Encryption Consulting has assisted various organizations in implementing and deploying a new HSM environment as well as maintaining their existing environment for various use cases. Please find the Case Study table for the same below:

Challenge Solution Benefits
The lack of belief in the usage of electronic documents outside of the organization’s boundaries. Using HSMs to sign, timestamp, and encrypt the contents will preserve the documents’ legitimacy and privacy. Swift and simple implementation increases security without requiring any development work.
Keeping the private key safely stored within a large organization. Deploying an HSM provides a secure environment for the primary keys’ storage as well as their safe use. Ensures the safety of private key storage while ensuring flexibility and cost-effectiveness with fast implementation.
To provide an effective cloud solution for the financial services industry. By Deploying HSMs, Organizations have been able to offer the highest level of security for the cryptographic keys used to encrypt client data. Offers a productive cloud solution that has been audited and found to comply with all applicable regulatory obligations.
Creating a Public Key Infrastructure built on top-of-the-line hardware i.e., having robust, flexible, and high availability features. Deploying HSMs as the Root of Trust for robust performance, availability, and scalability. Provides the highest possible standards along with being On-Time and Under Budget.
Process the new e-identity documents while shortening the processing time. Utilizing various layers of access control, using hardened security with the use of HSMs. High performance, availability, and data throughput capabilities.

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Nishiket Kumar is a Consultant at Encryption Consulting, working with PKIs, HSMs and working as a consultant with high-profile clients.

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An electronic signature, often known as an e-signature, is a legally recognized method of obtaining consent or approval on electronic documents or forms. It is a collection of many ways for affixing identity to documents. They are created using an electronic technique and can be as simple as a photograph of a handwritten signature or as complex as a PKI-generated digital signature certificate. E-signature has grown exponentially due to the increased need for paperless work; documents must be signed, and e-signing is a convenient, efficient, and modern alternative.

In other definitions, an E-signature can be stated as “An electronic sound, symbol, or process attached to or logically associated with a record adopted by a person with the intent to sign the record.”

Benefits of Electronic Signatures

  • The signatory is clearly identified.
  • Ensures the document’s integrity by ensuring that it has not been updated or amended after signing.
  • It ensures non-repudiation since it is credible proof of the signatory’s consent, as they cannot deny signing the document.

Types of Electronic Signatures

Electronic signatures are mainly divided into three categories. The distinction is based on electronic Identification, Authentication, and Trust Services regulation (eIDAS). Throughout the EU, this law creates the legal framework for electronic identity, signatures, seals, and documents.

  1. Simple or Basic electronic signature (SES)

    The most basic and popular form of e-sign, which is used widely. This signature is not cryptographically encrypted. The intention of the signer to sign the document is used as confirmation of its validity. This signature form is simple, but it’s also simple to forge because there are minimal security mechanisms to verify the signer’s legitimacy.

    Use cases include Biometric Signature, Manual Signature, One-time passwords (OTP), etc.

  2. Advanced electronic signature (AES)

    This signature is substantially more secure than ordinary electronic signatures because the signer’s validity must first be verified before the signature can occur. To assure authenticity, digital certificates and public keys are created, managed, distributed, used, stored, and revoked using Public Key Infrastructure (PKI). A Certificate Authority (CA) normally certifies these signatures.

    Use cases include Biometric/Manual Signatures, Banking Card, Email OTPs, etc.

  3. Qualified
    Electronic Signature (QES)

    This is the highest level of E-sign available for use. Qualified electronic signatures include those for advanced electronic signatures and digital signatures and additional requirements for the equipment used to produce the signature. Before use during the signing process, the EU assured Certification Authority must have obtained the device. Both the digital security protocol and the devices that allow for signature creation are included in QES. This increases the legitimacy and integrity of signed documents.

    Use cases include Smartcards, Electronic Identity Cards, Payment Cards, etc.

Parameter for selecting the right kind of E-signature

  • Integrity
  • Identity
  • Authentication
  • Authenticity


Differentiation based on the level of assurance:

 SESAESQES
IntegrityAfter signing, the content cannot be modified.After signing, the content cannot be changed.After signing, the content cannot be altered.
IdentityNo identity Checking.High likelihood of identity verification of a signer.100% successful in identifying the signer; this can be done via face-to-face or other means.
AuthenticationNot certain whether the signature can be traced back to the signer.Certain that the signature can be traced back to the signer.Certain that the signature can be traced back to the signer.
AuthenticityIt’s unclear whether the signature was generated solely by the signatory.Assured that the signature was formed solely under the signatory’s authority. MFA is there.Confirmed that the signature was created solely under the signatory’s control. MFA is available.
ValidityLegally indisputable.Legally indisputable.Legally indisputable.
Hardware No requirement.A Secure Signature Creation Device (SSCD) is required.A Secure Signature Creation Device (SSCD) is required.

Difference between Digital Signature and Electronic Signature

Although the terms electronic signature and digital signature are frequently used interchangeably, the meanings and concepts of both are different. The key difference is that the Certification authorities permit digital signatures primarily used to safeguard documents. In contrast, an electronic signature is frequently associated with a contract where the signer intends to do so.

Digital Signature:

  • It is used for securing a document
  • Generally authorized by CA and have more security features in hand.
  • Adobe and Microsoft are two common types of digital signatures.

Electronic Signature:

  • Primarily used for verifying a document
  • Not authorized usually and has less security than DS.
  • Verbal, electronic ticks, and scanned signatures are the most common types of electronic signatures.

Conclusion

E-signatures, also known as electronic signatures, is a collection of diverse methods for attaching identity to documents. Electronic signatures on electronic records have been introduced and adopted by many businesses, customers, and even some government processes. There are three types of e-signs: SES, AES, and QES, with SES being the basic and common form and QES being the most secured one. E-signature is based on Identity, Integrity, and Authentication. Talking about digital signatures vs. e-signatures, a digital signature focuses on the document’s security, whereas an e-signature majorly focuses on verification.

About the Author

Nishiket Kumar is a Consultant at Encryption Consulting, working with PKIs, HSMs and working as a consultant with high-profile clients.

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Personal Identity Verification (PIV) is a NIST FIPS 201-2 security standard that establishes a framework for multi-factor authentication (MFA) using a smartcard. In simple words, PIV (Personal Identity Verification) can be stated as a multi-factor authentication solution that covers the entire identity lifecycle from identity proofing to secure credential issuance, physical access, and secure credential expiration.

