Achieving Security Conformance: The Importance of Encryption and Key Management Standards

The success of the industrial revolution was the result of making things the same. The success of the Japanese auto market was the result of not just making things the same, but making them exactly the same. Anybody who has studied the works of W. Edwards Deming knows that the key to Six Sigma quality starts with making things exactly the same with no variation. Any golfer, dart player, pool player or marksman also knows that precision is necessary before accuracy can be achieved.

The world of encryption and key management is no different.

The transmission control protocol (TCP) and Internet protocol (IP) are just the tip of the iceberg for making the Internet compatible and predictable. Without those standards, our ability to have our phones, televisions, computers, servers, cars, space stations and social networks communicate together would just be a dream. They would work about as well together as metric wrenches and standard bolts.

Encryption Standards Enhance Data Protection

To that extent, without standards such as the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), Transport Layer Security (TLS) and a host of others, we would be creating security in a vacuum, with no external validation, no interoperability, no conformance, no public review and no hope for security.

Fortunately, we have those standards. We are working together to improve those standards as well as introduce new ones, and we are a better, more secure industry as a result of our efforts.

The Key Management Interoperability Protocol (KMIP) is one of the newer security standards and focuses on the exchange of encryption keys between devices. The standard is maintained by the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS). IBM continues to promote it and participate in the expansion and adoption of the KMIP standard.

Separately, the Storage Networking Industry Association Secure Storage Industry Forum (SNIA-SSIF) maintains a KMIP-conformance testing facility to provide independent validation of KMIP implementation.

A Major Milestone for SKLM and KMIP

Recently, the IBM Security Key Lifecycle Manager (SKLM) product passed the SNIA-SSIF’s rigid conformance testing program. Not only are companies such as IBM continuing to promote and adopt secure standards and protocols in their products, but by supporting these standards and advocating conformance testing, our industry becomes more aware of the standards and their availability in products. We all benefit from their value. This is good for customers, vendors and the security of all involved.

In order for the industry to continue to protect its data at rest, in motion, in use or wherever else it may reside, standards are as critical to security as consistency is to quality. W. Edwards Deming demanded consistency in his pursuit of quality, and we should demand the adoption and conformance to standards as a necessary component in our pursuit of data protection and security.

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Rick Robinson

Product Manager, Encryption and Key Management

Rick Robinson comes from a diverse background of architecture, development, and deployment of new products and services that employ cryptography in one form or another. He has numerous patents in the area of cryptography and computer security and helped customers in the financial, health, retail, manufacturing, and government sectors. Rick has been an active proponent of cryptography for business – applying standards-based cryptography, key management, PKI, and secure protocols to help business stay competitive in the ever-changing world of data security.