Encryption on Steroids – Attribute Based Access Control (ABAC)

How many data breaches need to occur before companies take real preventative action? While hotel chains, retail stores, and Facebook are likely to grab headlines, companies of all sizes, across all industries, face the same threats. If you work with intellectual property, handle sensitive materials, or are subject to regulatory compliance, you need to safeguard your digital assets.

Pernicious attacks don’t always come from the outside. According to JAMA Internal Medicine, 53 percent of the 1,138 instances of a data breach at medical facilities they analyzed originated from inside the organization. Overall, 15.1 million patient records were compromised in 2018, a near three-fold uptick from 2017.

Unprepared companies find themselves on newsfeeds for both negligence in combatting a breach and the resulting punishment levied by regulating bodies. Despite this, most companies trying to manage their data are using increasingly unreliable methods such as:

  • Putting up a firewall around the application. Despite amazing progress with firewalls and network security, a malicious attack or internal leak (whether intentional or inadvertent) will result in compromised data.
  • Using an Access Control List (ACL). Sadly, this static method of protecting who can touch data doesn’t work in today’s modern, dynamic, and globally distributed environment.
  • Applying Role-Based Access Control (RBAC). Using authentication schemes, location, network, risk, and individual characteristics can work for one-time access, but today’s environment is dynamic, making RBAC impossible to keep updated.

Chasing dynamic data with static security models will not support a fast-moving company. As more data becomes available for sharing across a variety of networks, these security measures are proving ineffective at stopping data breaches. Using a network, an ACL, or RBAC simply can’t stop malicious attacks or internal threats.

The paradigm is shifting to Attribute-Based Access Control (ABAC) to redefine data protection. ABAC has been developed to address the most stringent security requirements of the most important government entities on the planet. ABAC is the platform of choice for the US DoD, the UK MoD, and has quickly become a NIST standard.

At its basic level, ABAC uses an ‘IF/THEN/AND’ model to protect the data itself. This model is then applied to data via policy, checking attributes and applying the appropriate permissions (aka “digital rights”).

A Starbucks in Slovakia

Imagine a US State Department official carrying a laptop into a foreign country notorious for its ability to hack and steal data from the open web. This official heads into a Starbucks, opens his or her laptop, and connects to the public WiFi. It’s hard to argue that this may be one of the easiest ways for data to be compromised, but if this official’s data is encrypted via ABAC, data safety is assured regardless of how open the network may be. Regardless of the location, encrypted data is protected by an ABAC schema that guarantees appropriate access or denial of access.

ABAC puts the encryption and safety measures inside the data itself, ensuring that even if hacked or flat-out stolen (e.g., a thumb drive stuck into the side of a laptop), the encryption prevents the data from being compromised and utilized outside of its intended use.

Live inside the data itself

Attributes are the foundation of ABAC. Factors such as program, citizenship, location, clearance level, even time of day, can be used to protect the data. If the user violates any parameter, the ability to access is lost.

Continuing from the above example about an official opening his or her files in a Starbucks in Slovakia, the policy may allow this user to access the data based on multi-factor authentication, United States location, and clearance level. The fact that the official is trying to access the data in another country violates the policy, which then denies access to the data and reports the attempted use to the policy management system. All elements of the policy must be met. This official could copy/paste the information into a separate application or right into their personal email address, but the encryption inside the data itself prevents their ability to access it and protects the information.

Moving information around the globe on a second-by-second basis while maintaining control of the intellectual property or sensitive data is more important than ever. An ABAC system can be set up as a centrally located security measure, independent of people, geography, and network perimeter security, and provide a single data safety infrastructure around multiple applications. Users will have persistent rights management regardless of the application they use to access ABAC-encrypted data.

When you put the encryption inside the data and metadata itself, companies can seize control of their data and prevent a breach from internal or external threats. The Department of Commerce has made this a mandatory practice and the adoption is spreading throughout several governmental and military agencies.

There isn’t an industry that couldn’t benefit from implementing an ABAC solution, especially in a world where data is dynamic, information moves across the world in real-time, and breaches can ruin a company’s reputation and trustworthiness.

What will data-centric security look like over the next 5 years?

As we inch closer to the end of the decade, it doesn’t hurt to start thinking about what the 2020’s will bring in terms of data security.  So, we put on our thinking caps and came up with how we see the data security landscape shaping up as we enter a new decade.

Simply put, we see “data safety” becoming the new data security.  The term “data security” has been around for awhile, but we need to start rethinking the term’s relevance as we tread deeper into a more digitally driven world.

If you want to read up on how we see this world evolving, you can download the paper here.

NextLabs included in Gartner research on data-centric security architecture

Gartner recently published Technical Professional Advice on “How to Successfully Design and Implement a Data-Centric Security Architecture” on July 22, 2019. One of their recommendations is that security and risk management technical professionals dealing with application and data security “should adopt a holistic approach to increase the agility, effectiveness and completeness of data security and protection, by using the framework provided in this research.” 

