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Extending Our Leading Data Protection with Secure, Resilient Gateway-delivered Structured Data Encryption

Nov 13 2016

We are pleased to announce that we are extending our industry-leading cloud data protection in the Netskope Active Platform by enhancing our structured data encryption delivered native in the application to also be delivered in a “gateway” model by our cloud access security broker (CASB), for both data at rest and en route to a variety of cloud services.

This is part of an overall cloud data protection strategy that today includes the industry’s most advanced and award-winning cloud data loss prevention (DLP), deep integration and partnership with data classification vendors such as TITUS and Box, conditional access and activity controls, support for strong encryption of unstructured data en route to both sanctioned and unsanctioned cloud services with FIPS 140-2 Level 3 certified Hardware Security Modules (HSMs) or the option to integrate with your key management systems, and deep integration and support for cloud service providers’ bring-your-own-key (BYOK) programs.

At Netskope, protecting sensitive, proprietary, and regulated data has been a key focus from day one. As enterprises move increasing amounts of such data to the cloud, there is increasing room for those data to be accessed without appropriate controls, by unauthorized individuals, and potentially exposed to the public or malicious actors. This requirement has informed our CASB architecture and has been a guiding principle behind the development of the Netskope App Context Engine, which gathers rich context for access to sanctioned and unsanctioned cloud services by letting you monitor and enforce policies in context, or for certain users or groups, on particular devices and browsers, in specific locations, performing an activity like share, download, or edit, and on certain content.

With these developments, customers have the benefit of monitoring and controlling data from all possible access patterns, especially those fueled by mobile and remote user access of sanctioned and unsanctioned cloud services. This comprehensivity has helped our customers achieve their goal of enabling the safe use of cloud services while enhancing their security posture by focusing on what is important, instead of simply trying to replicate their on-premises controls for the cloud.

A key part of any safe cloud enablement strategy is compliance with the various data protection regimens – PCI DSS, HIPAA, and the European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), to name a few. The GDPR in particular has codified the shared responsibility model, which is an underlying theme for cloud services. It has also clearly demarcated the definitions of data controllers and data processors. The cloud-service-consuming organization, or the “customer,” is the data controller, while the cloud service provider, or “vendor,” is the data processor. When it comes to safeguarding data, both the controller and processor have equal responsibilities in ensuring that cloud services that house regulated data have the appropriate data protection mechanisms.

Since the EU began to articulate its GDPR requirements, Netskope has taken a leadership role in understanding and building capabilities to support enterprises in their compliance journey. We added GDPR-specific metrics to our Cloud Confidence Index application-rating system and built a special GDPR-readiness score. We delivered to the market a GDPR-specific Cloud Risk Assessment offering as well as a GDPR cloud policy professional service. And we have sponsored dozens of complimentary web-based and in-person learning events in the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, and other countries across Europe.

When it comes to specific guidance on data protection mechanisms for GDPR, we are early on the runway. Experts agree that the best choice is encryption or tokenization of personal data. It remains unclear today whether application-native structured data encryption (with enterprise-owned keys and policy enforcement performed by a CASB) is sufficient, or whether the actual data transformation needs to be performed by the CASB in a “gateway” model as data are created, uploaded, or discovered in the application. We strongly believe that the application-native approach with customer keys and CASB-streamlined key management (BYOK) is the most elegant and viable approach. It enables the customer to have the ability to rotate keys or revoke access to them, as needed per their corporate policy and compliance regimen, while also delivering the most seamless user experience.

That said, in absence of legal precedent, some enterprises feel that the most conservative approach is to handle the encryption in the CASB itself. Even though this need represents a sliver of the market today, it is real and we hear the requirement loud and clear at Netskope. For that reason, we will soon deliver support for structured data encryption in a “gateway” model that is secure, preserves the user experience, resilient to application changes, and portable to many applications, four challenges that have dogged CASB vendors who deliver cloud encryption from day one.

First, security. Existing structured data encryption approaches have been proven to be so insecure that they are essentially tantamount to leaving the data in plaintext. According to crypto experts, structured data encryption solutions available in CASBs compromise on the security of data to enable preservation of functions like searching and sorting of encrypted data. Those vendors’ claims of preserving functionality by using order preserving encryption (OPE) algorithms have been shown by the research community, cited here and here, to be susceptible to compromises where a single OPE ciphertext would reveal significant amounts of information about the underlying plaintext. Organizations that have deployed these solutions are operating under the false sense of security that their data are protected, when in fact they are not.

Next, not compromising users’ experience of using the protected app. Beyond addressing the massive security gaps in today’s solutions, a big focus for us is user experience. Current non application-native approaches to structured data encryption can break the functionality of cloud services such that enterprises are forced into the impossible choice of protecting sensitive data and enabling full use of the cloud service, or said another way, pits security against productivity. This has resulted in limited rollouts often relegated to a single app and a small handful of fields. Based on our extensive work with the world’s largest and most demanding customers across dozens of vertical industries, we will soon deliver the ability to perform field-level encryption that preserves format and native application functions such as search.

Third, resilience to change. In addition to user experience, enterprises have struggled with solution brittleness, often having to invest significant resources in re-development and professional services every time the cloud service provider has a new release. For most enterprises, this is simply untenable. Netskope’s capability will take advantage of our contextual knowledge of fields and data to abstract out inner workings of the application so application changes don’t impact your ability to protect data.

Finally, portability. For the above reasons, enterprises that have rolled out structured data encryption in the cloud have done so for a single app. But all trends point to an increase in cloud development and delivery, not the opposite. Enterprises will adopt a data protection solution that is portable across all of the applications that house sensitive data. Portability to multiple apps will be a key tenet of this new offering.

Extending our current data protection capabilities, Netskope will also support this differentiated in-CASB structured data encryption by the first quarter of 2017.  It will be sold as an add-on module to the Netskope Active Platform.

In summary, there is no single approach to data protection. Enterprise requirements include identifying sensitive data with advanced, enterprise DLP, acting on already classified data, enforcing access and activity-level policies across sanctioned and unsanctioned apps, encrypting unstructured data, encrypting structured data natively in the application, encrypting structured data within the CASB, and even protecting enterprises from bad data such as malware and ransomware. As the leading CASB, it’s Netskope’s priority to offer our customers the most comprehensive set of data protection services delivered in the most secure, elegant, user-friendly, and architecturally clean manner in the market.

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