As businesses continually move their services online to services, like Google Cloud Platform (GCP) and Amazon Web Services (AWS), the need to protect this data grows as well. This solution is referred to as Data Lake Protection. A Data Lake is one place where all of an organization’s data is stored at the same time. Storing all information in one place has a multitude of advantages. Data from different teams can be accessed all in one place and analyzed to correlate data and create better strategies. IT infrastructure also becomes much simpler to manage, as there is only one location where all data is stored. Processes from analysis to auditing are made much more streamlined as well.


Data Lakes make the majority of processes and tasks much simpler, but this means Data Lake Protection is the number one priority of organizations using these Data Lakes. The main desire when creating a secure Data Lake Protection plan is to limit access to data to only those who need access. This is called the principle of Least Privilege. The way Least Privilege works is that access to one portion of the organization is disabled for those who do not need access to it. For example, if Gary in sales wants to access the human resource records on Roger, he cannot due to the policies in place only allowing him access to sales, and sales-related, data. One way many companies create a Data Lake is by migrating their data to the cloud.

Data Lakes on the Cloud

Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) like GCP, AWS, and Microsoft Azure provide an easy and inexpensive way of creating a Data Lake for any organization’s data. By migrating IT infrastructure, like databases, from on-premises to the cloud, a Data Lake is formed. Cloud Data Lakes are becoming more and more common on the cloud, as CSPs provide a variety of helpful tools to analyze and secure data. Encryption management can be left to the CSP, or the user can control it with Hardware Security Modules, encryption key management, and Google Cloud Functions.

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Best Practices

To begin the process of protecting an organization’s Data Lake, there are best practices one should follow. These best practices are:

  1. Principle of Least PrivilegeAs previously noted, the principle of least privilege is the most important practice to maintain in a Data Lake. This principle ensures that data can only be accessed by those who need access to it. This stops everyone in an organization from having access to all the information in a Data Lake, such as Personally Identifiable Information, or PII.
  2. ZoningMany organizations divide their Data Lake information into different zones, to make granting access and permissions much easier. Organizations will usually form four zones which are called the temporal, raw, trusted, and refined zones. The temporal zone holds temporary data that does not require long term storage. The raw zone holds data that is sensitive and unencrypted, before it has been processed and is secure. The trusted zone holds data that has been deemed secure and is ready to be used in applications. Anyone needing processed data, such as end users, will find it in the trusted zone of the Data Lake. The final zone, the refined zone, holds data that has been run through other applications and returned here as a final output.
  3. Data EncryptionOne important step to securing Data Lakes is the use of data encryption. By following compliance guidelines, such as the Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS), the most advanced encryption algorithms can be selected for your Data Lake.
  4. SIEM Tool UseSecurity Information and Event Management (SIEM) tools and software work to detect threats, ensure compliance, and manage any other security issues in an organization’s Data Lake. These tools assist companies with providing the highest level of Data Lake Protection possible by finding threats within an IT infrastructure before those threats can compromise data.

EC Data Lakes

A great way to begin protecting your organization’s Data Lake is by utilizing Encryption Consulting’s training sessions. At Encryption Consulting, we offer a variety of training services, including learning to use AWS’ Data Protection Service, GCP’s Key Management Services, and Microsoft Azure’s Key Vault. We can also help install and configure Hardware Security Modules to protect your data encryption keys. Our Cloud Utility Functions, Cloud Data Protector and Bucket Protector, were created specifically with Cloud Data Lake Protection in mind. Cloud Data Protector encrypts on-premises data before it is sent to Google Cloud Platform. Bucket Protector works within Google Cloud Platform itself, to encrypt data as it is uploaded into buckets. Encryption advisory services and enterprise encryption platform implementation services are also offered.

Conclusion

As you can see, Data Lakes provide organizations with a multitude of benefits, from making processes simpler to cutting back on infrastructure costs. By creating zones, using SIEM tools and software, and following the principle of least privilege, your data lake will stay secure from any attempted compromise. To learn more about the services Encryption Consulting can offer you, visit our website: www.encryptionconsulting.com .