NextLabs provides solutions across all three Control Families (Insight, Confidentiality Protection, and Monitoring and Response), across multiple data silos (e.g., databases, Big Data, Files and SaaS), and across the different data access types (in app, on access, and at rest).

If you’d like to learn more details about how you can mitigate the threats and compliance issues impacting your data, check out the full Gartner report here (if you’re a Gartner subscriber) or shoot us an email at info@nextlabs.com to see how we can help you design a data-centric security architecture appropriate for your environment.

Identity and Security Go Hand in Hand

We’re in the midst of a key paradigm shift when it comes to security. Instead of focusing on the perimeter like in the old days, attention has now turned to focusing on the data itself. What with the proliferation of cloud services, mobile and IoT advancements, and increasingly globalized workforces, trying to contain the perimeter hasn’t gotten out of hand.

As a result, security professionals are developing strategies and implementing solutions focused on controlling access to sensitive data stores and applications themselves as these are where the most sensitive and/or confidential data originate from.

Thankfully, NextLabs and the Identity-Defined Security Alliance (IDSA) were prescient enough to see this trend coming. The IDSA is comprised of two dozen identity and security vendors (including NextLabs), solution providers, and practitioners that act as an independent source of education and information on identity-centric security strategies. The group facilitates collaboration via a knowledge base spanning practical guidance, best practices, and validated solutions for reducing the risk of data breaches.

Just this week the IDSA released a white paper, “The Path to Zero Trust Starts with Identity,” that examines the Zero Trust paradigm from the point of view of an entire alliance, as opposed to just one vendor’s interpretation.

Ultimately, the IDSA believes that identity-centric security controls can help organizations combine identity and security capabilities to improve their security postures. From unstructured data to applications to attributes, managing and controlling access from identity to data is the key.

For more info…
To read more about the Zero Trust model, you can download the paper here. Additionally, if you’d like to see a demo on how NextLabs can help you put the Zero Trust model into action, click here.

Upcoming Webinar: Next Generation Security Considerations for SAP

KPMG - Securing the ERP Webcast

SAP security requirements are becoming increasingly complex. Security threats, data restrictions, emerging regulations, and innovation in technology is leading traditional approaches to security and access governance to become costly, unmanageable, and without adequate risk coverage in many cases. As your technology landscape evolves, so should your approach to managing security and access governance.

KPMG, a NextLabs partner, will be hosting a webcast, “ERP Risk Series – Next Generation Security Considerations for SAP” on July 11, 2pm ET. They’ll discuss strategies for evolving your access governance and next generation SAP security considerations. The webcast will be hosted by Brian Jensen (Managing Director of the Oracle Risk Management Team), and the featured presenter will be Jonathan Levitt (Director Advisory, GRC Technology).

One CPE credit will be available to U.S. participants who meet the eligibility requirements.

So, click here to secure your spot today!

Words of Wisdom: How to Ensure a Successful ABAC Implementation

Attribute-based access control (“ABAC” for short) has reached the point of mass adoption with respect to access control technologies. In fact, the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence developed a reference design for ABAC that provides organizations “greater efficiency, flexibility, scalability security.”[1] To ensure that those benefits are realized, however, it’s essential to establish best practice guidelines when it comes to implementing ABAC successfully.

ABAC can be instrumental in reducing enterprise risks such as insider threats, loss of customer data and personally identifiable information (PII), leakage of trade secrets and intellectual property, and fraud. The use of context in access decisions can also lead to substantial cost savings since ABAC systems enable more efficient policy management and regulatory compliance. Furthermore, organizations can continue to leverage much, if not all, of their previous investment in existing IT infrastructure. more “Words of Wisdom: How to Ensure a Successful ABAC Implementation”

Why Dynamic Authorization Is a Big Deal in Data Security

CollaborationIf you’re unfamiliar with dynamic authorization, be prepared for an epiphany of sorts.  It could very well be the biggest little secret you’ve never heard of with respect to data security.  What with all the cloud apps, mobile devices, Big Data, and productivity tools that consume our professional lives these days, legacy access control solutions are having a difficult time keeping pace. more “Why Dynamic Authorization Is a Big Deal in Data Security”

What is Digital Business Transformation…really?

Buzz words always amaze me. I love them if I think I coined them I love them until I think they are old and tired, but no matter what they seem to have a life of their own. Business transformation and Digital business transformation are a very hot topic these days in the enterprise space, but what does Digital Business Transformation really mean:

  1. Mobile first and cloud-enabled
  2. Collaboration requirements include always on, with seamless access anywhere and anytime, 24/7
  3. Digitally connected supply chains for highly responsive or just-in-time production
  4. Hyper-connected and complex business applications that are iPhone easy to use
  5. Internet of Things and Big Data driving real-time data decision streams and massive data volumes

more “What is Digital Business Transformation…really?”