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Contributing Writer

The CIA And The Encrypted Enterprise

Oct 29, 20103 mins
Cisco SystemsData and Information SecurityIBM

Pervasive encryption demand network key management services, a solid architecture, and lots of thinking

The international horse show wasn’t the only event in Washington DC this week, I participated in the Virtualization, Cloud, and Green Computing event in our nation’s capital this week. One of the guest speakers was Ira “Gus” Hunt, CTO at the CIA. If you haven’t seen Gus speak, you are missing something. He is very strong on the technical side and extremely energetic and entertaining. Gus focused on cloud computing activities at the CIA (I’ll blog about this soon) but I was intrigued by one of his slide bullets that referred to something he called the “encrypted enterprise.” From the CIA’s perspective, all data is sensitive whether it resides on an enterprise disk system, lives in a database column, crosses an Ethernet switch, or gets backed up on a USB drive. Because of this, Hunt wants to create an “encrypted enterprise” where the data is encrypted everywhere at all layers of the technology stack. The CIA is ahead here but ESG hears a similar goal from lots of other highly regulated firms. When will this happen? Unfortunately it may take a few years to weave this together as there are several hurdles to overcome including:1. An encryption architecture. Before organizations encrypt all their data, they have to understand where the data needs to be decrypted. For example, remote office data could be encrypted when it is sent to the corporate data center but it needs to be decrypted before it can be processed for large batch jobs like daily sales and inventory updates. There is a balancing act between data security and business processes here demanding a distributed intelligent encryption architecture that maps encryption/decryption with business and IT workflow. 2. Key management. Most encryption products come with their own integrated key management system. Many of these aren’t very sophisticated and an enterprise with 100s of key management systems can’t scale. What’s needed is a distributed secure key management service across the network. Think of something that looks and behaves like DNS with security built in from the start. The Key Management Interoperability Protocol (KMIP) effort may get us there in the future as it is supported by a who’s who of technology vendors including EMC/RSA, HP, IBM, and Symantec, but it is just getting started. 3. Technical experience. How should I encrypt my sensitive Oracle database? I could use Oracle tools to encrypt database columns. I could encrypt an entire file system using Windows EFS or tools from vendors like PGP. I could buy an encrypting disk array from IBM, or I could combine EMC PowerPath software with Emulex encrypting Host-based Adapters (HBAs). Which is best? It depends upon performance needs, hardware resources, and financial concerns like asset amortization. Since there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution here, the entire enterprise market is learning on the fly.A lot of the technical limitations are being worked on at this point, so the biggest impediment may be based upon people and not technology. We simply don’t have a lot of experience here so we need to proceed with research, thought, and caution. To get to Gus Hunt’s vision of the “encrypted enterprise,” we need things like reference architectures, best practices, and maturity models as soon as possible. Look for service providers like CSC, HP, IBM, and SAIC to offer “encrypted enterprise” services within the next 24 months.

Contributing Writer

Jon Oltsik is a distinguished analyst, fellow, and the founder of the ESG’s cybersecurity service. With over 35 years of technology industry experience, Jon is widely recognized as an expert in all aspects of cybersecurity and is often called upon to help customers understand a CISO's perspective and strategies. Jon focuses on areas such as cyber-risk management, security operations, and all things related to CISOs.

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