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Encryption is one of the basic building blocks for any organization containing sensitive data/information. Sensitive data compliant with data privacy regulations creates a brand value for your organization as your organization becomes less prone to data breaches. As we all know the strength of the encryption depends upon two critical factors

  1. Key length
  2. Security of the Keys

Key length is quantifiable and could be determined using the various encryption algorithms such as AES-128 or AES-256. On the other hand, the Security of the key is a subjective matter. As we all know, the more secure the keys are, private keys in asymmetric and shared keys in symmetric encryption, the more powerful the encryption landscape is.

When it comes to the Security of Keys, the best bet is to use HSMs (Hardware Security Module) which are NIST compliant i.e. FIPS-140-2-Level3.

Cloud-based HSM vs. On-Premises HSM

In today’s article, we will compare Cloud-based HSM and On-prem HSM and try to

Find an answer for what criteria a customer should choose as the appropriate option for their organization’s crypto security.

As organizations step up their cloud journey as fast as possible to utilize the advantages of the cloud e.g. scalability, flexibility, cost-effectiveness, they have to parallelly think about data security in their IT landscape. This makes encryption, and subsequently HSMs, an inevitable component of an organization’s Cybersecurity strategy.Based on the use cases, we can classify HSMs into two categories: Cloud-based HSMs and On-Prem HSMsIn regards to the classification of HSMs (On-prem vs Cloud-based HSM), kindly be clear that the cryptographic technology is the same, but delivered via different methods.

On-prem HSMs are specifically useful for storing encryption keys when the organization wants complete control over their keys and policies without having any dependency on the Cloud Service Provider (CSPs). However, this comes at substantial upfront investment in terms of hardware, skilled resources, management software licenses managing the HSM cluster etc.

On-prem HSMs also make sense when an organization uses a secure application which is extremely sensitive to latency. The secure application uses an On-prem HSM only, thus avoiding the latency. Another important use case is where an application with intensive cryptographic operations is in use due to security best practices, technological designs, and/or performance requirements. On-prem HSM is also beneficial to organizations which operate in countries with strict regulatory/compliance requirements on data localization, and where Cloud Service Providers (CSP) may not have a local datacenter in that geographic location. It also benefits organizations with foreseeable workloads, where it is highly unlikely that the business requirements and transaction volumes will exceed the capacity of the HSM in the near future.

On the other hand, Cloud-based HSMs offer out-and-out advantages of the cloud in addition to conventional features of HSMs. To dig deeper, we can further classify the Cloud-based HSM into two categories: Public Cloud HSM Services and Third- Party HSM Services. Some Public Cloud HSM Services offer Single-tenant/dedicated or Multi-tenant services (e.g. AWS, Azure) whereas others offer only Multi-tenant services (e.g. GCP KMS, Oracle Key Vault) thus, these HSM Services are best suited for organizations which are dependent upon single Cloud Service Provider (CSP). In Third Party HSM Services, you can leverage multi-cloud platforms managed through the central management portal (e.g. DPoD) thus, these HSM Services are best suited for organizations with multi-cloud strategies. These HSM Services also offer use-case-based modular services to lessen data protection cost. Some examples of these services are Key Vault, Oracle TDE (Transparent Data Encryption), Code/Digital Signing etc.

Cloud-based HSMs are extremely helpful in the case of SMB (small and medium business) organizations which already have some other IT service dependencies, and substantial upfront investments for On-prem HSMs may not be feasible in terms of cost- effectiveness. Another classic Cloud-based HSM use case is where enterprises want to test or pilot multiple vendor HSM services with minimal upfront investments before committing to a vendor. Also, it is useful in organizations where the workloads are less in the organization/department and application performance and latency requirements are not stringent enough to require a dedicated, On-prem HSM. This model is suitable for smaller organizations which prefer a foreseeable and PAYG (pay-as-you-go) based financial model offered by the Cloud Service Provider (CSP) rather than high initial capital investments required by an On-prem HSM. Organizations/departments with highly variable workloads which might require elasticity (i.e. scaling up and scaling down of the HSM infrastructure) do come under the umbrella of Cloud-based HSMs as well.