In a single line, Personal Identity Verification is an identity management framework.

History

The United States federal government ordered the production of a common identity credential in 2004. It was originally designed only for US federal government but is now widely used in commercial applications. The reason behind its widespread usage is the standard’s high-assurance identity proofing and ability to use multi-factor authentication for security purposes such as preventing fraud, improving privacy, etc.

PIV Key Features

PIV is an excellent choice for businesses that must adhere to government regulations or work in highly regulated areas.

  • Identity proofing
  • Lifecycle management
  • Advanced Use cases
  • Physical/ IT System Access

Personal Identity Verification (PIV) Card

A personal identity verification (PIV) card is a smart card issued by the United States government that contains the information needed to provide access to federal facilities and information systems and ensure acceptable levels of security for all federal applications.A personal identification verification card has unique technologies that security reader systems can use for various purposes. FIPS establishes precise standards for these cards, including cryptographic methods to encrypt sensitive data and types of security, such as passwords and biometrics systems, to validate cardholders’ identities. Other characteristics, such as four mandatory cryptographic keys and key sizes, are also specified in the PIV card guidelines.

PIV Card Features

PIV card encrypts data and validates identity to ensure

  1. IntegrityIt means only the card owner can change the data present inside the card.
  2. ConfidentialityIt represents only the cardholder can read and access the data present on the card.
  3. AuthenticityIt guarantee’s the source of data present.
  4. Non-RepudiationIt means there can’t be any false data.

With the PIV card, you may be more confident that all electronic communications, data storage, and retrieval will be more secured.

Information Stored in PIV Card

A PIV Card Application must include seven mandatory interoperable data elements and two conditionally obligatory data objects.Seven Mandatory elements consist of:

  • Card Capability Container
  • Card Holder Unique Identifier
  • X.509 Certificate  for PIV Authentication
  • X.509 Certificate for Card Authentication
  • Cardholder Fingerprints
  • Cardholder Facial Image
  • Security Object

Whereas, If the cardholder possesses a government-issued email account at the time of credential issuance, two data objects are required:

  • X.509 Certificate for Digital Signature
  • X.509 Certificate for Key Management


PIV Authentication Mechanisms

The primary objective of the PIV Card is to verify the cardholder’s identity with a system or person in charge of regulating access to a protected resource or facility. Various combinations of one or more of the validation processes outlined below may be used to achieve this aim.

Card Validation

This is the procedure for ensuring that a PIV Card is genuine. Card validation mechanisms include:

  • visual inspection of the PIV Card’s tamper-proofing and tamper-resistant characteristics
  • use of cryptographic challenge-response schemes with symmetric keys and,
  • use asymmetric authentication schemes to validate private keys embedded within the PIV Card.

Credential Validation

This is the procedure for authenticating the PIV Card’s numerous forms of credentials. Credential Validation mechanisms include:

  • visual inspection of PIV Card visual elements
  • verification of certificates on the PIV Card
  • verification of signatures on the PIV biometrics
  • Checking the expiration date and revocation status of the credentials on the PIV Card.

Cardholder Validation

This is the procedure for confirming that the PIV card is in possession of the person it was issued. Cardholder Validation mechanisms include:

  • presentation of a PIV Card by the cardholder
  • matching the visual characteristics of the cardholder with the photo on the PIV Card
  • matching the PIN provided with the PIN on the PIV Card and,
  • matching the live fingerprint samples provided by the cardholder with the biometric information embedded within the PIV Card.

Alternative Options

Two additional credentials have been defined to take advantage of the infrastructure created by the Federal government’s PIV program, but neither has received significant adoption.

PIV-I: (Personal Identity Verification – Interoperability)

It is a version of PIV with the same criteria as PIV. The US federal government needed a way to handle the identities and access of guest users, so it was proposed to be created.

  • Unlike PIV, no background checks are required, which directly impacts the level of suitability for access.
  • Follows Federal Bridge cross-certification certificate policies.
  • Origin: Federal CIO Council.

CIV: (Commercial Identity Verification)

CIV is a different protocol based on the PIV architecture, with the main distinction being that the standards are less stringent.

  • Follows the issuing organization’s policies.
  • Trusted credentials only within the issuing organization.
  • Origin: Smart Card Alliance Access Control Council

Conclusion

Personal Identity Verification (PIV) is a framework which is used to validate the identity. It was designed earlier for US federal government but is used widely now-a-days. The key features of PIV include identity proofing, lifecycle management and many more. PIV card is a smart card issued by US federal govt. which is used for validation purposes. It consists of many features such as confidentiality, integrity, non-repudiation etc. Basic personal Information are being stored in PIV Card. To protect PIV card various authentication mechanisms are used namely Card Validation, Credential Validation and Cardholder Validation. Though, with increasing use cases, new alternates of PIV are being discovered namely PIV-I and CIV which are yet to be widely recognized.

References

nvlpubs.nist.gov/nistpubs/specialpublications/nist.sp.800-73-4.pdf

About the Author

Nishiket Kumar is a Consultant at Encryption Consulting, working with PKIs, HSMs and working as a consultant with high-profile clients.

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Incident Response is a process by which an organization handles and manages the cyber-attack or data breach so that the damage or consequences of the attack become minimal. In other words, the processes used to prepare for, detect, contain, and recover from a data breach are known as an incident response (IR).

Incident Response is usually handled by the Incident response team (IR Team), which consists of a staff of Security and IT and the legal, human resources, and public relations departments.

Incident Response Plan (IRP)

Cybersecurity incident response plan document should ideally be a crisp, concise, to-the-point document that describes the precautionary measures to be taken by the incident response team (IR team) and the information security team. For avoiding confusion, roles and responsibilities standards, communication plans, and defined response methods should be included and clearly explained in the document.

Phases of Cyber Incident Response

There are six steps involved in the Incident Response process.

  1. Preparation

    As the name says, preparation is the first and most essential phase of the whole process, which is carried out before the incident. So, it is the most crucial step as it will determine whether your organization will sustain the attack or not.In this phase, we conduct a risk assessment and determine where the most significant vulnerabilities are, which assets are most likely to be targeted, and what the company will do if they are damaged.

