What is Key Management?
Key management refers to the process of creating, using, storing, exchanging, archiving, discarding, and replacing cryptographic keys in an encryption system. Its purpose is to secure an organization’s keys, and to prevent cybercriminals or unauthorized individuals from accessing and corrupting sensitive data that has been protected through encryption.
Businesses today are creating and storing huge amounts of valuable data, and keeping that data protected is a top priority. Security breaches, high-profile data losses, and regulatory requirements have all contributed to the increased implementation of encryption resulting in the need to handle hundreds to thousands of cryptographic keys. Key management systems (KMS) are essential in helping organizations manage and maintain those keys, safely, securely, and efficiently.
How Does Key Management Work?
Encryption helps protect user data by encoding files through a complex algorithm and making them unreadable. This unreadable data is called ciphertext. Only members of an organization that have access to the encryption key(s) can translate the files back to plaintext to make them readable.
There are two different types of cryptographic algorithms - symmetric and asymmetric. A symmetric (private key) algorithm consists of a single key, that is only distributed amongst trusted members of an organization that are allowed access to sensitive data. These members use that key to both encrypt and decrypt information. An asymmetric (public key) algorithm is comprised of two different keys - a private key and a public key. The private key is kept secret and only accessible by authorized users, while the public key can be shared freely. While the public key can be shared with anyone to encrypt plaintext, the private key is required to then decrypt that ciphertext.
A KMS is responsible for maintaining encryption keys - consolidating them into one location and keeping them from getting lost, corrupted, or accessed by an unauthorized individual. It also manages the key management lifecycle, filtering encryption keys through different stages (i.e. creation, rotation, archival, deletion).
What Are the Benefits of Key Management?
The ultimate goal of encryption and key management is to secure data from unauthorized access and corruption. Having an effective key management solution in place ensures that sensitive information is kept private and gives businesses peace of mind, knowing that their data is always protected. It provides organizations the control to be selective when granting authorization -- allowing certain personnel and identities (applications, devices, etc.) to access their keys and data, but not others. This prevents valuable information from falling into the wrong hands.
Ease of Management
As companies grow, so does their data -- and so does the number of encryption keys they have to manage to keep their data secure. Having a proper KMS in place simplifies complex operations by consolidating encryption resources into one location, and enabling automation and optimization of encryption processes. It also helps streamline key lifecycle management, ensuring keys are updated, stored, and rotated as needed to meet various security policies. An effective key management solution is simple to use, and can be operated by nearly any IT professional, regardless of skill set or experience.
One of the biggest factors influencing organizations to implement encryption within their IT environments is compliance. Compliance standards and regulations vary between industries, and require different procedures and levels of protection. If a business doesn’t have proper protection in place, they can be fined significantly. Encryption key management is like insurance, providing that level of protection a business needs to ensure sensitive data won’t be compromised, and confirming that the necessary precautions have been taken to keep data safe.
Beyond Data Encryption
Key Management and Edge Computing
Edge computing environments can often be defined by a few common characteristics: dispersed or distributed data processing (i.e. remote/branch offices and IoT technology), harsh conditions (i.e. manufacturing plants, oil rigs, wind farms), and limited resources (i.e. space, energy, IT staff).
Given these particular circumstances, implementing key management within edge computing environments makes sense for a few different reasons.
For one, edge computing data is often processed in environments that aren’t physically secure, such as within a closet of a retail store or back room of a manufacturing plant, which leaves edge sites more susceptible to breaches. Having an encryption key management solution in place provides an additional layer of protection, to keep data from being stolen or compromised.
Edge sites are also often producing and managing large amounts of personal identifiable information (PII) that is sensitive and must be kept private. They must follow strict regulations and guidelines to keep that data protected, and need to implement encryption key management to remain compliant.
Encryption key management is incredibly relevant for edge organizations managing data from IoT sensors and devices, as well. These businesses are collecting and processing data from devices near and far, data that is potentially very sensitive and therefore requires proper protection protocols in place to keep it safe.
Interested in learning more about what defines an ‘edge’ environment? Explore our Beginners Guide on Edge Computing.
SvKMS and Key Management
StorMagic SvKMS is a powerful encryption key management solution that adapts to any environment. It delivers flexible, robust, simple key management, all within a single platform, at a surprisingly low cost. Learn more about the benefits of implementing StorMagic SvKMS below.