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

11/6/2013
04:22 PM
Connect Directly
Google+
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Prototype Encrypts Data Before Shipping It To The Cloud

'CloudCapsule' shields file contents from the OS, malware, and the cloud provider

[UPDATED with more details, 11/9/13]

Researchers at Georgia Tech have built a prototype that encrypts files before they are sent to the cloud for storage.

The so-called "CloudCapsule" system can be used with cloud storage services, such as Dropbox and Google Drive, for locking down files prior to their storage in the cloud and for accessing them without a proxy. The technology can be used for desktops, laptops, and mobile devices, but the researchers initially have built a prototype for just mobile devices -- specifically, iOS.

"We thought its greatest utility would be in the mobile space," given the explosion in BYOD, says Paul Royal, associate director of the Georgia Tech Information Security Center (GTISC), where the prototype was created. "This lets us combine the process isolation [feature] present in mobile OSes with a seamless and transparent way of encrypting data you want to place into the cloud."

It's the classic conundrum with the cloud: balancing utility with security. According to a new report published today by GTISC, corporate information stored in the cloud is typically secured solely with what the cloud storage provider offers. And encrypting data in the cloud via private-key encryption typically makes the cloud less useful, the report says.

In the desktop scenario, CloudCapsule basically uses a virtual machine instance that lets a user from the same machine go into encrypted mode and access encrypted files stored in the cloud. The operating system and malware have no "knowledge" of the data, according to GTISC, nor can the cloud provider read the files.

The mobile version, meanwhile, uses the process isolation feature in the mobile OS, GTISC's Royal says.

"CloudCapsule is an interesting approach and from the details available ... it seems specific to DHS, which may not be ideal for other users. A potential issue that enterprises might encounter is in the deployment," says Paige Leidig, senior vice president at CipherCloud, a cloud security firm.

Leidig says CloudCapsule would be difficult to scale compared with a single gateway model -- the approach CipherCloud takes -- because it's deployed on endpoints. "The other potential problem for the endpoint approach is key management -- if the user loses the keys, they would need to be revoked and replaced, which adds more complexity, especially for large enterprises with hundreds of thousands of users," Leidig said an email interview.

But searching encrypted information remains problematic. GTISC researchers also have been working on techniques for "searchable encryption" so users can more easily find their protected data and files in the cloud. "We are trying to design types of encryption that support ... performance requirements" of real-world users, GTISC's Royal says. "Consider a person who needs to encrypt data before it goes into the cloud, but would still like to do basic keyword searches over that data. That's something we've been working on at GTISC."

Striking a balance between securing the data and indexing or searching it is complicated, he says. "There are going to be fundamental tradeoffs between security and efficiency," he says. "In some cases, there's a desire not to introduce significant overhead, so, for example, in some cases, we are turning the problem on its head and asking a person who would use this in the real world what they consider acceptable performance."

[The cyberespionage gang out of China who recently hacked into media outlet networks is now using Dropbox and WordPress in its attacks rather than via traditional email phishing attacks and server compromise. See Dropbox, WordPress Used As Cloud Cover In New APT Attacks .]

Georgia Tech researchers also have built an email encryption prototype called "Very Good Privacy," a more user-friendly option than the existing Pretty Good Privacy email encryption tool. Very Good Privacy software sits atop the user interface and supports data encryption in texting/messaging apps such as email.

The tool intercepts and encrypts the text as it's typed in, before it gets to the email service. "Plain text never gets entered into an application," Royal says. But the look and feel of the process remains unchanged for the user, so it's transparent, he says.

Royal says VGP and PGP are actually complementary: unlike PGP, VGP does not use key exchange, for example.

The full Georgia Tech Emerging Cyber Threats Report for 2014 is available here (PDF) for download.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Add Your Comment" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message. Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Oldest First  |  Newest First  |  Threaded View
SOC 2s & Third-Party Assessments: How to Prevent Them from Being Used in a Data Breach Lawsuit
Beth Burgin Waller, Chair, Cybersecurity & Data Privacy Practice , Woods Rogers PLC,  12/5/2019
Navigating Security in the Cloud
Diya Jolly, Chief Product Officer, Okta,  12/4/2019
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: This comment is waiting for review by our moderators.
Current Issue
Navigating the Deluge of Security Data
In this Tech Digest, Dark Reading shares the experiences of some top security practitioners as they navigate volumes of security data. We examine some examples of how enterprises can cull this data to find the clues they need.
Flash Poll
Rethinking Enterprise Data Defense
Rethinking Enterprise Data Defense
Frustrated with recurring intrusions and breaches, cybersecurity professionals are questioning some of the industrys conventional wisdom. Heres a look at what theyre thinking about.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2019-19619
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-06
domain/section/markdown/markdown.go in Documize before 3.5.1 mishandles untrusted Markdown content. This was addressed by adding the bluemonday HTML sanitizer to defend against XSS.
CVE-2019-19616
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-06
An Insecure Direct Object Reference (IDOR) vulnerability in the Xtivia Web Time and Expense (WebTE) interface used for Microsoft Dynamics NAV before 2017 allows an attacker to download arbitrary files by specifying arbitrary values for the recId and filename parameters of the /Home/GetAttachment fun...
CVE-2019-19617
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-06
phpMyAdmin before 4.9.2 does not escape certain Git information, related to libraries/classes/Display/GitRevision.php and libraries/classes/Footer.php.
CVE-2012-1114
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-05
A Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) vulnerability exists in LDAP Account Manager (LAM) Pro 3.6 in the filter parameter to cmd.php in an export and exporter_id action. and the filteruid parameter to list.php.
CVE-2012-1115
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-05
A Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) vulnerability exists in LDAP Account Manager (LAM) Pro 3.6 in the export, add_value_form, and dn parameters to cmd.php.