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FCW : January 2014
some enterprises might already be generating thousands of keys. NIST's report identi ed the six types of keys most com- monly used in cloud settings. They include symmetric encryp- tion/decryption keys, which are used to protect stored data or data in motion such as messages, and symmetric mes- sage authentication code keys, which are used to ensure the integrity of data at rest and in transit. The management of such keys becomes an important task because missing, corrupted or compromised keys result in data loss. Key management tools from a variety of vendors offer centralized ways to store and maintain keys throughout their life cycle, from creation to retirement. Hardware security module (HSM) appliances, meanwhile, aim to secure keys against outside attackers and malicious or careless administrators. The hurdles The question for cloud customers becomes: Which party will perform key management? Kurt Roemer, chief security strategist at Citrix Systems, said that if customers plan to rely on cloud service provid- ers for encryption and key management, they should read the ne print to determine what is covered. "Data encryption and key management need to be explic- itly architected and managed in the cloud --- often on a per-tenant basis," Roemer said. Another consideration is what becomes of a customer's data at the end of the contract. A cloud provider might maintain backup copies and periodic snapshots of data, so what happens if the vendor fails to destroy all the data? And is it all encrypted? Christiansen said he advises customers to think about an exit plan when engaging a cloud services provider. The vendor could go out of business or the customer might decide to move its data to another provider. Either way, the customer and vendor must determine how to extract the data at the end the contract. One way customers can avoid some of those concerns is to encrypt data before it goes to the cloud. "You hold the keys," Christiansen said. "If you move the data, you don't have to care about the data that's left behind with the cloud provider. If the data is encrypted with your keys, then the cloud provider or any attacker that gains access to the cloud provider's systems or backups cannot access your data." To that end, vendors are introducing products that let organizations maintain control over the cloud encryption process and key management. Afore Solutions, for example, offers CloudLink Secure VSA, which consists of a software-based virtual appliance that resides in the customer's data center and another that operates at the cloud provider's location. The appliance, called a CloudLink Gateway, generates encryption keys and transmits them via a secure virtual private network tunnel to one or more virtual appliances deployed in the cloud. The cloud appliances, called vNodes, encrypt data before it goes to the cloud provider's storage arrays. "Government agencies can have total control over the keys that are being used," said Jonathan Reeves, Afore's chairman and chief strategy of cer. Indeed, agencies can elect to take charge of encryption and mind their own keys. But they must acquire and main- tain the necessary infrastructure elements such as encryp- tion appliances, key management systems and HSM appli- ances, which can prove challenging. Chee said many of the agencies he has dealt with lack experience in implementing technologies such as HSM. For them, simply deploying an HSM can be a dif cult process. Redundancy is another area agencies must address. Chris- tiansen said customers handling their own key management should make sure the data is replicated. He suggested setting up replication between a local server and a remote server. "A key server is a critical asset, and you will want it to be always highly available," Christiansen said. ■ January 2014 FCW.COM 25 FedRAMP and data encryption The Federal Risk and Authorization Management Pro- gram, which assesses cloud providers according to a list of baseline security controls, might not address all your key requirements. Ramaswamy Chandramouli, a computer scientist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, said that because FedRAMP's assessment process is agnostic with respect to a customer's data and its prop- erties, agencies bear the responsibility for reviewing a provider's provisional authority to operate to determine whether additional security controls are necessary. Agencies should negotiate with the cloud provider and incorporate those controls into service-level agree- ments before issuing the nal authority to operate. --- John Moore