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.

Perimeter

5/19/2011
05:30 PM
50%
50%

Move To Cloud Means Closer Look At Encryption, Experts Say

Recent compromises in cloud environments spur new cryptography strategies

Following massive breaches recently at Sony's PlayStation Network and email marketing firm Epsilon, cloud services users need to look closer look at data protection and encryption, security experts warn.

Information stored on Internet accessible servers, especially customer data or critical corporate data, needs to be properly protected by encryption -- not just to satisfy industry and government regulations, but to protect the business, says John Considine, founder and CTO of CloudSwitch, which provides an encrypted software infrastructure to lock down data in the cloud.

Attackers stole information on about 100 million accounts from Sony, and obtained millions of email addresses -- and possibly other information -- from marketer Epsilon.

"When it is in your data center under your control, you have your access controls, and you know who can touch the data," Considine says. "When you move to cloud services, you are depending on someone else to do that."

In the recent breaches, Sony claimed to have encrypted all credit card information, but other identifying information was not necessarily encrypted, according to press reports. Epsilon failed to adequately protect its data, as well.

You can't always count on a software-as-a-service provider to extensively encrypt your data, says Russ Dietz, CTO for SafeNet, a maker of secure network and cloud technologies.

"We still have a long way to go," Dietz says. "Software-as-a-service providers could deploy [encryption technologies], but it takes time to integrate them into their systems. We are still in the early days."

Instead, companies need to be responsible for their own data security, which means not only encrypting data stored on virtual systems, but also using encryption to properly authenticate employees who can access the data, experts say.

Authentication is as important an application of encryption as securing data, Dietz says. Even in cases where a rootkit allows attackers to access a network from the inside, multifactor authentication based on public-key infrastructures (PKI) can minimize access to important data.

"Almost all Trojan and [advanced persistent threat]-based attacks are based on getting identity material, but if strong authentication and PKI were used, then there is no way the attacker could get anything," Dietz says.

With data accumulating quickly, encrypting every bit of information is a daunting task. Most companies should identify their most valuable data and start their encryption project there, Considine says. Critical corporate data or regulated personally identifiable information should be at the top of the list.

"The best practices for companies dealing with information has to do with segregating who has what kind of access, deploying encryption in key areas, and then severely limiting who has access to the encryption components and data in its unencrypted form," Considine says.

The next step is making sure that data stored in the cloud is segregated from other companies' virtual machines that might share the same cloud infrastructure. While many infrastructure providers claim that machine instances are isolated, companies can add certainty by using strong encryption, Considine explains. Without the added security, any attacker who has access to other virtual machines in the network could attempt to access sensitive data on other systems.

"These kinds of breaches have attackers moving from system to system -- the attackers are trying to find any vulnerabilities," Considine says. "Without encryption, they have the ability of gleaning more, capturing more information from adjacent systems."

CloudSwitch runs its software above the virtual machine's hypervisor within a cloud, such as Amazon's Elastic Computing Cloud, but below the operating system installed by the customer. The software layer encrypts communications and all data stored on the system, preventing access by unauthorized parties, Considine says.

The final step to deploying encryption in cloud services environments is to minimize access to the data and use strong multifactor authorization, SafeNet's Dietz says. Attackers focused on obtaining corporate secrets from select targets -- so-called APT scenarios -- could be blocked by good encryption and multifactor authentication, he says.

"When it comes to anything that is going after a user's identity, encryption technologies and strong authentication eliminate all of those inbound attacks," Dietz says.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Comment" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
News
Inside the Ransomware Campaigns Targeting Exchange Servers
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  4/2/2021
Commentary
Beyond MITRE ATT&CK: The Case for a New Cyber Kill Chain
Rik Turner, Principal Analyst, Infrastructure Solutions, Omdia,  3/30/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
2021 Top Enterprise IT Trends
We've identified the key trends that are poised to impact the IT landscape in 2021. Find out why they're important and how they will affect you today!
Flash Poll
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
Recent breaches of third-party apps are driving many organizations to think harder about the security of their off-the-shelf software as they continue to move left in secure software development practices.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2021-21392
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-12
Synapse is a Matrix reference homeserver written in python (pypi package matrix-synapse). Matrix is an ecosystem for open federated Instant Messaging and VoIP. In Synapse before version 1.28.0 requests to user provided domains were not restricted to external IP addresses when transitional IPv6 addre...
CVE-2021-21393
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-12
Synapse is a Matrix reference homeserver written in python (pypi package matrix-synapse). Matrix is an ecosystem for open federated Instant Messaging and VoIP. In Synapse before version 1.28.0 Synapse is missing input validation of some parameters on the endpoints used to confirm third-party identif...
CVE-2021-29429
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-12
In Gradle before version 7.0, files created with open permissions in the system temporary directory can allow an attacker to access information downloaded by Gradle. Some builds could be vulnerable to a local information disclosure. Remote files accessed through TextResourceFactory are downloaded in...
CVE-2021-21394
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-12
Synapse is a Matrix reference homeserver written in python (pypi package matrix-synapse). Matrix is an ecosystem for open federated Instant Messaging and VoIP. In Synapse before version 1.28.0 Synapse is missing input validation of some parameters on the endpoints used to confirm third-party identif...
CVE-2021-22497
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-12
Advanced Authentication versions prior to 6.3 SP4 have a potential broken authentication due to improper session management issue.