Bring Your Own Encryption: The Case For Standards

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-By Hongwen Zhang, CEO & Co-Founder, Wedge Networks
(Published in Business Cloud News, May 13, 2015)

Being free to choose the most suitable encryption for your business seems like a good idea. But it will only work in a context of recognized standards across encryption systems and providers’ security platforms. Since the start of the 21st century, security has emerged from scare-story status to become one of IT users’ biggest issues – as survey after survey confirms. Along the way a number of uncomfortable lessons are still being learned.

The first lesson is that security technology must always be considered in a human context. No one still believes in a technological fix that will put an end to all security problems, because time and again we hear news of new types of cyber attack that bypass sophisticated and secure technology by targeting human nature – from alarming e-mails ostensibly from official sources, to friendly social invitations to share a funny download; from a harmless-looking USB stick ‘accidentally’ dropped by the office entrance, to the fake policeman demanding a few personal details to verify that you are not criminally liable.

And that explains the article’s heading: a balance must be struck between achieving the desired level of protection against keeping all protection procedures quick and simple. Every minute spent making things secure is a minute lost to productivity – so the heading could equally have said “balancing security with efficiency”.

The second lesson still being learned is never to fully trust to instinct in security matters. It is instinctive to obey instructions that appear to come from an authoritative source, or to respond in an open, friendly manner to a friendly approach – and those are just the sort of instincts that are exploited by IT scams. Instincts can open us to attack, and they can also evoke inappropriate caution.

In the first years of major cloud uptake there was the oft-repeated advice to business that the sensible course would be to use public cloud services to simplify mundane operations, but that critical or high priority data should not be trusted to a public cloud service but kept under control in a private cloud. Instinctively this made sense: you should not allow your secrets to float about in a cloud where you have no idea where they are stored or who is in charge of them.

The irony is that the cloud – being so obviously vulnerable and inviting to attackers – is constantly being reinforced with the most sophisticated security measures: so data in the cloud is probably far better protected than any SME could afford to secure its own data internally. It is like air travel: because flying is instinctively scary, so much has been spent to make it safe that you are

less likely to die on a flight than you are driving the same journey in the “safety” of your own car. The biggest risk in air travel is in the journey to the airport, just as the biggest risk in cloud computing lies in the data’s passage to the cloud – hence the importance of a secure line to a cloud service.

So let us look at encryption in the light of those two lessons. Instinctively it makes sense to keep full control of your own encryption and keys, rather than let them get into any stranger’s hands – so how far do we trust that instinct, bearing in mind the need also to balance security against efficiency?

Please see the full article at Business Cloud News.


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