How to encrypt, secure and access sensitive cloud storage data

**Updated 1st July 2016*

The recent PRISM Data snooping controversies have heightened almost every companies awareness of the potential vulnerabilities of data stored off-premise in the Cloud. Many Cloud Storage companies’ talk about encrypting data ‘at rest’ but the real issue is that the storage companies control the encryption rather than the company whose data is stored controlling the private key.

One of the features that Storage Made Easy provides is an encryption feature that can encrypt data uploaded to remote (and local) Cloud Storage. SME supports 50+ cloud storage vendors, which means companies are able to take advantage of private key encryption for some, or all data, across cloud storage providers.

For individual users of our cloud SaaS services SME  uses a key entered by a user to encrypt data, but  the key is not stored on the SME hosted service. If the key is lost, or forgotten, then when trying to subsequently access the file the user will not be able to gain access to the file as the correct key phrase will not be known.

For companies that use the SME SaaS hosted service team Admins specify a key that uses a similar mechanism but is applied to all users. Unlike the personal encryption the key phrase is either stored encrypted by the SME service, or it can be stored with a self hosted Vault instance.

For enterprise users who self-host the SME service then the key is can be stored on the service behind the corporate firewall or again it could use the open source Vault software on a key server.

Encryption file SME

SME uses AES-256 encryption using the Rijndael cipher, with Cipher Block Chaining (CBC) where the block size is 16 bytes. A random initialisation vector is generated when the user supplies an encryption key. The cipher Rijndael consists of:

– an initial Round Key addition
– Nr-1Rounds
– a final round.

The chaining variable goes into the “input” and the message block goes into the “Cipher Key. The likelihood of recovering a file that has been encrypted using our encryption is fairly remote. The most efficient key-recovery attack for Rijndael is exhaustive key search. The expected effort of exhaustive key search depends on the length of the Cipher Key and for a 16-byte key, 2127 applications of Rijndael.

Data_SecurityOnce files are encrypted in this manner they can be accessed by an of the comprehensive SME desktop (Web, Mac, Windows, Linux) or mobile tools (Windows Phone, iOS, Android, BlackBerry). When an encrypted file is accessed the user is prompted to provide the private key phrase before the file can be opened.

Encrypted file phone

 

If the file is accessed direct from the underlying storage then it will not be able to be used as it will be encrypted and without being opened via the SME service, either hosted or on-premises, it will not be able to be un-encrypted. This makes sensitive data stored on remote servers ultra-secure.

The SME also on-premises Cloud Control service resides behind the corporate firewall. It enables the ability to keep very sensitive data behind the corporate firewall but still enable secure file sharing and at the same time offers the ability to encrypt data that is stored on remote cloud storage and other SaaS services for additional security.

SME Encryption

The Storage Made Easy Cloud Encryption service is available to all SME users inclusive of free, Personal Cloud, Business Cloud and Enterprise Cloud

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Cloud Computing Use Case: Extending Remote Desktop with a Cloud Drive

Many service providers and companies offer Remote Desktop Services to enable companies to access their desktop remotely. Applications are installed for the users where user settings and data are saved to their profile.

We’ve had a few requests from companies and service providers now who wanted users to easily be able to access data on remote clouds (such as Azure, DropBox, Box, FTP, WebDav, Sharepoint Amazon S3 etc) from a remote desktop.

With Storage Made Easy, this is easily done as SME presents a WebDav entry point to all clouds that SME supports whether they support WebDav or not. This means the service provider needs only co-locate the SME software appliance (supplied as an OVF compliant file) in their network and add a simple script to the users startup. The script it:

NET USE * \\webdav.storagemadeeasy.com@SSL\DavWWWRoot
pause

This enables user to get a mapped drive to remote cloud storage as soon as they login to their remote desktop and to browse and access these files like any other data drive and is a simple solution for bringing remote clouds directly into a users remote desktop using a simple metaphor they understand, “a drive”.

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Storage Made Easy made easy provides free WebDav access to Clouds that don’t support WebDav

We are now giving away 150MB of free WebDav access to mapped Clouds to all SME free accounts. This is enough to access around 300 documents on Mobile devices per month and is enough for the average use of WebDav into Clouds such as DropBox, Google Drive, SkyDrive etc.

If you want to access more than just pay a one time $5 fee and get access to 2GB per month of WebDav for the life of your use of our service. If you want unlimited use then just sign up to be a personal cloud or business cloud user.

Also, all free accounts feature 5GB free storage on Amazon S3 and the ability to add up to 3 other Clouds that you wish to access.

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The Top 5 things to Consider for Business File Sharing

20130309-165632.jpgFile Sharing is a key part of a companies ability to collaborate and share corporate data, which increasingly can be stored in many disparate services. The purpose of this post is to offer suggestion businesses should consider for their corporate file sharing strategy:

Many business just let employees share files with no control and no checks. This needs a policy. This is the businesses core asset and it needs to be protected and secure. Also, compliance and legislation of data is increasingly becoming important. The business needs to ensure it does not get caught in a compliance trap.

