Today, data theft and regulatory compliance requirements have caused a dramatic increase in the use of encryption keys in companies. This also caused an incidence of key loss due to poor management of these assets.
It is very common, for example, for a single company to use several dozen different encryption tools. Possibly these tools are incompatible, thus resulting in thousands of encryption keys.
How to prevent the loss of keys?
In a perfect world, cryptographic key management has the responsibility for the administration, protection, storage, and backup of encryption keys.
After all, every key must be securely stored, protected, and retrievable. However, reality is different and you should know well how this story ends regarding the loss of keys.
The importance of storing and backing up encryption keys
Key management means protecting the encryption keys from loss and unauthorized access.
Many processes must be used to control and manage keys. This includes changing keys regularly, managing how keys are assigned, and who gets them.
Experience shows us that the loss of keys has a major impact on important business processes in companies. This causes loss of access to systems and data, as well as rendering a system completely useless unless it is formatted and completely reinstalled.
It is worth pointing out that nowadays it is essential for any company to have more than one person responsible for storing and backing up the encryption keys.
In this way, we are directed to several good practices in the market. For example, we have defined the roles of the responsible parties and created an efficient encryption key management policy that is accessible to everyone.
However, there is a big challenge ahead. One of the big known problems is the lack of unified tools to reduce management overhead.
A key management system purchased from one vendor cannot manage another vendor’s keys. This is due to the fact that each implements a management mechanism in its own way.
You are probably remembering some facts related to the lack of efficient storage. Including the cases of lost keys and the impacts to the company.
Lost keys expose data of people and companies
The loss or exposure of encryption keys will never be a good experience. Imagine, for example, a developer accidentally storing keys in a public repository?
Unfortunately this scenario is likely, it can easily happen for any type of encryption keys and in different companies.
Someone might accidentally send the keys in a source code or in any file or data set submission.
Whether in the cloud or in owned data centers, companies need to build a management strategy that prevents the loss of keys and/or undue exposure.
As we have seen, keys must be stored securely and with access limited to those who need them to work. For this reason, some companies use key-loss protection applications.
They serve to check network traffic for data leaks. As well as detecting the accidental or malicious disclosure of confidential or private information.
Not only poor key management can lead to compromised servers. But also if the keys used to encrypt data are lost, the data encrypted with that key will also be lost.
Therefore, there is no substitute for encryption key management.
Common situations that lead to the loss of cryptographic keys
Because it is something of relative complexity for certain company employees, you can imagine that the loss of keys does not happen so often. However, there are very common situations in our routines that lead us to key-loss scenarios:
- The key holder forgets the password to access the key;
- The employee responsible for the keys does not remember where he stored the key;
- The manager has a huge amount of keys to manage;
- The person responsible for the keys leaves the organization, and whoever stays ends up with a big management problem.
The importance of cryptographic keys is obvious to information security professionals. But the complexity of managing them can be almost as daunting as the encryption algorithms themselves.
It all comes down to how important it is for companies to control the keys
First of all, it is important to see what a digital signature is and how it works.
A digital signature is the equivalent of a written signature. Its purpose can be to verify the authenticity of a document or to verify that the sender is who he claims to be.
This shows us the importance of encryption keys in productive processes, as well as the impact generated by the loss of keys in the routines of companies of different segments or sizes.
The main cost of key loss is risk management. This is because it will mainly focus on making companies the target of sophisticated cyber attacks, leading to losses not only financial but also related to the organization’s image.
One of the most recommended practices for reducing incidents related to cyber attacks is to conduct audits. This is because it helps to identify whether the keys are being used in the right way.
This process consists of auditing public key cryptography to identify vulnerable sources and devices, from tokens to TLS certificates.
Available mitigation strategies from vendors can then be reviewed and applied according to risk-based priorities.
The solution to all problems is…
There is no shortage of guidance on how to manage digital identities and how to identify the best option for your company, it all depends on the current environment and available resources.
While using a stronger management policy may be the safest option, this can also result in significant costs. Companies must focus on continuous improvement. In addition, it can help you manage your risks at a price that is compatible with your reality.
Companies must critically evaluate how they protect their systems. They must also consider the root causes of security incidents in their environments as part of a risk assessment.
It is common, for example, to have several security incidents related to compromised accounts. This is mainly due to the lack of proper management of the encryption keys.
As systems become more secure and companies take effective measures to manage their processes. It is worth remembering that initiatives such as authentication and key management are becoming increasingly important.
It is important to ensure that your company is using the appropriate authentication and authorization processes. This requires the use of cryptographic keys based on risk management.
After all, it is already the first step in reducing the risk of incidents and ensuring the confidentiality of customer and employee data.
At the end of our article, answer the following question: What is your company’s current encryption key management strategy?
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EVAL has been developing projects in the financial, health, education and industry segments for over 18 years. Since 2004, we have offered Authentication, Electronic and Digital Signature and Data Protection solutions. Currently, we are present in the main Brazilian banks, health institutions, schools and universities, and different industries.
With value recognized by the market, EVAL’s solutions and services meet the highest regulatory standards of public and private organizations, such as SBIS, ITI, PCI DSS, and LGPD. In practice, we promote information security and compliance, increase companies’ operational efficiency, and reduce costs.
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