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Comparison at a Glance

 Cloud-based HSMOn-Premises HSM
HardwareNo hardware required# of hardware required including for resiliency, HA, Management Platform etc.
Payment ModelPAYG (pay-as-you-go)Upfront Cost
SetupEasyComplex
SoftwareIncluded in the costLicenses may be required for each partition and Client Software
Client DeploymentEasy with CSP documentationComplex and skill dependent
ComplianceResponsibility of CSPResponsibility of the organization
Operational OverheadLow as it’s a managed service from CSPHigh as its managed by organization
SLA (Service Level Agreements)Responsibility of CSPResponsibility of organization
Operational Technical KnowledgeMedium with CSP’s documentation & vendor supportHigh as its managed by organization
Total Cost of OwnershipLowHigh specifically for low # of partitions

*CSP: Cloud Service Provider

Conclusion

The HSM service is certainly a critical component while designing and deciding the data privacy measures for your organization’s PKI infrastructure. The decision between Cloud- based HSM or On-prem HSM is a function of TCO (total cost of ownership), number and complexity of the use cases, business, regulatory, legal compliances, foreseeable growth in the volume of the sensitive data, divergent data sources, and choice of business applications to name a few. Although Cloud-based HSM Services are becoming more popular considering the fact that more and more organizations are jumping to the cloud for its numerous benefits. However, On-prem HSMs become critical in the case when Cloud Service Provider (CSPs) hit some limitations, although they are very few in the count. To conclude, one thing remains consistently clear: the benefits offered by Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) can be completely undermined if private keys are compromised. Protecting and managing those keys is, therefore, a critical requirement to ensure enterprise data security. HSMs, whether On-prem or Cloud-based, are the best options today to fulfil that requirement.

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Secret Management refers to tools or methods that are used to manage authentication credentials (or secrets). These may include passwords, access keys, API keys, and tokens that can be used in applications, services, privileged accounts or other sensitive areas of the IT ecosystem.

Advantages

  • By this approach, service accounts — generic administrative accounts which may be assumed by one or more users — can access these secrets, but no one else

Disadvantages

  • Not compliant with regulatory requirements which specify FIPS-certified hardware

Why is Secret Management important?

Passwords and access keys are some of the most used tools to authenticate users or automated applications onto the network or give access to specific services, systems, or information that might be otherwise classified. Since these secrets need to be transferred securely, secret management would need to account for and mitigate the risk portrayed on the secrets while in transit as well as on rest.

Some of the secrets include:

  • Passwords
  • API keys or other application keys/credentials
  • SSH Keys
  • Database and other system passwords
  • Certificates for secure communication (TLS/SSL and more).
  • Private encryption keys such as PGP
  • RSA and other one-time password devices

Challenges in Secret Management

As IT infrastructure grows and develops, it increases the complexity and the diversity of the secrets involved that needs to be properly protected. Those secrets should be securely stored, transmitted and audited securely.

Some of the common risk and considerations are:

  • Incomplete visibility and awareness:
    All privileged accounts, applications, tools, containers, or microservices deployed across the environment, and the associated passwords, keys, and other secrets. SSH keys alone may number in the millions at some organizations, which should provide an inkling of a scale of the secrets management challenge. This becomes a particular shortcoming of decentralized approaches where admins, developers, and other team members all manage their secrets separately, if they’re managed at all. Without oversight that stretches across all IT layers, there are sure to be security gaps, as well as auditing challenges.
  • Hardcoded/embedded credentials
    Privileged passwords and other secrets are needed to facilitate authentication for app-to-app (A2A) and application-to-database (A2D) communications and access. Often, applications and IoT devices are shipped and deployed with hardcoded, default credentials, which are easy to crack by hackers using scanning tools and applying simple guessing or dictionary-style attacks. DevOps tools frequently have secrets hardcoded in scripts or files, which jeopardizes security for the entire automation process.
  • Privileged credentials and the cloud
    Cloud and virtualization administrator consoles (as with AWS, Office 365, etc.) provide broad superuser privileges that enable users to rapidly spin up and spin down virtual machines and applications at massive scale. Each of these VM instances comes with its own set of privileges and secrets that need to be managed
  • DevOps tools
    While secrets need to be managed across the entire IT ecosystem, DevOps environments are where the challenges of managing secrets seem to be particularly amplified at the moment. DevOps teams typically leverage dozens of orchestration, configuration management, and other tools and technologies (Chef, Puppet, Ansible, Salt, Docker containers, etc.) relying on automation and other scripts that require secrets to work. Again, these secrets should all be managed according to best security practices, including credential rotation, time/activity-limited access, auditing, and more.
  • Third-party vendor accounts/remote access solutions
    How do you ensure that the authorization provided via remote access or to a third-party is appropriately used? How do you ensure that the third-party organization is adequately managing secrets?
  • Manual secrets management processes
    Leaving password security in the hands of humans is a recipe for mismanagement. Poor secrets hygiene, such as lack of password rotation, default passwords, embedded secrets, password sharing, and using easy-to-remember passwords, mean secrets are not likely to remain secret, opening up the opportunity for breaches. Generally, more manual secrets management processes equate to a higher likelihood of security gaps and malpractices.

