Deconstructing Distributed Security

Deconstructing Distributed Security: Centralized Management in a Distributed System

This is the second installment in a series of discussions focused on managing data security in distributed computing environments. Encryption key management is the anchor topic for all these discussions. We’ll tackle this from several angles, providing a review of technologies, strategies, line-of-business perspectives (CISO, security team, developer, architect) and best practices to manage encryption key lifecycles in highly-distributed computing environments. This discussion’s focus concerns centralized management in a distributed system and the unique challenges it presents to the world of digital security.

Does Centralized Management Benefit a Distributed System?

Distributed systems produce new security challenges that must be addressed head-on by security teams, particularly when it comes to protecting multicloud environments. These systems present multiple points of access, with which invariably comes a wide range of potential security issues. The complexity grows as distributed systems evolve and the cracks associated with decentralized management rapidly appear. Centralizing management controls is the only way to assure that systems are running securely and efficiently.

The nuances of a distributed system provide some pretty clear-cut advantages that serve to greatly reduce operational risks. Exercising better control of your encryption keys, through managing key inventories and standardizing on a methodology for updating and maintaining keys, provides crucial benefits for system access. Through this, keys are monitored for expirations, usages, or corruption, which deepens security controls of distributed systems. Automatically or manually generated reports provide an accurate view of the exact status of your encryption keys.

Cost and risk reductions in managing a distributed system provide the greatest benefits of centralized management. Securing these systems is made easier by a reduction in complexity as well as being highly focused and visible, as are support functions and overall storage aspects. Getting to this point requires you to have the right management software in place.

Product Selection for Centralized Management Made Simple

It’s important to carefully consider your product options when wrangling a distributed system. Missteps and inferior solutions lead to data breaches and corruption. While many cloud application selection steps hold true here, you must examine the ones that exclusively pertain to centrally managing your environment’s encryption security.

You must first understand which of the four types of distributed systems you are trying to manage. For example, a type two system may provide users with a virtual drive that syncs data to the cloud via locally stored files, while a type three system presents a managed, encrypted folder that sends data in the clear. Knowing which data layers you must protect is an additional area where this aids in defining product requirements.

Environmental and infrastructure compatibility will act to further define and eliminate potential product offerings from the mix. A potential management solution may require an Active Directory certificate or a PKI for example. This can cause additional costs or complexity if these are not already in place, which may curtail your ability to implement a particular solution. Technical support and training can also be affected by your infrastructure, you may be required to be at a certain level of OS or platform for functions to be fully supported by a default purchase contract.

Delving into these few items will result in the discovery of valuable information for selecting your distributed security management software. Armed with this, you can better determine the threats you face as well as required infrastructure updates and training. This makes it easier and cost-effective to use this information for the process of product elimination, making your choice of management software easier and more likely to be successful.

Know Your Software Options Before Committing 

With a wide range of distributed data security management solutions now off the table, it’s time to dive deeper into the offerings that are left in play. While products such as OpenSSH, Lockr and AWS cloudHSM all present highly technical solutions to the mix, many of these come with weaknesses that counteract their strong points. You want to select a management solution that affords you with innovative technology that is transcendent of the industry.

Some key features are critical to success, such as GDPR compliance, data sovereignty and even regional isolation solidify your security in a world where cloud-based attacks can stem from anywhere at any moment. Some solutions, including Equinix SmartKey™ provide low latency, high-performance management. Taking a deep dive into these feature sets is advantageous when developing your must-have functionalities.

Also knowing which software options can offer you exclusive functionality can further simplify this decision. Equinix SmartKey™, the first to offer Intel SGX, is one of the most effective, cloud-neutral key management, HSM as a Service strategy products on the market. This offers encryption key secrecy from anyone, including government agencies and service providers. Services and features such as this helps to keep you ahead of black hats in securing your distributed services.

Centralized Management Presents Challenges and Opportunities 

Developing a precise strategy around encryption key management services across distributed systems provides ample opportunities for hardening security. Rising to the challenge of managing and protected distributed data-at-a-distance means cutting off multiple attack vectors before they happen. Given the variety of cloud strategies and providers available for hosting applications and data, security professionals must have the right software management tools at their fingertips to achieve a properly hardened key security strategy. This must all align to ensure the highest levels of data security while simplifying software management.

Innovative security management can be addressed by utilizing next-gen technical advancements in software suites like SmartKey™. Understanding and leveraging the functionalities that HSMs, KMS and HSM-as-a-Service can provide are advantageous to your efforts and will be discussed in further detail in upcoming distributed data security blogs