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Encryption Key to Security

By Avi Baumstein,
InformationWeek, Oct. 6, 2008, 10:00 AM

Why bring encryption into the glass house? To paraphrase bank robber Willie Sutton, because that's where the data is.

To date, most data center security efforts have been focused on protecting against Internet threats. However, IT can no longer ignore physical security: Thieves recently broke into the Chicago data center of managed Web hosting provider C I Host and stole server hardware--for the fourth time. Meanwhile, backup tapes are frequent targets for theft because they're often out of IT's direct possession. The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse Web site documents more than 40 cases of tape theft since 2005, and it's likely that far more were never reported. In our 2008 Strategic Security Survey, the theft of computers or storage systems was among the top five breaches seen as most likely to occur in the coming year.

Clearly, encrypting hard drives and tapes is vital to protect data. So why aren't organizations rushing to sign on? The complexity of managing keys is a top deterrent to ubiquitous encryption. After all, there are many ways to encrypt, but key management is where all these projects succeed or fail. And failure is most likely to occur several years out, after the hole has been dug quite deep. Some information must be kept for decades, after all, and storing the keys needed to access that data securely for 10 or 20 years is a challenge.

Fortunately, advances in managing keys as well as new options for encrypting data at each step within the backup process make it much less likely lost keys will come back to haunt you. Most of the vendors we spoke with understand the problem and are working to solve it. RSA's Key Management Suite, for example, works with encryption products from RSA partners to give IT a single management point for all encryption keys.

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