    This is when organizations either refine existing rules and procedures or create new ones if they don’t have any. This phase includes the communication plans, roles, and responsibilities in IRT, access controls, and training.

  2. Identification

    This phase comes after the incident has occurred. It is critical to figure out the breach in golden hours so that the situation doesn’t go out of hand. This phase starts with identifying the type of threat, what consequences it can possess, its extent, and the goals of the intruder.

    IT personnel gathers events from log files, monitoring tools, error messages, intrusion detection systems, and firewalls to discover and determine issues and their scope in this step of effective incident response. After an incident has been confirmed, communication planning is also started during this phase.
  3. Containment

    Containing an issue once it has been recognized or identified is a high priority. Erasing everything is never the best answer because you might lose necessary evidence in the process. This phase should cover topics like which systems will be taken offline in a breach and what backup procedures are in place.

    Usually, Containment takes place in two subparts:
    • Short Term Containment

      It reduces the extent of the harm before it worsens, traditionally done by isolating network segments.

    • Long Term Containment

      It is referred to as temporary fixes to allow production systems to be restarted.

  4. Eradication

    The purpose of this phase in incident response is to eliminate the source of the breach. By this step, organizations can remove the threat and restore the affected systems to their original state by ejecting malware and preventing attackers while minimizing the loss. This phase will last until all traces of the attack have been eliminated. This phase also focuses on patching vulnerabilities and updating old versions of software, in addition to securely removing malware.

  5. Recovery

    After the vulnerabilities have been patched, the malware has been removed, or the reason for the attack has been resolved, the next step is recovery or restoration. Organizations want the systems to recover fully and go up again in this phase. The recovery process includes:

    • Monitoring
    • Testing and verifying
    • Defining date and time, when to restore services
  6. Learnings

    It is the final and can be considered the critical step in the Incident Response process. It gives us the overall understanding and helps the organizations improve for future efforts. Organizations can use this step to implement/update their Incident Response process with the things that might have been missed during the incident. Overall, it provides us the experience to learn and implement new techniques.

Why is Incident Response Plan Important?

When an organization’s reputation, income, and customer trust are on the line, the ability to detect and respond to security incidents and events is vital. Organizations must have an incident response strategy, whether the breach is small or large.Here are the essential points regarding why you need Incident Response Plan today-

  • In data breaches or cyber-attacks, the customers’ trust decreases, so having a solid IR Team will eventually regain confidence.
  • For preserving the company’s reputation, IRP is essential.

Conclusion

The process by which an organization addresses and manages a cyber-attack or data breach is known as incident response. This process is usually carried out with the help of an incident response team (IR team) which comprises security and IT members. The process of Incident response is done in six phases, such as Preparation, Identification, Containment, Eradication, Recovery, and Learning. Having a solid IR team is essential, to overcome the effects of data breaches or cyber-attacks.

About the Author

Nishiket Kumar is a Consultant at Encryption Consulting, working with PKIs, HSMs and working as a consultant with high-profile clients.

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What is Breach?

Data Breach is when any information is stolen from the system without the administrator’s knowledge. Anyone can face a data breach, whether an organization or an individual. Targeted data can be confidential, personal, sensitive, or proprietary such as business plans, credit card details, personal information, or matters of national security and trades. A data breach can result in financial loss as well as reputational damage. A data leak could be deliberate or unintentional. An attacker enters into the company’s infrastructure and steals data, or inadvertently, a firm employee discloses Personal Information over the Internet. All fall into the category of Data Breach as it can help the attackers for their profit.

Recent Data Breaches

Last year, Various data breaches were reported. Some were minor, whereas some cost huge to the victims. Some examples of these includes

  1. LinkedIn recently faced a massive data breach scenario. Personal information of 700 million LinkedIn users, or almost 93 percent of the company’s members, was available for purchase on the internet. The data was claimed to be recent; though it didn’t include the login credentials, it contains basic personal information like Name, Phone number, Addresses, Gender, Email, Geographical Locations, etc.
  2. Facebook also faced the same situation when a security researcher uncovered a Facebook database that contained 533 million accounts that had been leaked. Personal information of the users was compromised, consisting of 32+ Million records of users from the US, 10+ Million users from the UK, and 7 Million users from India. Facebook faced a lot of troubles regarding this database leak.
  3. Another incident happened with Raychat, an Iranian commercial and social messaging app. A cyberattack employing a bot revealed millions of user records to the internet, eventually erased.

What is Identity Theft?

Identity theft is a cyber-fraud that includes someone stealing your identity, specifically online, to commit theft. Attackers usually get your information by data breaches or by public information access. This kind of fraud can damage you socially as well as financially.

Reasons behind a Breach

  1. Unpatched and outdated security vulnerabilities

    Using an old security patch invites the attackers to enter and steal. Hackers unknowingly use the information gathered by security researchers for their use. However, any unfixed vulnerabilities are being exploited by hackers for their personal use. To identify them for future reference, these exploits are categorized into hundreds of Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVEs).

  2. Human Error

    Unfortunately, many breaches are not due to automation failure or unknown error but are expected to be human error. According to a study, 50% of breaches happen due to some human error. The reason maybe

    • Due to the use of weak passwords
    • Sharing of accounts/passwords
    • Being a victim of phishing and the list goes on and on.
  3. Malware and phishing

    Malware and phishing don’t only affect your personal computer, but they can also be a threat to your company’s system. According to a report, every 5 seconds, a malware event occurs worldwide. By making minor modifications, hackers can still enter your system without being noticed by antivirus.

  4. Theft of a Data-Transporting Device

    If devices with sensitive information and your organizations’ trade secrets are being stolen, it can lead to breaches. The seriousness of the violation depends upon the type of data stored in the device that has been stolen.

Effects of Data Breaches

As already stated, the effects of data breaches can be hazardous. Some of the results are listed below.

  1. Financial and Reputational Damage

    Data breaches can harm a lot regarding the trust and reputation of a company. Recovering from a Breach also costs a lot to the organizations. Customers will think twice about giving their data to a company that has been a victim of a Data Breach.

  2. Downtime in Company

    The recovery process includes many things like investigation, re-development, etc. During this time, the company had to keep its operations shut down, leading to Operational Downtime. This duration is entirely dependent upon the time taken during the whole investigation.