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Encryption key management software is used to handle the administration, distribution, and storage of encryption keys. Proper management will ensure encryption keys, and therefore the encryption and decryption of their sensitive information, are only accessible for approved parties. IT and security professionals use these solutions to ensure access to sensitive data remains secure.

Encryption key management software also provides tools to protect the keys in storage and backup functionality to prevent data loss. Additionally, encryption key management software includes functionality to securely distribute keys to approved parties and enforce key sharing policies.

Certain general encryption software provides key management capabilities. Still, those solutions will only offer limited features for key management, distribution, and policy enforcement.

To qualify for inclusion in the Encryption Key Management category, a product must:

  • Provide compliance management capabilities for encryption keys
  • Include key storage and backup functionality
  • Enforce security policies related to key storage and distribution

A software key management approach can be used instead of an HSM based SaaS approach or a cloud KMS approach. Also, secrets management is an efficient approach to manage secrets, passphrases, etc.

For organizations who do not use advanced hardware for key management on-premises but want to ensure their cloud providers do not own and cannot be compelled to turn over keys to decrypt their data, software-based key management is suitable.

Advantages

  • Run the organization’s key management application in the cloud.
  • Lower cost than HSMs and full control of key services, rather than delegating them to your cloud provider
  • Can perform all core functions of an HSM -key generation, key storage, key rotation, and API interfaces to orchestrate encryption in the cloud

Disadvantages

  • Need to handle failover and replication yourself
  • Not compliant with regulatory requirements that specify FIPS-certified hardware
  • The approach is only suitable for IaaS, as there is a need to install and configure your servers to perform key management

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Hybrid KMS is a centralized management of accounts across all leading CSP’s with custom API‘s for integration and the ability to manage all encryption key lifecycle management activities from the central console.

Many organizations simply prefer to own and physically oversee their own HSMs, but they also seek the accessibility and convenience of the cloud. A hybrid model would contain a combination of on-premises HSMs and cloud HSMs to account for:

  • Scalability
  • Backup
  • Failover

This model is often used by organizations that have large on-premises HSM estates, but want to limit further investments in on-premises and want to tap into the scalability of the cloud. With a hybrid infrastructure, if an organization sees an unexpectedly high volume, cloud-based HSMs can seamlessly provide additional capacity, preventing slowdowns or outages. 

A few years ago, on-premises were the only option for key management. That has changed and organizations now have the option to move fully to the cloud or adopt a hybrid model. As organizations are considering these options, they can evaluate based on these parameters: 

  • FIPS 140-2 Level 3 compliance and PCI DSS standards.
  • Scalability
  • Compliance
  • High Availability
  • Integration
  • Resources
  • Cost

If an organization is facing scalability issues, interruptions, access failure, it might be time to extend their critical infrastructure beyond physical premises. Organizations have several options: moving to the cloud, renting rack space, or looking for hybrid options.

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Multi-Cloud Key Management is the process of using a vendor solution to provide a centralized and secure key management system across multiple cloud environments. It does not much matter whether the customer’s application architecture uses a private cloud, a public cloud, a hybrid cloud, or is distributed across multiple clouds — the framework remains the same. They can choose to move ahead with a single CSP or multiple CSP depending on its cloud strategy.

