There is a lot of talk these days about encryption and the need for more robust security measures in light of recent events. But one question often goes unanswered is how do you govern encryption keys? In this article, we will explore some of the methods used to manage encryption keys and discuss the benefits and drawbacks of each approach.
Types of Encryption Keys
As the name suggests, symmetric keys use the same key for encryption and decryption. The most common type of symmetric key is a shared secret key known only to the sender and receiver of the message. Shared secret keys can be generated manually or using a key generation algorithm. This is something used at Keyfactor management.
Asymmetric keys, also known as public-private key pairs, use different keys for encryption and decryption. Anyone can learn the public key, but the private key must be kept secret. Public-private key pairs are usually generated using a key generation algorithm.
A public key is an asymmetric key used to encrypt a message. The corresponding private key must be kept secret to decrypt the message. Public keys can be generated using a key generation algorithm or obtained from a trusted third party.
A private key is an asymmetric key used to decrypt a message. The corresponding public key must be known to encrypt the message. Private keys can be generated using a key generation algorithm or obtained from a trusted third party.
Key Generation Algorithms
A key generation algorithm is a mathematical function that produces public and private key pairs. The most common type of key generation algorithm is the Rivest-Shamir-Adleman (RSA) algorithm.
Governing Encryption Keys
Key escrow is a method of storing encryption keys in a secure location, usually with a third party. The third party can be either trusted or untrusted. Law enforcement agencies typically use charged key escrow to access encrypted data. Untrusted key escrow is often used by businesses to store employee encryption keys.
Key Management System
One standard method for encryption keys is using a key management system. This system can be either on-premises or in the cloud, but it typically uses a centralized database to store all encryption keys. The advantage of this approach is that it can be used to manage large numbers of keys and can be integrated with other security systems. However, the disadvantage is that it can be complex to set up and manage and may not be suitable for all organizations. Keyfactor can help you understand what management system best suits your organization.
Manual Key Management
Another option is to manage encryption keys manually. This approach is often used for small organizations or testing purposes. The advantage of this approach is that it is simple and does not require any special hardware or software. However, the disadvantage is that it can be time-consuming and error-prone.
Key Lifecycle Management
Key lifecycle management manages encryption keys’ creation, distribution, and expiration. Businesses often use this approach to ensure that keys are properly managed throughout their lifecycle. The advantage of this approach is that it can help ensure that keys are always available when needed and that they are not used after they expire.
Another approach is to use a key server. This is a piece of software that runs on a separate server and manages the encryption keys for an organization. The advantage of this approach is that it can be simpler to set up and manage than a key management system. However, the disadvantage is that it may not be able to handle as many keys, and it may not be able to integrate with other security systems.
There are a variety of methods that can be used to govern encryption keys. The most appropriate way will depend on the needs of the organization. These approaches are key escrow, management systems, and servers. Manual key management is also an option, but it may not be suitable for all organizations. Whichever approach is used, it is essential to ensure that keys are properly managed throughout their lifecycle.