Thursday 25 October 2007
Most companies keep their data on storage they own. This storage is located in the datacentre.
To get to this data, users must be authenticated to servers and passed through firewalls. The data looks like it is stored in a castle with thick and high walls and a gate that is open only for those who are authenticated by a gatekeeper.
This model worked quite well until a few years ago. Firewalls kept the outside world out and people worked only at the office.
There are two events that changed this model:
- People want to work out of the office. Not only from their homes, but also on the road, in hotel rooms and on airports;
- Modern security attacks don't come from the outside (knocking on firewalls' doors), but from the inside (using malicious websites).
When people are working from PC's, PDA's, laptops and smartphones that are not managed by the company's IT department, it is very hard to have reliable connection. The IT department can not prescribe what browser to use, what other applications are installed, of if the user has an up-to-date virus scanner (if any at all). Furthermore, to enable working from off-site locations, the network must be opened up for connections from the Internet.
Even when people are working from the office, the data is not as protected as it used to be. Malicious websites try to install key loggers, or scan hard disks or caches for information. Because users can usually connect to any server on the Internet from the inside, usually even using whatever TCP port they want, this malicious software can smuggle data out of the company easily.
This is why more and more parties are investigating in protecting the data itself, instead of protecting the access to files.
This looks like putting all your data in a tank, which can drive freely around the world. What is inside cannot be reached, and is protected from attacks. In IT terms: The data is encrypted and has an electronic signature, so it cannot be tampered with. The data stays encrypted as long as possible, on disk, during transport and in memory. Only when the data is needed, it is decrypted temporarily.
This way we need no firewalls to protect the data. We don't even have to place the data on corporate storage in the datacentre! The data can be hosted by providers on the Internet. A company PC can be connected to the Internet, just like the home PC of the employees.
Analog to Jon Landau in 1974 when he saw Bruce Springsteen: I saw the future of security, and it is a Tank.