The number of data organizations has to harness and manage in today’s environment is staggering. This volume of data is extremely valuable for organizations. It is also often confidential. Protecting data from cybercriminals should be a primary goal for organizations that deal with data. Data encryption key management plays an important role in this process.
Data encryption allows data to be made unreadable if it is in the wrong hands. The gateway to data access is provided by encryption keys.
There are two types of encryption keys: symmetric and unsymmetric. The symmetric key is used to decrypt and encrypt data at rest. Asymmetric keys are used for Data-in-motion. They rely on both a private key as well as a related but distinct private key.
Organizations must make managing these encryption keys a priority. The encryption will be useless if the encryption key and encrypted data are stolen. Every organization should take the initiative and implement some management practices to ensure that encryption keys are properly managed.
Here are ten encryption key management best practice examples.
1. Size and the Encryption Key Algorithm
It is crucial that encryption keys are chosen with the right algorithm and key size. There are many factors that come into play when it comes to encryption keys, including the usage factor, longevity, performance, and, most importantly, security. The sensitivity of data should determine the key length, whether it is 128/256 bits key sizes for AES/RSA or 2048/4096 bits key sizes for RSA. Performance issues can also be caused by very long keys.
Because it allows for changes in algorithms and keys over time, agility is another important attribute. Algorithms tend to become weaker over time. Therefore, it is essential to be able to change encryption keys periodically. It is also possible to support multiple algorithms. This may be necessary in cases of mergers and acquisitions where other organizations use different encryption standards. It is recommended to use asymmetric keys in data-in-motion as well as symmetric keys in data-at-rest.
2. Centralization of Key Management System
Many organizations use hundreds, if not thousands, of encryption keys. These keys can be difficult to store securely, especially if you need them immediately. This is why a central key management system is necessary.
An in-house key management team is the best way to ensure that your organization runs smoothly. Sometimes, however, this is not possible. Third-party services might be used for a more complex approach. These keys are often kept separate from encrypted data. This is a benefit in the event of data breaches since the encryption keys are unlikely to be compromised.
The centralized process is also beneficial in terms of processing, as the encryption-decryption process happens locally, but the storage, rotation, generation, etc. It takes place away from the actual data location.
3. Secure Storage
It is important to have a hardware security module (HSM) for encryption keys storage, as they are often used by cybercriminals and attackers. HSM provides strong physical and logical protection for organizations.
A plan must be in place for physical security.
- Physical access control should be restricted to critical systems only.
- Fire safety precautions must be maintained
- In the event of natural disasters, ensuring structural integrity.
- Protection against utilities (e.g. heating and air-conditioning) that may malfunction.
Manual key management can be time-consuming and could lead to errors. This is especially true when you consider the scale factor of large organizations. Automation is a smart solution. Automation can be used to create, rotate, and renew keys after a set time. This is a good idea.
5. Audit and Access Logs
Only authorized users can access encryption keys. This can be done in the central process for key management so that only authorized users have access to encryption keys. It is important to have multiple users with access to the key. This will make it difficult for the user to lose their credentials, or if they are corrupted.
Audit logs are an important part of encryption key management. Logs should detail the history of each key’s creation, deletion, and usage. Logs must be kept of all operations related to keys, including their activity, who accessed them, and when. This good practice serves two purposes. It records the key’s activity, what is accessed, and when it accessed it. It is also beneficial to have regular reporting and analysis.
6. Backup Capabilities
An encryption key is basically a lost key that renders the data it protects unrecoverable. This is why it is important to have a reliable key backup system. This allows you to have keys available at all times.
A second point to be aware of is that backup keys must also be encrypted using appropriate encryption standards in order to protect them.
7. Management of the Encryption Key Lifecycle
Each encryption key has an expiration date. Follow these steps to manage the key’s working life span.
Generation of key
The generated key should be very random. It is highly recommended to use a trusted NIST random number generator.
Rotation of the Key
Organizations face a problem when encryption keys are lost or changed. It is mandatory to decrypt all data and then re-encrypt it.
It is possible to use a key profile for each encrypted file or data. A key profile can be used to identify encryption resources that will allow the database to be decrypted. The key profile manages the encryption process with the new key after keys expire. It identifies the key for existing data.
Retirement of key
When a key is not being used, it should be permanently deleted. This protects the system and reduces the use of unused keys.
8. Integration by third parties
External devices will be used by organizations. They will be distributed across the network in order to fulfill their functions. These devices are not able to interact with databases as often. To enable their functionality, encryption methods should be compatible with third-party apps they interact with.
SQL injection and Cross-site scripting are the biggest dangers associated with third-party API integration. API security is a serious problem. API Management Platforms are a great solution in this situation. These platforms offer monitoring, analytics, and alerting as well as life-cycle management features (APIs), to help ensure your company’s safety and security. Google Apigee and IBM API Connect are some of the most popular API management tools.
9. The Principle of Less Privilege
According to the principle of least privilege, organizations cannot grant administrative rights on the basis only of user roles. This prevents the assigning of administrative rights to applications and reduces exposure to external and internal threats. You can minimize the potential for damage by restricting access and using a role-based access control system.
This principle of least privilege applies to all software applications, devices, systems, and other non-human instruments. A centralized control system and management system are essential to implement the principle. A centralized privilege management system will help to reduce “privilege creep” while ensuring that the least amount of access is possible to both human and non-human entities.
10. Termination of Keys
Any organization must be able to revoke or terminate keys. This applies mainly when data is compromised. Unauthorized users are not allowed to have keys that allow them access to sensitive data.
A centrally managed encryption Key Management System can help organizations improve their performance, comply with regulations, and reduce risk. There are many options for achieving the right fit for your organization. However, you should choose one that suits your current and future needs. We hope you find this article helpful and will continue to learn about the best practices.