cloud traffic that never traverses the corporate network, i.e., a file sync and share application integrating with a CRM.

Criterion 7: Encryption is just the beginning
While the security value of encryption is substantial, security professionals must avoid the seductive appeal of relying solely on encryption. Complement encryption strategy with additional best practices for a holistic security program.

Rather than treating users as an adversary, convert them to security ambassadors and allies. Engage in an ongoing dialogue with users to ensure their needs are understood while creating an opportunity to communicate the objectives and value of your organizational security strategy. You might even get them to remove Todd’s Social Security number from that birthday party planning document.

As CTO, Ron is responsible for CloudLock's overall technology and continuous innovation. Prior to founding CloudLock, Ron was Director of Product Management at Interwise (acquired by AT&T), and held varied Engineering Management positions in private and military sectors ... View Full Bio
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
User Rank: Ninja
6/8/2015 | 2:52:32 PM
Defense in Depth
Point 7 is critical to understand to implement cloud security with the highest rate of success. There isn't a silver bullet and even though encryption is a good start it should not end there. Cloud security needs to take as much of a defense in depth approach as it can under its medium.
Mobile Banking Malware Up 50% in First Half of 2019
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  1/17/2020
Exploits Released for As-Yet Unpatched Critical Citrix Flaw
Jai Vijayan, Contributing Writer,  1/13/2020
Microsoft to Officially End Support for Windows 7, Server 2008
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  1/13/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: This comment is waiting for review by our moderators.
Current Issue
The Year in Security: 2019
This Tech Digest provides a wrap up and overview of the year's top cybersecurity news stories. It was a year of new twists on old threats, with fears of another WannaCry-type worm and of a possible botnet army of Wi-Fi routers. But 2019 also underscored the risk of firmware and trusted security tools harboring dangerous holes that cybercriminals and nation-state hackers could readily abuse. Read more.
Flash Poll
[Just Released] How Enterprises are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
[Just Released] How Enterprises are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
Organizations have invested in a sweeping array of security technologies to address challenges associated with the growing number of cybersecurity attacks. However, the complexity involved in managing these technologies is emerging as a major problem. Read this report to find out what your peers biggest security challenges are and the technologies they are using to address them.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-18
Westermo MRD-315 1.7.3 and 1.7.4 devices have an information disclosure vulnerability that allows an authenticated remote attacker to retrieve the source code of different functions of the web application via requests that lack certain mandatory parameters. This affects ifaces-diag.asp, system.asp, ...
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-18
A memory usage vulnerability exists in Trend Micro Password Manager 3.8 that could allow an attacker with access and permissions to the victim's memory processes to extract sensitive information.
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-18
A RootCA vulnerability found in Trend Micro Password Manager for Windows and macOS exists where the localhost.key of RootCA.crt might be improperly accessed by an unauthorized party and could be used to create malicious self-signed SSL certificates, allowing an attacker to misdirect a user to phishi...
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-18
An arbitrary code execution vulnerability exists in the Trend Micro Security 2019 (v15) consumer family of products which could allow an attacker to gain elevated privileges and tamper with protected services by disabling or otherwise preventing them to start. An attacker must already have administr...
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-18
A Persistent Arbitrary Code Execution vulnerability exists in the Trend Micro Security 2020 (v160 and 2019 (v15) consumer familiy of products which could potentially allow an attacker the ability to create a malicious program to escalate privileges and attain persistence on a vulnerable system.