OVERCOME THE FEAR OF CHANGING ENCRYPTION KEYS

Most of the successful cyberattacks we read about in the news occur due to encryption key compromise, so regularly changing the keys used in the encryption process is a nonnegotiable part of keeping data secure. But security managers are often hesitant to make those critical changes because “they don’t know what they don’t know.” They don’t really have full visibility of all the keys in their system nor all of the interrelationships between those keys, so they worry that changing one key may break something in their business process.

Let’s take a deeper look at why changing encryption keys is critical, why it causes unease or fear among security professionals, and consider some solutions that can (completely!) eliminate that fear.

WHY IS CHANGING ENCRYPTION KEYS NONNEGOTIABLE?

It bears repeating: compromised encryption keys are by far the most common entry points for successful hacks. And the main reason for that is long-lived keys. The more time a key is in existence, the more time it has to get lost, to be forgotten, or to be compromised through various hacking methods. 

Time is the hackers’ greatest ally, and the best defense is to deny it to them. Each time you change an encryption key, you reset the hackers’ clock to zero. And when you do that regularly, you effectively deny them any real opportunity to compromise that key, making it virtually invulnerable to compromise. 

And by extension, if you change all your keys regularly, you can make your entire data system virtually invulnerable to attack. 

WHY DO SECURITY MANAGERS FEAR CHANGING ENCRYPTION?

Even though regular changes to encryption keys could make their system nearly hack-proof, many security managers hesitate to do so because they are afraid of breaking their business’ system or process. 

Data systems and app usage are complex and change over time. As encryption keys proliferate, they tend to be lost or forgotten, and as their interrelationships proliferate, those interrelationships tend to become opaque – that is, security managers lose visibility what is connected to what and therefore are afraid of what connections they might break if they change their encryption keys.

Some security managers might object to applying the word “fearful” to this situation, but whatever you want to call it – unease, nervousness, prepared for problems, whatever – the fact is that lack of confidence in their key visibility makes them hesitant to change encryption, despite its critical importance.

A MULTI-CLOUD ENVIRONMENT EXACERBATES THE PROBLEM

The expanding use of multiple clouds and multiple apps within those clouds has increased the problem exponentially. Every cloud provider has different methods for managing keys and encryption, making it extremely difficult if not impossible to maintain visibility of keys and their interrelationships within a company’s complex multi-cloud ecosystem. Governance policies are extremely difficult to apply consistently across various cloud providers as well, increasing the risk exposure of companies using them. 

WE CAN OVERCOME THIS FEAR OF CHANGE

When we examine the problem, we can identify four essential elements that are required to overcome the fear of key encryption changes and establish a system that is virtually invulnerable to key compromise:

  • HIGH CONFIDENCE DISCOVERY. Efforts to track or discover all the keys and their interrelationships in an ecosystem typically rely on either tedious and expensive human analysis or on patchwork software solutions that can only address certain parts of the ecosystem. Ultimately, neither method can provide a truly high-fidelity, high-confidence inventory of keys and the links between them. What is needed is a method that can look across different providers in a hybrid or multi-cloud ecosystem and confidently identify every single key, known or unknown, in a hybrid or multi-cloud ecosystem and provide visibility of all of the relationships between them.
  • FAST OR REAL-TIME DISCOVERY. The longer an encryption key inventory takes, the less reliable and less useful it will be. New keys are likely to have been created during a lengthy process, plus the highest-security data requires encryption updates measured in days or even hours. A fast, preferably near-real-time, process is required to deliver the most actionable inventory possible.
  • A CLOUD-AGNOSTIC PROCESS. To eliminate fear in a multi-cloud environment, the discovery process and key rotation process must be cloud-agnostic. From a single pane of glass, a security manager should be able to see all keys across all clouds and be able to change encryption without having to separately access individual clouds. 
  • OUTCOME PRETESTING. Even with the highest-confidence inventory, security managers may still worry that they won’t recognize potential pitfalls. One reliable solution is to apply machine learning to pretest and modify encryption change outcomes in a virtual environment before applying those changes to the real-world ecosystem. Through iterative outcome testing, encryption changes can be made with full confidence that they will not break something.

Security managers are responsible for data systems that may contain hundreds or even thousands of encryption keys, and in hybrid or multi-cloud environments maintaining visibility and control of those keys is virtually impossible. Faced with this fact, many security managers experience real fear when it comes to changing those keys to prevent key compromise. There are, however, several elements that can be combined to produce the highest-fidelity key inventories and guarantee safe outcomes, enabling security managers to be fearless in the face of encryption changes and thereby effectively eliminate their risk of key compromise.

Ntrinsic’s groundbreaking key management solution is the first of its kind to guarantee the highest-confidence inventories and outcomes in hybrid and multi-cloud environments. Our patent-pending process 

  • provides the highest fidelity inventory in MINUTES
  • maintains that inventory going forward in real time
  • gives you cloud-agnostic, single-pane-of-glass control of all your keys
  • uses machine learning to test outcomes prior to implementation
  • enables automation of your entire key management and governance process

Contact us for a demo.

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