  3. Loss of Sensitive Data

    In a data breach, we lose our personal and professional data, which can have disastrous effects. Any information directly or indirectly related to an individual is essential, and no one likes to compromise with those.

  4. Legal Actions

    Organizations are legally required to demonstrate that they have taken all necessary precautions to secure personal data under data protection legislation. Any data breach can drag organizations into legal consequences too.

Best Practices to Avoid Data Breaches

For Enterprises

Proper Implementation of Security Measures.Preparing an effective disaster recovery plan before.Use latest and updated security patches.Provide regular security training for employees to make sure that they know about recently introduced policies.Keep regular Security audits. A security audit will examine your security policies more than vulnerability assessments or penetration testing.

For Individuals

Always enable two-factor Authentication.It is advised to change your password regularly, but it’s especially crucial to change your passwords to something substantial, safe, and unique after a data breach.Keep a record of all of your financial receipts.If you receive any mail from suspicious-looking emails, don’t open it without proper investigation. Before opening any attachment, be sure you know who the sender is and what the email contains.

Conclusion

Data Breach is a type of attack in which sensitive and vital information gets compromised without the administrator’s knowledge, and the attacker uses it for their benefit. Several MNC companies recently faced these kinds of Data Breaches. Several reasons are behind a data breach consisting of Human Error, Outdated Security Patches, etc. These types of attacks have very disastrous effects on individuals and organizations. However, by following certain practices, we can prevent these Breaches from happening.

About the Author

Nishiket Kumar is a Consultant at Encryption Consulting, working with PKIs, HSMs and working as a consultant with high-profile clients.

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IoT (Internet of Things) has connected everything worldwide and has made it more efficient, accessible, and responsive, but it has become easy prey for attackers when it comes to Security. In last year, we have seen a vast number of attacks on smart devices used to collect personal and professional data, causing a massive loss for the industry. PKI (Public Key Infrastructure) has been the most used and needed solution in this environment. It’s being used to secure IoT devices because it’s a cost-effective and scalable solution. Organizations have been using this technology for a long decade.

PKI for IoT Security

The exponential growth in the demand for Digital certificates leads to IoT Manufacturers needing encryption , authentication, and identity. This is where PKI comes into the picture.
The critical public infrastructure is a set of hardware, software, policies, and processes for creating, managing, distributing, and updating digital certificates over time. For a long time, PKI has been a significant component of Security, and recently it is rising as a scalable solution for the security needs of IoT devices. However, this could lead to a more complex situation without a proper deployment.

Security Conditions for IoT

  • The authenticity of devices is a must before deployment. Protecting the integrity and confidentiality of data collected, stored, or transmitted by the apparatus is necessary.
  • They must also validate each device by providing digital signatures and certificates.
  • It should meet the industry compliance needs.

Securing IoT devices with PKI

There are various ways by which IoT devices can be secured with the help of PKI:

  1. By using Asymmetric encryption

    By using asymmetric encryption, we can provide the essential methods for strong cryptographic encryption and ensure private communication. It ensures that all the certificates issued are from the single certificate authority, which is trusted.

  2. Establish and Defining Security Standards

    Various standards provided by PKI provide you the comfort of defining a system cryptographically, with various options for revocation, renewal, and standard protocols for enrollment of certificates like EST REST API.

  3. Maintaining Stronger Security

    Talking about digital certificates provided by maintained PKI provides far more safety than traditional means of authentication. With the help of PKI, we have authentication and encryption capability, which helps us maintain robust Security.

  4. By using unique identities

    Using individual identities for every device, you can enable secure network access and code execution throughout the device’s existence. Also, these certificates can be updated as per needs.

Advantages of PKI for IoT

Public Key Infrastructure has been an ecosystem that has been used repeatedly for secure transactions with the help of Digital Certificates; In contrast, digital certificates have also been providing Security to the internet for long decades through PKI. By its main three features, it aims to provide a safe environment for IoT:

Encryption

  • We can provide the essential methods for strong cryptographic encryption and ensure private communication by using encryption.
  • Encryption helps in providing support for various IoT devices.
  • Provides robust encryption for data at rest and data in transit.

Authentication

  • Provides secure authentication without using a password between devices.
  • Establishes trust among devices and users.

Integrity

  • Data Integrity ensures that the data transmitted hasn’t been altered in any way.
  • Digitally signing papers, emails, and other data provides authorization and digital integrity.

Challenges

With PKI giving so many benefits to IoT in terms of Security and consistency, a few challenges come across while working on IoT Devices with PKI. Since IoT is an emerging technology and PKI being in the market for decades, some problems arise.

  • Everything can’t be done with traditional PKI Infrastructure, as traditional PKI Infrastructure is built to work without constraints, and in case of conditions, problems may occur.
  • Scalability for PKI might become an issue, i.e., building IoT-focused Certificate Authority is required.
  • Since IoT has various devices, traditional PKI Implementation may face issues in issuing certificates and implementing Security in IoT.

The Need for PKI to Secure IoT

From the dawn of the Internet, Public Key Infrastructure has been a staple in cybersecurity. Organizations looking to take advantage of IoT’s newest technology must realize that PKI is the key to their security needs. PKI allows the devices that IoT connects to have a proper framework to identify themselves and protect the data being communicated. The capabilities PKI offers an organization are the ability to implement freely, and personalization makes it the best security option. Using best practices for secure implementation will be the key to your success and reputation as an organization.

At Encryption Consulting, we can help your organization maximize Security using proper Public Key Infrastructure implementation and choose the best fit vendor.

Conclusion

IoT, a link between the world, has several security issues that are easy to exploit. PKI is the best solution due to its cost-effective and scalable features. PKI helps to secure IoT by using asymmetric encryption, maintaining more robust Security, and other various ways. PKI gives an advantage to the ecosystem by its three main features: Authentication, Encryption, and Integrity. There are multiple limitations like we can’t implement traditional PKI Infrastructure everywhere. Overall, PKI being the savior gives us a way to succeed in our security needs. At Encryption Consulting, we can help your organization maximize Security using proper Public Key Infrastructure implementation and choose the best fit vendor.

About the Author

Nishiket Kumar is a Consultant at Encryption Consulting, working with PKIs, HSMs and working as a consultant with high-profile clients.

