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Demys­ti­fy­ing Data Pro­tec­tion: How Does it Work?

In today’s dig­i­tal age, data has become a valu­able com­mod­i­ty, and pro­tect­ing it from unau­tho­rized access is more crit­i­cal than ever. From per­son­al infor­ma­tion to com­pa­ny secrets, data breach­es can cause sig­nif­i­cant dam­age to both indi­vid­u­als and orga­ni­za­tions. That’s why data pro­tec­tion has become a top pri­or­i­ty for busi­ness­es of all sizes. But how does data pro­tec­tion work? In this blog post, we’ll explore the ins and outs of data pro­tec­tion and exam­ine the lat­est tech­nolo­gies and tech­niques used to safe­guard sen­si­tive infor­ma­tion. Whether you’re a busi­ness own­er, IT pro­fes­sion­al, or sim­ply curi­ous about data secu­ri­ty, under­stand­ing how data pro­tec­tion works is cru­cial in today’s world. So, let’s dive in and dis­cov­er the secrets of data protection.


Pro­tect­ing your data has become increas­ing­ly impor­tant in today’s dig­i­tal age, as more and more sen­si­tive infor­ma­tion is stored and trans­mit­ted elec­tron­i­cal­ly, either on web­sites, mobile phones, or com­put­ers. With the rise of cyber-attacks and data breach­es, it’s cru­cial to have robust data pro­tec­tion mea­sures in place to safe­guard sen­si­tive infor­ma­tion from unau­tho­rized access and use.

But how exact­ly does the pro­tec­tion of data work? Let’s have a deep dive into data encryp­tion: the what and the how.

Encryp­tion explained

When asked how to best pro­tect data and appli­ca­tions, the most com­mon answer is prob­a­bly through encryp­tion. Encryp­tion is one of the most effec­tive meth­ods of pro­tect­ing data. It involves con­vert­ing plain­text into a cod­ed form that can only be read by autho­rized par­ties. The process uses an encryp­tion algo­rithm and a secret key to scram­ble the data. Only those who pos­sess the key can unscram­ble the data and read the orig­i­nal mes­sage. With­out the encryp­tion key, no hack­er or oth­er external/internal threat can gain access to the encrypt­ed data.

Encryp­tion is a desir­able solu­tion when it comes to pro­tect­ing data. But while the idea of encryp­tion is easy to grasp, imple­ment­ing it in an effec­tive and secure man­ner can be difficult.

How to ensure that you use encryp­tion right?

There are sev­er­al ways to ensure that the cryp­to­graph­ic imple­men­ta­tions used are sound. One of the most impor­tant steps is to use well-known and wide­ly-used cryp­to­graph­ic libraries and algo­rithms. These libraries and algo­rithms have been thor­ough­ly test­ed and reviewed by the secu­ri­ty com­mu­ni­ty, and any vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties or weak­ness­es have like­ly been dis­cov­ered and addressed. Addi­tion­al­ly, it is impor­tant to keep the cryp­to­graph­ic soft­ware and libraries up to date, as new vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties or weak­ness­es may be discovered.

Anoth­er impor­tant step is to use a cryp­to­graph­ic imple­men­ta­tion that has been ver­i­fied and cer­ti­fied by a well-known insti­tu­tion (for exam­ple cer­ti­fi­ca­tions from the Nation­al Insti­tute of Stan­dards and Tech­nol­o­gy (NIST)).

It is also impor­tant to val­i­date the prop­er use and con­fig­u­ra­tion of the cryp­to­graph­ic imple­men­ta­tion. This includes ver­i­fy­ing that the cor­rect algo­rithm select­ed and key size are being used, that the key is being secure­ly gen­er­at­ed and stored, and that the imple­men­ta­tion is prop­er­ly con­fig­ured for the intend­ed use case.

Encryp­tion is a pow­er­ful tool, but it’s not fool­proof. If an attack­er gains access to the encryp­tion key, they can decrypt the data and read the orig­i­nal mes­sage. This is why it’s cru­cial to keep encryp­tion keys secure. This can be done by stor­ing them in a secure loca­tion, such as a hard­ware secu­ri­ty mod­ule (HSM).

And now the talk is shift­ing towards con­fi­den­tial com­put­ing tech­nol­o­gy, as the cru­cial element.

Con­fi­den­tial Com­put­ing adding an extra secu­ri­ty layer

Con­fi­den­tial com­put­ing is a new approach to data pro­tec­tion that builds on these tra­di­tion­al encryp­tion meth­ods explained above. It allows sen­si­tive data to be processed and ana­lyzed with­out ever expos­ing it to the under­ly­ing infra­struc­ture. This is achieved by using trust­ed exe­cu­tion envi­ron­ments (TEEs) to iso­late the data from the rest of the sys­tem. TEEs are secure areas of a com­put­er’s mem­o­ry that can only be accessed by autho­rized parties.

Con­fi­den­tial com­put­ing can be used to pro­tect data not only while in tran­sit or at rest, but rather while it is being processed. This means that using this new tech­nol­o­gy, the con­fi­den­tial­i­ty of data usage hits a new lev­el. Because now, the data and appli­ca­tion are being stored in a black box, encrypt­ing it ful­ly while data pro­cess­ing is tak­ing place inside. This means that even if an attack­er gains access to the data, they will not be able to read it with­out the encryp­tion key. But only the CPU has the encryp­tion key stored.

Pic. 1: In-mem­o­ry encryption

Once a con­tain­er is loaded into encrypt­ed mem­o­ry, the CPU exclu­sive­ly has the abil­i­ty to decrypt instruc­tions from the mem­o­ry. The key mate­r­i­al is gen­er­at­ed at ran­dom dur­ing boot and is stored in spe­cial reg­is­ters inac­ces­si­ble to soft­ware. Before a write-back to mem­o­ry occurs, the CPU re-encrypts the result.

Secrets like envi­ron­ment vari­ables, files, pass­words, or cryp­to­graph­ic keys are nev­er stored in a con­fi­den­tial con­tain­er. A key man­age­ment ser­vice (KMS) pro­vi­sions the secrets into the con­fi­den­tial con­tain­er through a TLS-like pro­to­col. The KMS ver­i­fies the authen­tic­i­ty of the con­tain­ers and makes sure, only the right con­fi­den­tial con­tain­ers obtain the secrets.

Fur­ther­more, using a secure enclave comes also with a remote attes­ta­tion func­tion­al­i­ty. This means, that they have a cryp­to­graph­ic iden­ti­ty. The author­ship is ver­i­fi­able, allow­ing the imple­men­ta­tion of fin­er-grained white-label­ing mech­a­nisms as well as proac­tive user pro­tec­tion: Remote attes­ta­tion allows for on-the-fly scan­ning of out­dat­ed or vul­ner­a­ble con­tain­ers in use based on their cryp­to­graph­ic identity. 

Pic. 2: Remote Attes­ta­tion Feature

Wrap up

In con­clu­sion, data pro­tec­tion and encryp­tion are essen­tial in today’s dig­i­tal age. Encryp­tion is one of the most effec­tive meth­ods of pro­tect­ing data, but it’s not fool­proof. Con­fi­den­tial com­put­ing is a new approach that builds on tra­di­tion­al encryp­tion meth­ods and pro­vides an added lay­er of secu­ri­ty. By using secure enclaves to iso­late sen­si­tive data from the rest of the sys­tem, con­fi­den­tial com­put­ing ensures that even if an attack­er gains access to the data, they will not be able to read it as only the CPU has the abil­i­ty to decrypt the infor­ma­tion with­in the enclave.

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