It’s common knowledge that cyberattacks are growing in both frequency and sophistication. Bad actors are more determined and cunning than ever, constantly honing their tools and working around the clock to find chinks in businesses’ security armour.
In the last few years, news of major data breaches has littered the headlines. Attacks against supply chains have surged. Cyber incidents, such as the breach at software management partner SolarWinds and Log4j, put organisations of every size around the world at risk.
Moreover, leading analysts Gartner predicted that within two years nearly half (45%) of global organisations will be impacted in one way or another by a supply-chain attack. At the same time, the number of reported vulnerabilities continues to skyrocket. A 2022 “Hacker-Powered Security Report” by HackerOne revealed that ethical hackers were able to find more than 65 000 vulnerabilities last year alone, up by 21% from the previous year.
Alarmingly, according to a report called “Cost of a Data Breach 2022”, released by the Ponemon Institute and IBM, it takes a staggering average of 277 days for security teams to discover and contain a data breach. And unfortunately, attackers show no sign of slowing down, while existing security tools and solutions are not doing a good enough job when it comes to protecting our systems and data from attack.
A foundation of trust
For any digital business transformation to succeed, it needs to be built on a foundation of digital trust. To ensure digital trust, organisations need to use encryption effectively. However, encryption is underutilised and often misconfigured and siloed between different segments or divisions of the business.
To build this critical digital trust, accelerate digital transformation and lower the risk of a data breach, it is essential for organisations to deploy a thorough encryption approach that standardises and centralises cryptographic operations to ensure that encryption becomes standard across all applications, infrastructure and digital data.
This is where hardware security modules (HSMs) come in, as these are dedicated crypto processors that have been designed to protect the crypto key life cycle. HSMs act as anchors of trust that safeguard the cryptographic infrastructure of some of the world’s leading entities by securely managing, processing and storing cryptographic keys inside a hardened device that is fully tamper resistant.
Enterprises in every sector invest in HSMs to protect their transactions, identities and applications, as these devices are excellent tools for securing cryptographic keys and provisioning encryption, decryption and authentication, as well as digital signing services for a wide variety of applications.
No silver bullet
While there is no silver bullet solution to cybersecurity, HSMs have many benefits. Firstly, they ensure physical access protection as well as secure key management, the secure generation of keys, and provide a secure execution environment.
Moreover, HSMs were designed to repel any external attacks or physical tampering via a wide range of protective mechanisms. These include voltage and temperature sensors, resin-embedded chips and drill protection foil.
For instance, should a threat actor try to drill open an HSM device, by either attempting to break the casing open or by using acid to erode the layers, sensors will immediately register the attack, trigger an alarm and launch any countermeasures that have been set up during the configuration, such as deleting keys.
Generating secure keys
Cryptographic keys are not useful unless they are well-protected and random. If they are not, attackers could easily guess them. Traditional IT systems are restricted in their ability to generate secure keys as they depend on traditional commands that process “if-then” instances.
However, knowing the “if” or input data for any given command can allow a skilled adversary to predict the “then” or output data. HSMs counteract this issue by generating keys that are truly random, registering data from random physical processes in the region and using unpredictable values to use as the basis for random keys.
In addition, HSMs generate, store, and use these keys when executing signatures, encryptions and other cryptographic operations, and each of these processes, which are integral to security, happens inside the HSM’s secure environment. In this way, all cryptographic operations remain within the HSM, staying safe from logical attacks. It is practically impossible to steal them.
Altron System Integration, through trusted OEMs, provides HSMs with the highest level of security by always storing cryptographic keys in hardware. These devices offer a secure crypto foundation as the keys never leave the intrusion-resistant, tamper-evident, FIPS-validated appliance.
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