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Secure file transfer protocol is a transfer protocol in which secure shell encryption is used to ensure a high level of security when sending and receiving files, used to securely transmit data between a local system and a remote end server, in the form of audio, video, and files. It is based on the File Transfer Protocol (FTP) and contains Secure Shell (SSH) security components. SFTP supports a variety of authentication mechanisms to provide authentication, including user IDs and passwords, SSH keys, and combinations of the two. What makes it different from other protocols is the use of encryption and authentication methods, which is exceptionally mandatory as file transfers through the internet can consist of users’ personal and financial information.

What is SFTP and its Working

SFTP is also known as SSH File Transfer Protocol, Secure File Transfer Protocol, and Secret File Transfer Protocol. It works on Network Layer Protocol and ensures a secure data exchange between client-server architecture over a stable network connection. It was designed by Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).

Some of the information a system needs to configure for SFTP Client:

Server Hostname

Provide the server’s hostname or IP address.

Port Name

The client’s TCP port of choice when connecting

Ex: Port no – 22 or other

Security Protocol

Choose the protocol you wish to use to create a secure connection.

Ex: SFTP, FTP, SCP, or other

Username

Username by which the client wants to connect to the server

Ex: Username: Admin

Password

The password assigned to the user.

Ex: ******

FIG: SSH Session for exchange of file and Communication

To avoid password sniffing and revealing critical information in plain text, SFTP transfers files securely via SSH and encrypted FTP instructions. SFTP also safeguards against man-in-the-middle attacks since the server must authorize the client.

Uses of SFTP

SFTP can be used anywhere file security is needed. One of the primary uses is Compliance with requirements such as the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accessibility Act (HIPAA), which oversees protected health information. Even any third-party worker associated with Hospital or Healthcare must keep its information confidential, and that’s when SFTP is very useful. SFTP is one of the numerous solutions for securing the data during transfer, ensuring that hackers do not gain access to it and that the organization does not inadvertently violate HIPAA if that law applies. Other data security standards like CCPA or GDPR can also be met using SFTP.

SFTP Encryption:

Encryption has a significant role in Secure File Transfer Protocol. It protects data from hackers or any unauthorized person by converting it into an unreadable format so that no one can access it or temper it during the transmission process. After it reaches its destination, it is again converted into a readable format by authorized users using the key provided to the user. The SSH Encryption method is used during the file transfer to secure the process. It can be done in various ways:

  • One of the ways is to encrypt the network before commencing the file transfer and generate the password to log on to the network using the automatically generated pairs of private and public keys.
  • Another way is to utilize the manually generated private and public keys to perform the authentication procedure, allowing the user to log in to the network without a password.

Applications of SFTP:

  • Mainly used to share sensitive data between two sources securely, it is used to undertake audits and transmit data and reports between the company and regulatory organizations.
  • SFTP provides us with functionalities to create, import, export, and delete files and directories. This helps in quick access of data from anywhere.
  • By the use of an updated authentication process, secret file-sharing can also take place.

Advantages of SFTP

There are various advantages of SFTP as a service

  • Data Security : As dealing with sensitive and personal data, data security is a big question nowadays. You want your files to be fully secured, SFTP provides various ways of Secure Data Transfer. SSH File Transfer requires the use of keys or usernames and passwords so that no intruder can get access to it.
  • No Hardware Needed : Using SFTP doesn’t require any extra utilities like servers or infrastructure; once you enter into SFTP services, all facilities are immediately available for use.
  • Accessibility : From an Accessibility point of view, SFTP provides a single location to store all of its business files and gives you complete control and flexibility over it.
  • Speed and efficient
  • Reduce Costs

Conclusion

We have discussed what SFTP is; Secure file transfer protocol is a transfer protocol in which secure shell encryption ensures a high level of security when sending and receiving files. Then we listed the information a system needs to configure an SFTP client. Uses of SFTP include Compliance with requirements such as the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accessibility Act (HIPAA), which oversees protected health information. The SSH Encryption method is used during the file transfer to secure the process, and it can be done in various ways. Then, we discussed the Applications and Advantages of SFTP, making our discussion complete.

About the Author

Nishiket Kumar is a Consultant at Encryption Consulting, working with PKIs, HSMs and working as a consultant with high-profile clients.

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Read time: 6 minutes

Whatever information we send or receive on the Internet crosses through multiple computer networks to reach the desired place. So, any of the computers can see your data since it was not encrypted. It can be your private messages, financial messages, login credentials that are not encrypted. So, to protect our data, new Internet protocols were developed: Transport Layer Security (TLS), which is widely used. This was preceded by the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL).

Before knowing about TLS Certificates, we should know about TLS:

About TLS

TLS Stands for Transport Layer Security. It is a protocol that verifies the identity of the server. It establishes a session between two encrypted computers, and it works on the cryptographic protocol that establishes an encrypted session between applications over the Internet.
TLS uses a combination of both symmetric as well as asymmetric cryptography, as this provides a reasonable negotiation between performance and security when transmitting data securely.
TLS certificates usually contain the following information:

  • The subject domain name
  • The subject organization
  • The name of the issuing CA
  • The Public Key.
  • Additional subject domain names, including subdomains.
  • Issue date
  • Expiry date
  • The digital signature of the CA

Working of TLS Certificate

The server sends a TLS Certificate if a user connects to a server. To establish a secure connection, the user verifies the server’s certificates on the user’s device using CA certificates. Generally, Public-key cryptography is used in this verification process, such as RSA, to prove the CA signed the certificate. If you trust the CA, this demonstrates you are communicating with the server certificate’s subject.

Does this imply we are using a fully secured process?
Well, Yes to a few extents but not always. It gives birth to Disadvantages of TLS Certificates.

Disadvantages of TLS Certificate

Generally, TLS certificates are considered to be secured, but there are ways by which imposters can attack and compromise TLS:

  • By Attacking CAs directly: CA must be secured for TLS certification to function appropriately; any infringement of CA could lead to incorrect authorization of keys.
  • By mistakenly issued certificates: Sometimes a certificate issue happens that gives a vulnerability that hackers can exploit because generally, a customer trusts CAs to authenticate the server they want to connect. When we are associated with an insecure internet connection, it could lead to disaster. An attacker can use a miss-issued certificate in their favor, and it can compromise your relationship with the server.
  • Certificate store poisoning: If an imposter gets into your system, they can gain all access to your digital certificate, which is stored on that device, and insert a root certificate that allows them to impersonate a website and read all data sent to it.