Multi-cloud key management utilizes a single solution that can provide a secure and centralized approach to manage keys in multiple cloud environments. The solution provided by the vendors can achieve higher FIPS levels.

In terms of resources, multi-cloud key management tends to use fewer resources as all crypto key lifecycle management activities are centralized to one key location. This centralized location relieves the user from logging into multiple cloud environments instead of only focusing on a centralized location. It also removes any custom API to be built for the solution as everything will be provided by the vendor for the solution.

Multi-Cloud Key Management is best suited for environments that need to talk to each other to work flawlessly. If the organization has contracted with a single cloud service provider, then the native KMS encryption approach may be the best choice. However, the majority of enterprises contract with multiple cloud service providers. In a multi-cloud environment, the technical and economic benefits of the Cloud are diminished by the complexity of requiring a different encryption key management method for each cloud environment. A strategy to simplify key management without adding administrative complexity and a consistent, centralized, and secure means to manage encryption keys-ideally. One specifically designed for multi-cloud environments is the suggested choice – Hence the hybrid key management approach.

The following diagram depicts the Multi-Cloud key management solution. There is the centralized management of accounts across all leading CSPs with custom API for integration and managing all encryption key lifecycle management activities from the central console. This eliminates the requirement of separate logins for different cloud vendor solutions.

Features:

  • Organizations are leveraging third-party providers who offer multi-cloud solutions, enabling organizations to “Bring” your key and “manage” your keys.
  • Separate encryption keys from data encryption and decryption operations for compliance, thereby ensuring best security practices and control of your data.
  • Utilizes BYOK services to deliver key generation, separation of duties, reporting, and key lifecycle management that fulfill internal and industry data protection mandates, all with FIPS 140-2-certified secure key storage.
  • Keys are marked for automated key rotation on a per-cloud schedule.
  • Each cloud service login is authenticated and authorized by the service provider.
  • Choice of HSM depending on the requirement, i.e., using FIPS 140 level 4 vs. level 1 instead of using a standard native HSM, which does not provide a choice.

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Silo Key Management is the process of using the KMS provided by the CSP to manage keys in a single cloud environment.

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A Master Key is a key, typically in an HSM, that encrypts all other keys within that HSM.

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  • Master Key Types: Google Cloud Platform (GCP) offers 2048, 3072, and 4096 bit RSA asymmetric master keys.  It is also one of the only Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) to offer 256 bit symmetric master keys.
  • Encryption Modes: GCP offers symmetric AES GCM and asymmetric RSA OAEP encryption methods.
  • Plaintext Size Limits: Google Cloud Platform offers a plaintext size limit of 64KB.
  • Bring Your Own Key (BYOK) Options: To utilize BYOK, the key being used on the cloud must first be imported the Cloud Service Provider, and to import the key, it must first be wrapped. Google Cloud Platform takes an AES-256 key that is wrapped by RSA 3072. 
  • Signature Modes: To ensure the integrity of data-in-transit, signatures are used. GCP offers RSA-PSS, RSA PKCS#1V1.5, ECDSA with P-256, and ECDSA with P-384 signature methods.
  • Cloud HSM Compliance: Each Cloud Service allows users to store keys in a cloud HSM, but the cloud HSM for each service has different compliancy certificates. All HSM keys on Google Cloud Platform are FIPS 140-2 level 3 compliant.
  • Google Cloud KMS Features: Google Cloud KMS can store keys in either an HSM or a software application. This key storage can be accessed by both the customer and the CSP. Google Cloud KMS is FIPS 140-2 Level 3 compliant if an HSM is used, and FIPS 140-2 Level 1 compliant if software keys are used. Google Cloud KMS supports symmetric and asymmetric keys. It also supports 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES-256) keys in Galois Counter Mode (GCM), padded with Cloud KMS-internal metadata and RSA keys of sizes 2048, 3072 and 4096.Google Cloud KMS is capable of key management, storage, auditing, encryption, encryption for Kubernetes, and both HSM and software key management.

