Top 4 Challenges When Managing Encryption

April 05, 2019 / by Ariel Mahlmann

Ariel Mahlmann is a sales and marketing intern with Fornetix. A recent University of Maryland graduate with a bachelor’s in economics, Ariel focuses on cyber security market research and social media marketing for Fornetix.

Implementing an encryption strategy comes with hefty baggage, but don't worry; we've got you covered. In this post, we'll cover the top four challenges of managing encryption and solutions to overcome them. 

Encryption key management is increasingly more important the more connected we become. With millions of devices and millions of users, there becomes an increasing need for effective cybersecurity tools that safeguard sensitive assets for individuals and organizations.

Encryption key management, or EKM, is a system devoted to protecting, storing, backing up, and organizing encryption keys. It’s one of the most effective ways to protect sensitive data. Instead of having a master key that unlocks all of your data, EKM allows administrators to use one key per piece of data with the capability to rotate and reset keys as often as the user wishes. However, like any other innovative approach, there are challenges when implementing a key management system. These four main roadblocks have traditionally made it difficult for organizations to adopt technology and practices that can help keep data secure across multiple enterprise infrastructures:

1. Managing encryption keys requires more overhead 
2. Difficulty in accessing the encrypted data
3. Key management systems can hinder performance
4. Difficulty integrating with cloud-based systems

Managing encryption keys requires additional overhead - Managing encryption keys is arguably the most challenging part of implementing an encryption strategy. The old approach to key management is having what we'd call “key custodians”, whose sole responsibility is to manually keep track of the keys and update them. However, with some companies having millions of keys to manage, this becomes inefficient and creates vulnerabilities such as human error in updating system certificates or losing key material. A proper solution would be to install a system that allows you to regain lost productivity and put an end to human error with highly-automated processes. Enter: Fornetix Key Orchestration. Changing the lock no longer requires days or weeks to process because Key Orchestration’s capabilities allow you to “set it and forget it.” With Key Orchestration, you are able to put in a place a re-keying schedule that matches your company's desired policy, saving your organization thousands of dollars by turning a manual process into a simple click of a button.


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KMS make it hard to access the protected data - Rather than investing in technology that comes with its own proprietary components and adoption barriers, it's smarter to utilize a key management system that can integrate with the existing technology already deployed in your network. Think of it like being the one Android in an iPhone group chat that has the capability to read, interpret, and operate with any operating system without disrupting processes and workflows. Built on the concept of interoperability, Key Orchestration allows you to maximize security governance and business productivity without any disruption.

KMS hinder performance - This is a common misconception rather than a barrier. Encryption is an intense mechanism, and the old school of thought was that, when applied at a more granular level, encryption can significantly slow the system down. The reality is that modern encryption hardware like AES-NI is now integrated into most processors, vastly improving the speed of applications performing encryption and decryption to the point where it is seamless to an end-user. With the average organization having millions of pieces of encrypted data that they’re managing in inconsistent ways and in various places, it’s easy to expect operating systems to take a hit. Key Orchestration recognizes the fact that we’re living in a IoT connected world with millions of devices, thousands of users, and an expansive number of encryption keys required to secure them all. We've generated the capability to manage hundreds of millions of encryption keys on a single appliance without impacting performance.

Difficulty integrating with cloud-based systems - Integrating a KMS with cloud products introduces an entire new set of challenges as there are difficulties within the IaaS, Paas, and SaaS models of cloud computing. To keep it simple, the root of the complexities lies in the different infrastructures that the KMS resides in and the Cloud providers. Without a key manager to protect the keys, the cloud has the ability to snoop in your data that's stored in their platform – almost like an apartment superintendent using a master key to peek into Unit 134D. Some cloud infrastructures, such as AWS, have implemented a bring-your-own-key (BYOK) tool that allows you to encrypt your data in the cloud without the cloud provider gaining access to it. This gives you the capability to change the lock to your apartment so not even the master key holder can get in. Leveraging the BYOK in AWS means you can import an AES-256 key to encrypt and decrypt your data. All of the imported encryption keys are then backed by a master key provided by a third-party administrator, such as Fornetix. Fornetix BYOK integrates directly with AWS allowing for easy creation, destruction, and reporting of encryption keys being used by AWS. Additionally, Key Orchestration has the ability to revoke encryption keys so AWS accounts are unable to access data using these keys should a situation where this is needed arises. 

To summarize, encryption key management is an incredibly effective tool to protect your data – when done right. To avoid facing these challenges when implanting a KMS, work with an organization that has the scalability, interoperability, extensibility, and security to effectively manage your encryption keys. Fornetix® Key OrchestrationTM is the only enterprise key manager with the capacity and horsepower to manage hundreds of millions of encryption keys, the number required by cutting-edge IoT networks and applications. This unmatched scalability empowers organizations to build a data security strategy with encryption as the bedrock foundation — no compromises needed. Powerful tools for automating the key lifecycle, enforcing cryptographic policies, and rapidly integrating with the most popular IT services and technologies sets a new standard and opens new opportunities for broad encryption deployment. For more information or to request a demo, click here.

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