SSL Certificates

An SSL certificate is a data file that contains the public key, the identity of the website owner, and some other information. It is a file that is installed on the website’s original server. A website’s traffic can’t be encrypted with TLS without an SSL certificate.

Every website owner can create self-signed certificates that are their certificate. Still, browsers don’t consider the self-signed certificate as secure as a certificate issued by a certificate authority.

Types of SSL Certificates

There are many Validation level SSL Certificates, which are available:

  • Domain validated certificate: The primary purpose of a domain validated certificate is to make a secure connection between the domain web server and browser. DV certificate requires the lowest level of validation. The purpose of CA is to verify that the owner has control over the domain.
  • Organization validation certificates: The CA checks an organization’s right to use the domain and organization information in organization validated certification. OV certificate requires a medium-level validation, and it increases the trust level of the organization and its domain.
  • Extended validated certificates: In extended validated certification, CA conducts rigorous background checks on the organization based on guidelines that include verification of the entity’s legal, physical, and operational existence. EV certificates require high-level validation.


Use of Encryption by SSL/TLS

SSL/TLS protocol is used to encrypt internet traffic of every kind, making secure internet communication and internet commerce possible. Encryption is used as it increases the integrity and confidentiality of message transfer. It is necessary if your data is not encrypted; anyone can see your transmission and temper your confidential data.

SSL/TLS uses both asymmetric as well as symmetric methods of encryption. SSL uses symmetric encryption to encrypt data between the browser and web server. In contrast, asymmetric encryption is used to exchange generated symmetric keys which validate the identity of the client and server.

Asymmetrical cryptography is the safest method of encryption; it requires two cryptographic keys: public and private. This process is complex as it uses mathematical formulas that are difficult to reverse-engineer by Brute force.

Encryption using symmetrical cryptography is relatively much less intensive as compared to asymmetric cryptography.

How to know if Your site contains an SSL certificate

To check whether your website has an SSL certificate or not, follow these steps:

  • A trust seal.
  • A green address bar when an EV SSL certificate is issued.
  • Padlock to the left of a URL.
  • An https URL prefix instead of http.

Conclusion:

TLS is a cryptographic protocol that establishes an encrypted session between applications over the Internet. It uses a combination of symmetric and asymmetric cryptography. The server sends a TLS Certificate if a user connects to a server. To establish a secure connection, the user verifies the server’s certificates on the user’s device using CA certificates. There are a few disadvantages of TLS certificates: attacking CAs directly, mistakenly issued certificates, and certificate store poisoning. An SSL certificate is a data file containing the public key, the identity of the website owner, and some other information; it is a file installed on the website’s original server. SSL/TLS uses both asymmetric as well as symmetric methods of encryption. SSL uses symmetric encryption to encrypt data between the browser and web server. In contrast, asymmetric encryption is used to exchange generated symmetric keys which validate the identity of the client and server.

About the Author

Nishiket Kumar is a Consultant at Encryption Consulting, working with PKIs, HSMs and working as a consultant with high-profile clients.

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Datasheet of Encryption Consulting Services

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Read time: 12 minutes, 37 seconds

An Enterprise Encryption Policy is vital to the security of an organization. This policy provides a uniform way of ensuring encryption best practices are properly implemented throughout your organization. Additionally, a strong Enterprise Encryption Policy can be tailored to the encryption strategy your organization has created, giving you an organization-specific solution to your encryption gaps. Creating an encryption policy takes a lot of planning and organization, to properly implement. Your Enterprise Encryption Policy will likely suggest different tools to be used for data encryption, like code signing solutions, to give your data the security it deserves.

Encryption Basics

The first step to designing a strong Enterprise Encryption Policy is to ensure you understand the basics of encryption. There are two different types of encryption methods: asymmetric and symmetric encryption. Symmetric encryption utilizes one key when encrypting data. This means both the person encrypting data and the person decrypting data use the same key. The initial plaintext data is encrypted with the symmetric key and turned into ciphertext. This ciphertext is then decrypted later with the same key used to encrypt it, thus reproducing the plaintext. The key should be securely transmitted to both the person decrypting and encrypting the data, as only those individuals who need to encrypt or decrypt the data should access to the key. If the security of the key is improperly handled, then a malicious threat actor could steal the plaintext data and use it for unwanted purposes.

The other type of encryption is asymmetric encryption. This mode of encryption deals with an encryption key pair as opposed to a single encryption key.  The key pair is created with a public and private key. As their names suggest, the public key is available to anyone while the private key is known only to the key pair creator. This key pair is mathematically linked, such that if the private key or public key encrypts any plaintext, the other key is able to decrypt the resulting ciphertext. The way the asymmetric encryption process works with data-in-transit is that the sender of the data encrypts the data with the private key of their key pair. The public key is then sent along to the recipient of the data who uses that public key to decrypt the data. Since these keys are linked, the recipient knows that the data is actually from the person they think it is from. In this way, asymmetric encryption provides a valid way to authenticate that the data-in-transit has not been changed and to validate the identity of the data sender.

Now, one final component of encryption we should understand is the different states data can be in, which include data-in-transit/data-in-motion, data-at-rest, and data-in-use:

  • Data-in-Transit: Data-in-transit, or data-in-motion, is any data being transported to another location. This type of data is viable to threat actors via Man in the Middle Attacks. These attacks intercept the data while it is on the way to its destination, allowing the data to be read or stolen while in transit. This is a big issue if data like a piece of software or a firmware update were to be sent to a client and a Man in the Middle attack occurred. If the software was not encrypted, then the threat actor could edit that software/update to contain a malware payload and send it along to the recipient. That recipient would then update their software or utilize that software and have a malware payload downloaded to their machine. Luckily, there are a number of different methods used to protect data-in-transit, including: Secure Sockets Layer (SSL)/ Transport Layer Security (TLS), Secure Shell (SSH), and Virtual Private Networks (VPNs).
  • Data-at-Rest: Data-at-rest refers to any data stored on a device or in a database that is not currently in use or in transit. A lot of attacks on organizations target data-at-rest, as it is easily accessible if improper data protection controls are in place and Personally Identifiable Information, PII, is also normally stored in a database or device storage. This is why organizations use different encryption techniques to protect data-at-rest. These techniques include: Database Encryption, Full Disk Encryption (FDE), File and Folder Encryption (FFE), and Virtual Encryption. Additionally, Hardware Security Modules, HSMs, are used to store keys used to encrypt data-at-rest and data-in-transit.
  • Data-in-Use: Data-in-use is data currently having operations done on it. This includes data being generated, updated, erased, or viewed. Data-in-use is the hardest type of data to protect, as using the data requires it to be decrypted, so all encryption methods are not the perfect ways to protect data-in-use. Certain types of encryption, like Format Preserving Encryption (FPE), can be used to protect data-in-use. FPE encrypts the data, but leaves it in the same format that it was originally in, so performing computations on data encrypted via FPE is possible. Another way to protect data is to ensure that only those users who need to have access to the data actually have access to the data. This also applies to the encryption keys that may be used when the data is at rest. As long as proper management and approvals for encryption keys and data are in place, your data-in-use should remain secure.