Point 1: Implement a control mechanism for your users. For example Storage Made Easy enables users to share files using links that can be password protected and in which the link can be set to expire. This protects against the user forwarding file. The file link can be set to expire on first download for example or set to download after 24 hours (or any other specified time period). If the file is password protected, even if the file is forwarded by the recipient then the file cannot be accessed unless the password is provided. A control mechanism promotes best practice security management of files and reduces operational risk.

Point 2: Point Solution or not ? Consider whether your strategy should be a point solution or whether it works with your existing data sets. Many vendors may purport to promote managed secure file sharing but often you find you have to move your data to their Cloud to have the solution work for you. Storage Made Easy works with private on-premise data, public cloud data such as DropBox, SkyDrive, Box etc and also with SaaS services such as BaseCamp. This promotes a ‘joined up’ strategy for company file sharing.

Point 3: Integrates with what you have ? Consider whether the solution works how you work so that it does not get in the way of business or productivity. For example Storage Made Easy integrates directly in the desktop as a network drive with simple right click options to share files. This behaviour supports Windows, Mac and Linux.  Also integration has been done with other core business productivity tools such as Microsoft Outlook and Mac Mail to promote easy secure file sharing using links directly from the corporate mail client. Similar integrations exists for core productivity tools such as Microsoft Office and Open Office or Libre Office.

Point 4: Compliance, Compliance Compliance – Compliance is fast catching up with all verticals when it comes to storing and accessing corporate files off site. There is specific industry legislation related to this, such as HIPPA in healthcare and FERPA in education, but  there are various legislation proposals being processed at various levels in the USA and EU and it is a safe bet that  the ability to track historic file events will become more of a requirement not less of a one. Also for companies, the ability to search against historic file sharing or data access should be just part of an overall joined up corporate security policy.

Point 5: On-Premise, Hybrid or Cloud ? The last point is to do with implementation. You should be able to decide how you manage data or metadata associated with storing files and sharing files. This can be behind the corporate firewall, totally on Cloud., or some combination of both. The key word here is choice.

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New Storage Made Easy Google Chrome Cloud Unifier File Manager Extension

We’ve added a new Storage Made Easy Chrome extension to the Chrome Web Store. The sole function of this extension is to enable auto-login and launch of the SME Web File Manager for quick access.

The SME Web File Manager is a hierarchical file manager which makes it ideal to deal with large data set and also data from different on-premise or public cloud storage, which are unified in the file tree. A Storage Made Easy Account is needed but a free account can be signed up directly from the extension.

The reason for this extension was to make it a lot easier for users to be able to gain access to the Web Cloud File Manager for one of our business customers who had equipped their salesforce with Chromebook Pixel’s.

The Web File Manager enabled them to have a workflow which included editing and commenting of documents directly from the Chromebook on various clouds that they used which includes BaseCamp and Amazon S3.

The extension can also be used for securely sharing files which include setting passwords on files and/or time expiry.

The web file manager, from a single user perspective provides a very nice way to work with data between cloud providers and even collaborate with other people using Business Group WorkSpaces. For business users it provides a complete collaboration environment between user which includes files editing, file commenting, file versioning and file locking.

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Cloud Computing Use Case: Automatic notifications of new or changed iWork Numbers documents stored on Google Drive

We had an interesting Use Case recently in which the requirements were as follows:

The Company in question had a Google Apps Account and therefore used Google Drive for their Storage. They had a number of iWork Numbers documents that were modified by their team members whilst on the move using iWork and iPad’s. Currently their process was editing the files, and then trying to send the resultant file via email to other team members. Due to file size some files were not received and in general the email server was quickly eating up storage. What they cam to SME for was to figure out how they could refine this process.

With Storage Made Easy the process became much simpler. Firstly the company subscribed to a Cloud File Server SaaS Account. The SME Cloud Admin then added the companies Google Drive account to be accessible via SME and invited other team members to be part of the Cloud File Server. On the Folder(s) in question the Cloud Admin simply set permissions so that relevant team members had access and added a notification rule specific to keynote file to ensure that all subscribers to the shared folder received an email notification on new files or updates to existing files. As per our prior article on Twitter and SMS Gateways on these changes to file events SME can easily generate instant SMS notifications.

As Storage Made Easy enables WebDav above any Cloud added to it then Google Drive becomes instantly accessible via WebDav. For the Company this means that they can simply open and create new keynote files directly in Keynote from their shared Google Drive folder and then on completion simply save them back. The very act of doing this generates a file event on completion which send an email and/or SMS to users subscribed to the shared folder vastly simplifying the process.




Another added benefit to the company is the complete end-to-end joined up audit tracking they get on all Google Drive documents:

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