The Cloud is now commonly used in all industries. Doctor’s offices, law firms and all types of businesses in and around Chicago are increasing their use of cloud storage solutions. They know that their data is safe because it’s encrypted. But, is it really safe, and who holds the keys?
What Is Encryption?
Encryption is the cornerstone of IT security. It uses an algorithm to transform information into an unreadable format by unauthorized users. The encrypted data can only be decrypted and made readable with a key.
It’s one of the most effective ways to secure data. It scrambles the content of any system, database, or file in such a way that it’s impossible to decipher without the decryption key.
The Benefits Of Cloud Encryption
Cloud encryption is essential for industries that need to meet regulatory compliance requirements like HIPAA for electronic medical files, PCI DSS for e-commerce and retail businesses, and SOX for financial reporting.
Who Holds The Encryption Keys To Your Data When It’s Stored In The Cloud?
Cloud storage providers encrypt data before it’s transferred to the Cloud for storage. Some Cloud Storage Providers (CSP) encrypt data upon receipt and pass the encryption keys to the customer so they can decrypt it when needed.
By applying encryption and practicing secure encryption key management, CSPs ensure that only authorized users have access to sensitive data.
But Not All Cloud Providers Are The Same
Some cloud services keep the key themselves so their systems can view and process user data, and index it for future searches.
These services also use the encryption key when a user logs in with a password, and unlock the data so the user can use it. For the CSP, this is much more convenient than giving the encryption keys to the user.
Encryption drives up costs for CSPs. A CSP may limit their cloud encryption services to save money and the additional bandwidth it requires.
Isn’t This Less Secure?
Yes – just like with a key to your house, if someone else has it, even if you trust them, it could get lost or be stolen by a criminal. Plus, if the cloud service’s security is flawed, your data could be vulnerable.
What’s The Answer?
As more businesses demand greater security to improve compliance they are encrypting their own data on-premises before it’s transferred to the Cloud. This can not only save costs but increase security while keeping the entire encryption process and all the keys within their environment.
Should You Encrypt Your Data Before Sending It To The Cloud?
To maximize cloud storage security, before uploading data to the Cloud, first encrypt it using your own encryption software. Then you can upload the encrypted files to the Cloud.
This ensures that it will be secure in the Cloud even if your account or the cloud storage provider’s system is compromised.
When you want to gain access to the file, log into the cloud service, download the file and decrypt it with the key.
What About Using Real-Time Services In The Cloud?
Encrypting your data before sending it to the Cloud would prevent you from using these services. Now what should you do?
The best way to protect against this is to use authenticated encryption. This method stores not only an encrypted file but additional metadata. Encryption authentication prevents attackers from getting your encryption key by using digital signatures – special codes unique to users. An authority confirms that the signature and key are authentic.
Basically, you have two choices:
- Use a cloud storage service with trustworthy upload and download software that’s been validated by independent security researchers.
- Use trusted open-source encryption software to encrypt your data before uploading it to the Cloud. These are often available for free or at a very low-cost.
Always Follow These Best Practices For Key Encryption
Secure encryption key management is essential. And this means your keys or those provided by your CSP. Follow these best practices for key encryption:
- Encryption keys should always be stored separately from the encrypted data for added security.
- Encryption key backups also should be kept offsite and audited regularly.
- Periodically refresh encryption keys, especially when they are set to expire automatically.
- Implement multi-factor authentication for both a master and recovery key.
Encryption Is Essential For Data In The Cloud
There are definitely challenges when it comes to encrypting data for the Cloud. But, industry and government regulations and your own data security requirements make this a necessity.
IT security experts agree that encryption is essential for information security.
We know that all of this can be confusing. We can ease your concerns. Contact the Cloud experts at Outsource IT Solutions Group, and we’ll tell you the best way to keep your business data safe in the Cloud.
In the meantime, stay up-to-date on business technology by visiting our website Articles regularly.