Now that we understand the basics of encryption, let’s take a look at what you need to consider when developing an Enterprise Encryption Policy Strategy.

What to Consider when Strategizing?

Strategizing for the development of an Enterprise Encryption Policy is an extremely important step in actually developing the Policy. There are a number of different points to consider when strategizing for your Enterprise Encryption Policy, which begins with collaboration. An organization creating a Policy should work with every team that may be included in this policy or who may have useful information for the Policy. This includes compliance teams, as they will be able to help determine what types of data must be discovered and classified, as well as what methods for encryption or key protection are necessary. The other stakeholders included in this project can also assist in connecting this policy to other policies already in place in your organization, such as key protection policies. The teams actually implementing the Enterprise Encryption Policy controls should also be included in the strategizing process.

The next step to consider when strategizing for your Enterprise Encryption Policy creation is classifying data. Using the compliance team’s knowledge, you should determine what the different standards and compliance regulations you need to follow are, as that will tell your organization if or what data must be classified and how that data should be protected. To classify data, an organization must sift through all their data to determine the different types of data they are storing. If certain types of data, like Social Security Numbers, phone numbers, or addresses, are stored or utilized in some way, then that data must be protected. Once data is classified, it makes it much easier to protect via encryption, tokenization, or other methods. Data is normally classified in 1 of 4 different ways. Public is the first classification level, which is data that is open to the public or will be open to the public. If this data is lost or stolen, it does not cause any issues, as it is publicly known. The second level is Business Use, which is data that is used in day-to-day business use cases. This is the classification level of most data, and while it would be a hinderance to loss it, it would not cripple your organization. The third level is Confidential data, which is data that less people have access to and that would cause a competitive advantage to be lost if it were leaked. Finally, there is Restricted data, which is the least accessible information in the organization. Restricted data could cause millions of dollars in revenue loss if it were leaked, and could end up leading to law suits if that data is lost or stolen.

Another key point to strategize for when creating your organization’s policy is roles and access control of data. Ensuring only those who need access to certain data is very important to data security, as allowing someone to access restricted data who should not be able to could leave to data being stolen or lost that is vital to the organization. You can implement proper access control by assigning roles to users. These roles can be based off data classification levels, job title, or even the section of a company a user works in. That means someone could have a restricted data role, a sales associate role, or a human resources role respectively. Another important point to consider with access control is segregation of duties. Segregation of duties is the idea that multiple people are needed to complete a certain task, so if someone requests access to restricted data, one or more approvers would have to allow them access to that data before they could actually access and use the restricted data. This offers more chances to stop a potential insider threat, as there would have to be multiple people in on the insider threat to steal data.

Now, one of the keys when creating a strategy for your policy, you must consider the types of encryption you want to put in place. These can vary based on the compliance regulations and standards your organization is required to follow and the level of security you desire to implement in your IT infrastructure. Every organization should strive to have the strongest possible encryption and security in place that does not cripple or slow their operations. Your company can utilize any kind of encryption algorithm, but ensuring data is protected in all formats is key. If data is only protected in motion, then data can be compromised either at rest or in use. Also, keep track of the National Institute of Science and Technology’s (NIST’s) updates to regulations and standards, as these provide organizations with the best possible practices to follow to ensure they are using the strongest encryption algorithms, key lengths, etc. Your enterprise can manage your different encryption methods either manually, or with Enterprise Encryption Platform Services, like MicroFocus or Protegrity. This should also you help you determine the next step in your strategy, which is encryption key management.

Encryption key management is arguably the most important part of your encryption strategy, as many of the most recent supply chain attacks have shown. The first target a threat actor will try and find is the private key of the asymmetric encryption key pair.  Now, keys can be stored in a variety of places, but not all of them are secure. Some organizations store their keys in plaintext on their devices, which is the least secure method of storing keys. Software based key security is available, but this is still not the best practice, as these keys are still prone to being stolen. The best practice, as purported by the NIST, is to use Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS) validated Hardware Security Modules, as they provide the most secure method of protecting encryption keys, or keys of any type. FIPS validated HSMs can range from FIPS 140-2 Level 1 to Level 4. Level 1 provides the least amount of security, requiring a working encryption algorithm of any type and production-grade equipment. Level 2 takes all of level 1’s requirements and adds role-based authentication, tamper evident physical devices, and an Operating System approved by Common Criteria at EAL2. The majority of organizations tend to use a FIPS 140-2 level 3 HSM, as it provides all of level 2’s requirements, and adds tamper-resistant devices, a separation of the logical and physical interfaces that have “critical security parameters” enter or leave the system, and identity-based authentication. Private keys leaving or entering the system must also be encrypted before they can be moved to or from the system. The final level, level 4, requires everything in level 3 along with the ability of the device to be tamper active and that the contents of the device be able to be erased if certain environmental attacks are detected.

The final part of a strong strategy for creating your Enterprise Encryption Policy should be determining what solutions you want to implement. These can range from certificate management solutions, enterprise encryption platform services, code signing solutions, key management solutions, and Public Key Infrastructures. Choosing the right solution for your organization is extremely important, as you will have many different business needs that need to be met by these solutions. Choosing the best solution can be difficult, but focusing on the different compliance standards you must follow, as well as the best practices put forth by NIST standards, will give your enterprise the best possible solutions to meet the project requirements. Now that we’ve developed a strategy for your Enterprise Encryption Policy, let’s see what the key components of that policy are.


