Commentary
9/29/2008
11:06 AM
Mike Fratto
Mike Fratto
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Key Management? Don't Hold Your Breath

Ben Tomhave posted a lengthy set of observations from the IEEE Key Management Summit 2008. He did walk away confident that key management standards will be forthcoming. That's too bad. One of the best ways to protect data at rest is to encrypt it. However, enterprise encryption requires enterprise key management, not a bunch



Ben Tomhave posted a lengthy set of observations from the IEEE Key Management Summit 2008. He did walk away confident that key management standards will be forthcoming. That's too bad. One of the best ways to protect data at rest is to encrypt it. However, enterprise encryption requires enterprise key management, not a bunch of proprietary systems in use today.Tomhave has some tough things to say about the relevant standard bodies that don't bode well for interoperable key management. The ANSI X9 committee is focused on standardizing electronic banking operations and doesn't see it's work as relevant outside of that scope. The IEEE 1619.3 technical committee, part of the Security in Storage Working Group, is bogged down in academic arguments that don't reflect real world needs; aren't in touch with what organizations want or need; and the meetings are fueled by ego. Finally, the Oasis EKMI Technical Group, which we discuss in this Tech Road Map: EKMI [registration required] report, seems to be furthest along.

I'll let Tomhave speak for, and defend, his own comments. But a few things are clear. Enterprise key management is more than just a product silo problem. Ubiquitous encryption won't be viable until keys can be created, managed, escrowed, recovered, and stored -- some of the critical elements of management. Nor will ubiquitous encryption be viable until there are a standard set of protocols and methods that all products can work with. That's too bad because while encryption won't solve all of your organization's security needs, encryption can protect data at rest inside and outside the company perimeter.

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