Being able to authenticate data within the enterprise has historically been about access control i.e. by securing the perimeter around the assets and applying procedure by trusted insiders it allowed reasonable confidence that the data stored inside the perimeter was correct.
For 40 years that was the model and it worked reasonably well (assuming of course you could trust everyone on the inside and be 100% sure your defenses were working). In modern times , however, that model is creaking not least of which is the outsourced storage and compute model called cloud computing i,e. it’s no longer your perimeter to secure. As Ted Schlein, partner at Kliener Perkins pointed out recently, the security technologies that will succeed going forward are those that focus on the assets inside the perimeter and not just the perimeter itself.
Keyless Signature Infrastructure, a technology born in Estonia out of frustration with the status quo is a scalable digital signature system that uses only hash functions. In other words no keys or key management, just mathematical elegance.
The fact that verification does not rely on a trusted party or the security of secret keys means
- Scale: mathematics is a lot easier to scale than trusted parties securing keys. With KSI it becomes possible to digitally sign and timestamp every system event on every log file on every computer on the planet simply by typing in your service provider name in a configuration file.
- Forensic Quality: logs can be presented as evidence with independent proof of the time, integrity of the events inside the log as well as proving that events are in the correct order and none have been deleted. Independent means you aren’t saying “here are my logs and they are true because I say so” – you are saying “here are my logs and I have mathematical proof that what I am presenting is correct”. This is critical for machine to machine liability.
Historically, the point of signing/timestamping your logs was to detect an attacker in your network who was trying to cover his tracks i.e. it was an internal problem and you were responsible for security. The reality is that historically very few organizations had the sophistication to collect and analyze their logs. Three reasons why that is changing:
- Cloud: If you are a cloud service provider then it means you are hosting someone else’s data and it is your responsibility to ensure it is well looked after. This means liability as specified in an SLA (Service Level Agreement). Having independent proof of what happened to your customer’s data means shortened SLAs and reduced insurance premiums. Modern cloud service providers link their billing systems directly to usage logs. Linking access logs to usage logs to billing gives customers and the provider an independent audit for their billing.
- M2M (Machine to Machine): If you are going to let someone open their front door with their iPhone, having independent proof of what exactly happened and when is probably a good idea: “it’s true because we say so” isn’t going to be good enough when the lawsuits start rolling in. With Google building self driving cars, Ericsson rolling out collision avoidance systems and the incredible overall growth of the Internet of Things (IOT) the need for a reliable and independent audit trail will only increase.
- Security: And then there is security; the original use case for log authentication. The latest technologies, by companies like Splunk, Loggly and Sumologic are making it much easier to manage and search logs on a Big Data scale. As attacks get more sophisticated, being able to have mathematical certainty over the time and integrity over those logs is important and invaluable for forensic investigators. With efficient log collection, mathematical proof of time and integrity and effective operational analytics on that data (provided by companies such as Praescient Analytics) builds a a comprehensive security system and a mechanism to deal with both insider and outsider threats.
Insurance has been described as the “Oxygen of Free Enterprise”. Without insurance banks do not open, planes do not fly and hospitals do not function. As new businesses are built around machine to machine and cloud services so it will be again that insurance providers, searching for ways to limit cyber liability will drive demand for new technologies to minimize risk.