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.

Risk

6/16/2009
05:32 PM
50%
50%

Data-Encryption Critics Play A Dangerous Game

Is encryption "overrated" as a data-security tool? Only if your company has a death wish.

Is encryption "overrated" as a data-security tool? Only if your company has a death wish.Cleversafe is a commercial open-source vendor that employs a "dispersed storage" architecture to protect business data. Recently, a blog post appeared on the Cleversafe.org community site with a provocative headline: "3 Reasons Why Encryption Is Overrated."

The post's author builds his case with three key points:

- Advances in CPU power inevitably turn today's "uncrackable" encryption into tomorrow's mincemeat.

- Key management -- a serious challenge for bigger companies -- can turn a promising encryption solution into an operational nightmare.

- Disclosure laws still force companies to reveal data-loss incidents -- and accept the PR consequences -- whether or not the lost data is encrypted.

As the blog post acknowledges, Cleversafe offers an alternative data-security solution that disperses data across a global storage network. The dispersed data slices are too small to give an attacker useful information, and users without the proper credentials are unable to retrieve and reconstruct the dispersed data.

It's an interesting solution, and its open-source technology base makes it especially interesting to me. For now, however, let's focus on the issue at hand: Is encryption really "overrated" as a data-security tool?

In this case, I think the term "overrated" isn't just an exaggeration. It's downright dangerous.

The idea that any tool offers perfect security is a red herring. Every security tool balances usability against effectiveness. And every security tool will, sooner or later, present opportunities to a determined, skilled attacker.

Will an encryption tool like TrueCrypt offer foolproof, totally effective encryption? Don't count on it. What it will do is buy a company time -- years, in many cases -- before even the most determined attacker can bring the resources to bear to defeat strong encryption.

Key management is a legitimate issue. Yet many encryption tools feature key-escrow features designed specifically for larger companies. If key management is a concern, seek out these products and evaluate them accordingly.

Frankly, the third reason the Cleversafe blog post mentions is a cop-out. Encryption will protect a company's customers and quite possibly reduce its legal liability in case of a data-loss incident. Dealing with PR fallout is always an unpleasant experience, but it's a cakewalk compared to the prospect of admitting that your company allowed a laptop full of unprotected customer records or credit card numbers to disappear.

Encryption is "overrated" only if you think it's perfect -- a foolish assumption from the get-go. For everyone else, it's overrated only if your company's goal is to get out of business as quickly as possible.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Oldest First  |  Newest First  |  Threaded View
Zero-Factor Authentication: Owning Our Data
Nick Selby, Chief Security Officer at Paxos Trust Company,  2/19/2020
44% of Security Threats Start in the Cloud
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  2/19/2020
Ransomware Damage Hit $11.5B in 2019
Dark Reading Staff 2/20/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
6 Emerging Cyber Threats That Enterprises Face in 2020
This Tech Digest gives an in-depth look at six emerging cyber threats that enterprises could face in 2020. Download your copy today!
Flash Poll
How Enterprises Are Developing and Maintaining Secure Applications
How Enterprises Are Developing and Maintaining Secure Applications
The concept of application security is well known, but application security testing and remediation processes remain unbalanced. Most organizations are confident in their approach to AppSec, although others seem to have no approach at all. Read this report to find out more.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-5524
PUBLISHED: 2020-02-21
Aterm series (Aterm WF1200C firmware Ver1.2.1 and earlier, Aterm WG1200CR firmware Ver1.2.1 and earlier, Aterm WG2600HS firmware Ver1.3.2 and earlier) allows an attacker on the same network segment to execute arbitrary OS commands with root privileges via UPnP function.
CVE-2020-5525
PUBLISHED: 2020-02-21
Aterm series (Aterm WF1200C firmware Ver1.2.1 and earlier, Aterm WG1200CR firmware Ver1.2.1 and earlier, Aterm WG2600HS firmware Ver1.3.2 and earlier) allows an authenticated attacker on the same network segment to execute arbitrary OS commands with root privileges via management screen.
CVE-2020-5533
PUBLISHED: 2020-02-21
Cross-site scripting vulnerability in Aterm WG2600HS firmware Ver1.3.2 and earlier allows remote attackers to inject arbitrary web script or HTML via unspecified vectors.
CVE-2020-5534
PUBLISHED: 2020-02-21
Aterm WG2600HS firmware Ver1.3.2 and earlier allows an authenticated attacker on the same network segment to execute arbitrary OS commands with root privileges via unspecified vectors.
CVE-2014-7914
PUBLISHED: 2020-02-21
btif/src/btif_dm.c in Android before 5.1 does not properly enforce the temporary nature of a Bluetooth pairing, which allows user-assisted remote attackers to bypass intended access restrictions via crafted Bluetooth packets after the tapping of a crafted NFC tag.