Encryption Assessment

Key Enterprise Encryption Policy Areas

  • Encryption Technical Standards: The encryption technical standards portion of the Enterprise Encryption Policy deals with the technical details of the different keys, encryption algorithms, etc. for the enterprise. This section includes key length, key strength, key types, and other technical key details. The strength of the encryption algorithms used, the types of encryption algorithms used, and the strength of any ciphers used are all additional portions of the encryption technical standards. The point of this policy area is to ensure that there is uniformity between all business units within the enterprise, with respect to the keys and other aspects of encryption.
  • Data to Encrypt: This policy area is meant to deal with the idea of what data needs to be encrypted why. This works with data classification methods, data classification policies, and other data identification methods. Data can be classified into a number of different categories, and an example of this can be found in the what to consider when strategizing section of this document.
  • What Stage to Encrypt at: This deals with the different types of data and where to encrypt data at. In this policy area, you should determine the best solutions to encrypting data-at-rest, data-in-motion, and data-in-use. These solutions can be determined based on the compliance standards and best practices that your organization must follow.
  • Key Protection: This policy area handles the strength of keys and how those keys are protected. The most common method is to follow NIST standards and have Multi-Factor Authentication in place for key storage and access. Additionally, tools like Hardware Security Modules secure encryption private keys in the strongest way possible.
  • Key Escrow: Key escrow refers to retrieving keys when legal reasons, like compliance audits, or disaster recovery. If an unforeseen disaster were to occur at your organization, and keys needed to be recovered or reset, then key escrow would need to be in place in the Enterprise Encryption Policy.
  • Training: Training is vital to an organization, as every team member and business unit should know how to access data, what data types they can access, how they should classify new data, and protect new encryption keys or data. As long as everyone knows how to access and handle data, they can work well within the organization.
  • Monitoring: Monitoring encryption and data throughout your enterprise is vital, as audit trail must be created, certificates and keys must be tracked, and strong access control must be in place.

Encryption Consulting Products and Services

If your organization is planning on creating a strong Enterprise Encryption Policy, Encryption Consulting can help. We offer a wide range of products and services that will help keep your enterprise secure. For our services, we offer encryption, Public Key Infrastructure (PKI), and Hardware Security Module (HSM) assessment, design, and implementation services for your organization. We can also train your employees on the use of HSMs, PKI, and Amazon Web Services. We also provide a code signing solution, CodeSign Secure 3.0, which has monitoring, virus/malware scanning, and Multi-Factor Authentication, among other tools. Our PKI-as-a-Service is another great way to have a strong Enterprise Encryption Policy, without the need to manage every part of the PKI. If you have any questions about Encryption Consulting’s services or products, please visit our website at www.encryptionconsulting.com .

About the Author

Nishiket Kumar is a Consultant at Encryption Consulting, working with PKIs, HSMs and working as a consultant with high-profile clients.

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A collection of Encryption related products and resources that every organization should have!

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Datasheet of Encryption Consulting Services

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What is PKI?

Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) is a framework that governs the issuing of digital certificates to secure confidential data and provide unique identities to users. TLS/SSL mainly uses PKI to establish secure connections between User and Server and is also used to authenticate IoT devices. PKI is also used to secure end-to-end communications using asymmetric encryption using public and private keys.

What is PKI Management?

It is becoming complex to manage PKI as compared to early times. If PKI is compromised due to improper management, it can cause a data breach as the volume of digital certificates increases exponentially. So basically, PKI Management, as the name suggests, is an effective way to organize and handle the public key infrastructure that includes many tasks and responsibilities.
PKI Management includes managing Certificates and Keys, CAs, HSMs, and a lot more. So, PKI Management has required expertise in today’s scenario as it just can’t be ignored.

Common PKI Management Risks/Mistakes

Improper PKI Management gives birth to various errors. It creates room for different malfunction, outages, and threats. When best practices are not being followed, a few risks arise within the system.

Here are a few of the standard PKI Management mistakes usually encountered:

  • Lack of crypto agility

    Crypto Agility is an ability in a security system to rapidly adapt to a new algorithm without significantly changing the system infrastructure. This process is most important as with the development of Public key infrastructure; threats are also evolving. So, whenever any vulnerability is being discovered within the system, PKI should try to resolve it as soon as possible by updating all the crypto mechanisms. If this process doesn’t work accordingly, it can exploit vulnerabilities.

  • Improper Visibility

    With thousands of certificates being stored in the system, Certificate Admins can’t take care of every certificate effectively. When these certificates increase into many, an Outage is on the door. It leads to certification expiration and outages because it is pretty difficult for operators to find, update, renew every certificate before their expiry.

  • Absence of Automation

    Manual management is challenging, with thousands of certificates being circulated every day. An organization cannot simply rely on manual control to keep Public Key Infrastructure updated. It is a generic need to include automated workflows for various Public Key Infrastructure tasks. Automation helps in increasing efficiency and decreasing human errors.

PKI Best Practices

All organization that deals with PKI must have encountered the above-listed common problems. With a few PKI Security practices, organizations can avoid them. Here listing a few best rules to follow:

  • Designing of Infrastructure

    Before implementing a PKI, Infrastructure should be appropriately designed and planned as a small mistake can cost a huge. So, organizations should make a detailed plan before integrating, as it is essential in the scenario.

  • Up-to-date Security Protocols

    Always remain updated with the latest security patches and protocols. Always keep your PKI attached with the latest to keep it secured.

  • Certificate Inventory

    Organizations need to maintain a certificate inventory to keep track of the certificates stored. Due to the large and increasing number of certificates every day, we need auditing.

  • Robust Security

    Always protect your stored keys and certificates at any cost. For maximum protection, organizations can keep them on Hardware Security Modules (HSMs) or at a different place from the Internet.

  • Examine and Revoke

    Public key infrastructure never sits static. Regular rotating and inspection of certificates are necessary. A proactive system should be there for revoking and suspending expired or outdated certificates to avoid any threats.

About the Author

Nishiket Kumar is a Consultant at Encryption Consulting, working with PKIs, HSMs and working as a consultant with high-profile clients.

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A collection of Encryption related products and resources that every organization should have!

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Datasheet of Encryption Consulting Services

Encryption Consulting is a customer focused cybersecurity firm that provides a multitude of services in all aspects of encryption for our clients.

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