The cyber security market in 2012 is estimated at $60 billion, yet adding more and more layers of perimeter security may lead to a false sense of security and be completely useless against a determined system administrator working on the inside. The end result is that your data might be secure or it might not – you simply have no way to prove it.
Shawn Henry, FBI veteran of 24 years and now president of CrowdStrike Services had this to say about integrity at the Black Hat conference this year: “These days, you can’t just protect the information from being viewed. You also need to protect it from being changed or modified.”
This leads to the question: Would you know if an attacker or your own system administrator got to your data?
Traditionally, the ‘integrity’ component of the CIA triad of data security [confidentiality, integrity, availability] has focused on protecting the integrity of data. But proving the integrity of data – knowing you have not been compromised – is equally if not more important.
We have been nibbling around the edges of this with checksums and other one-way hash algorithms but have yet to create truly scalable, rock-solid mechanisms to prove integrity.
It’s as though we have taken a car that holds our most precious cargo (our children) and wrapped it with increasing layers of protection but we fail to create a way to monitor the brakes or onboard computers for tampering or other untoward acts.
Data is the new perimeter
Many experts have come to the conclusion that all networks will eventually be compromised, so security should be focused on protecting data and less about the perimeter – i.e., what is required is a data-centric focus on security.
What is needed is an infrastructure that’s designed to deliver digital signatures for data at scale, ensuring that verification of the signatures does not require trusting any single party.
Donald Rumsfeld famously compared the difference between known unknowns and unknown unknowns. Digital signatures that are essentially ‘keyless’ have the power to convert one unknown — “Is my security working?” – to a known: “I have proof that my applications and data have not been compromised and that proof is independent from the people operating those systems.”
So what is a keyless signature? In a nutshell, a keyless signature is a software-generated tag for electronic data that provides proof of signing time, entity, and data integrity. Once the electronic data is tagged, it means that wherever that data goes, anyone can validate when and where that data was tagged and that not a single bit has changed since that point in time. The tag, or signature, never expires and verification relies only on mathematics – no keys, secrets, certificates, or trusted third parties – just math.
And we can all trust math.
About the Author
Mike Gault is CEO of Guardtime, a developer of digital signatures that algorithmically prove the time, origin and integrity of electronic data. He started his career conducting research in Japan on the computer simulation of quantum effect transistors. He then spent 10 years doing quantitative financial modeling and trading financial derivatives at Credit Suisse and Barclays Capital. Mike received a Ph.D. in Electronic Engineering from the University of Wales and an MBA from the Kellogg-HKUST Executive MBA Program in Hong Kong. You can reach him at Mike.Gault@guardtime.com or visit http://www.guardtime.com.