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
Threaded  |  Newest First  |  Oldest First
7 Tips for Infosec Pros Considering A Lateral Career Move
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  1/21/2020
For Mismanaged SOCs, The Price Is Not Right
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  1/22/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment:   It's a PEN test of our cloud security.
Current Issue
IT 2020: A Look Ahead
Are you ready for the critical changes that will occur in 2020? We've compiled editor insights from the best of our network (Dark Reading, Data Center Knowledge, InformationWeek, ITPro Today and Network Computing) to deliver to you a look at the trends, technologies, and threats that are emerging in the coming year. Download it today!
Flash Poll
How Enterprises are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
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
CVE-2020-7981
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-25
sql.rb in Geocoder before 1.6.1 allows Boolean-based SQL injection when within_bounding_box is used in conjunction with untrusted sw_lat, sw_lng, ne_lat, or ne_lng data.
CVE-2019-0141
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-25
** REJECT ** DO NOT USE THIS CANDIDATE NUMBER. ConsultIDs: none. Reason: This candidate was withdrawn by its CNA. Further investigation showed that it was not a security issue. Notes: none.
CVE-2020-7596
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-25
Codecov npm module before 3.6.2 allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary commands via the "gcov-args" argument.
CVE-2020-7980
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-25
Intellian Aptus Web 1.24 allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary OS commands via the Q field within JSON data to the cgi-bin/libagent.cgi URI. NOTE: a valid sid cookie for a login to the intellian default account might be needed.
CVE-2012-6613
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-25
D-Link DSR-250N devices with firmware 1.05B73_WW allow Persistent Root Access because of the admin password for the admin account.