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What’s the Right Role for a CASB in the Cloud Encryption Value Chain?

Sep 12 2016
Cloud Encryption

Since Cloud Access Security Brokers (CASB) came onto the scene a few years ago, the industry has debated CASBs’ role in the cloud application encryption value chain. With more than 30 percent of business data now in the cloud, identifying and protecting the confidentiality of sensitive or regulated content is critically important. That said, much of cloud apps’ value is in how easy they are to use and collaborate, giving business and IT professionals pause when it comes to deciding what protection mechanisms to put in place and how onerous they should be.

Some CASBs built their business model around performing gateway encryption for apps like or Box. While this has generally worked for unstructured data, it has had mixed results for structured data like the “notes” field in a database: From a compliance and risk management standpoint, encrypting regulated data has served as a useful check box, especially in the event of a data breach. However, in many cases, gateway encryption has rendered apps nearly unusable because it has broken search and sort, not to mention created performance issues associated with backhauling traffic on-premises.

To address the dilemma, leading app vendors have built native encryption into their platforms in a way that preserves functionality and optimizes for the way people use the app. Where the rubber really hits the road from a value standpoint is with key management, or the generation, exchange, storage, use, and replacement of the crypto keys used to encrypt content within cloud apps. Most enterprises – especially heavily regulated ones – consider on-premises, enterprise-run key management to be a best practice.

Both Salesforce and Box have released flexible key management programs – Salesforce Shield and Box KeySafe – that give customers choices when it comes to key management, including the option of integrating with their own enterprise key management system. Also known as “bring your own key” (BYOK), this flexibility caps off an evolution toward bringing together the best of both worlds: encryption that runs in the application and preserves functionality, coupled with enterprise-managed keys.

So where do CASBs – vendors whose role is to provide visibility, compliance, data security, and threat protection to cloud apps – fit into this value chain? Since CASBs like Netskope are becoming the policy aggregation point for inline and API-based access, activities, and DLP policies, it makes sense to add encryption policies to that mix. This is especially true in a multi-cloud environment in which organizations need to enforce encryption policies across multiple cloud services. To summarize, in the cloud encryption value chain, each entity plays an important role:

  • The enterprise manages the keys;
  • The app manages the encryption; and
  • The CASB manages the policies.

At Netskope, we have embraced this model by working closely with our customers, app vendor partners, and security partners. We have delivered an integrated solution that hides the ins-and-outs of different app vendors’ encryption architecture, seamlessly snaps into different hardware security module (HSM) solutions, serves as a transparent broker between enterprise key management and the app with zero visibility of encryption keys, and preserves enterprises’ key management processes and workflows. Beyond facilitating encryption policy and key brokering between enterprises and their cloud services that offer BYOK, Netskope – as a single cloud policy control point – also handles encryption for unstructured data in apps that don’t offer encryption.

Netskope’s all-mode deployment architecture enables our CASB to sit between users and their apps, wherever either might be, and enforce a broad array of granular policies both inline and out-of-band. It makes sense that enterprises would take advantage of our unique and strategic position to tackle encryption policy management – a critical piece of the cloud encryption value chain – across all of the services in which enterprises wish to protect sensitive data.

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