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Table of Contents

Many organizations, from every sector, have been moving their on-premises IT infrastructures onto the Cloud. To utilize the Cloud, organizations must choose a Cloud Service Provider (CSP). The three biggest CSPs are Microsoft AzureGoogle Cloud Platform (GCP), and Amazon Web Services (AWS). Using Cloud Service Providers offer a variety of benefits, including opening organizations to a wider range of customers. When dealing with the Cloud, the CSP is in charge of security of the Cloud, while the user is responsible for the data in the Cloud. But what exactly is a Cloud Service Provider, and what do they do?

What is a CSP?

Cloud Service Providers offer cloud computing infrastructure as a service to developers and businesses, so they can save on computing costs and operate with a larger customer base, while managing less of their IT infrastructure. Cloud services offer a variety of options for organization’s IT infrastructures, including storing, processing, and analyzing of data, protecting data-at-rest and data-in-motion, and developer tools to create your own applications on the Cloud. CSPs offer these services at varying costs so organizations of any size can utilize their services. Services can be used on-demand, at set time periods, or dedicated hosts can be utilized for constant use. Even among the top three, Cloud Service Providers offer different options for data manipulation, so ensure you pick the right CSP for your requirements, as the infrastructures and APIs used by the Cloud Service Providers are also different.

Types of Cloud Services

There are three main types of Cloud Services:

  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): IaaS offer services that would normally be on-premises. These services can be storage or networking options, servers, or another type of infrastructure service. These CSPs also tend to offer secondary services, like load balancing, logging, or security options, to complement their infrastructure options. All of these services are hosted by the Cloud Service Provider, and many are managed by the CSP as well.
  • Software as a Service (SaaS): The next type of Cloud Service, SaaS, provides software for productivity, customer relationship management, and software and human resources management to users. These software options are hosted over the Internet by the CSP. Many software vendors have been offering cloud-based software recently, as more organizations move to the Cloud for their online needs.
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS): Platform as a Service providers are the final type of Cloud Service, offer infrastructure and services for use by software developers. The platform offered can be used for various other functions as well, but software developers tend to utilize PaaS CSPs the most. Middleware and Operating Systems are just some of the examples of the options available for use in PaaS Cloud Service Providers.

Cloud Service are sometimes defined by the type of service they deliver: private, public, hybrid, or multi-cloud. Private clouds are kept within an organization’s walls, for use only by the organization who owns it. Public clouds offer a number of services, and are accessible across the Internet. The top 3 Cloud Service Providers are considered public clouds. A hybrid cloud utilizes the functions of both private and public clouds, combining the services of each for a better and more secure experience. A multi-cloud architecture uses any number of public, private, or hybrid clouds, that may or may not be connected together.

Why use a CSP?

There are a variety of reasons so many businesses are moving their services and infrastructure to the Cloud. CSPs offer a way to cut back on the cost of supporting a company’s infrastructure, while also managing many of the services for a company. This cuts back on the cost of human resources and man hours necessary to properly implement a secure and long-lasting infrastructure. Cloud Service Providers also offer rapid and simple deployment of applications and services, less time spent on marketing services, and potentially stronger compliance with the industry regulations and standards.

Cloud services can be used for many different purposes, including developing and deploying applications. With Cloud services, a wider customer base can be supported while incurring little to no cost. The Cloud can also be used as a Disaster Recovery solution as well. A backup of on-premises services and infrastructure can be created on the Cloud to be implemented if an on-premises data center were to suffer any outages. Another way the Cloud is used by many organizations is to comply with industry standards and regulations. Since so many different types of industries utilize Cloud Service Providers services, they must comply with the most common regulations seen by organizations, such as HIPAA or FIPS.

Encryption Consulting’s Services

Though learning everything you can do on the Cloud may seem daunting, Encryption Consulting offers a number of services and products to assist you with your use of Cloud services such as AWS or GCP. Our AWS Crypto Training trains you on how to efficiently use AWS Cloud Crypto services to stay secure in the AWS Cloud. This course focuses on industry standard best practices to secure data with AWS. We also offer a suite of utility functions that can be used on the Google Cloud Platform to encrypt data while migrating it to the Cloud, or while storing it within Google Cloud Storage Buckets. To learn more about Encryption Consulting’s services, visit our website.

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