"Our solution sits between the conversation of the end user of the cloud application and the cloud," Canellos says. "Essentially, we're moderating the transaction between the end user and the cloud. Whatever the company has deemed to be sensitive information, we go ahead and steer that information to a local database behind the company firewall. In its place, we use replacement data."
Israeli-firm Porticor also believes that trust and control of data in the cloud is the problem, but its answer is all about encryption and key management. Gilad Parann-Nissany, Porticor co-founder and CEO, likens Porticor's solution to a safety deposit box in a Swiss bank. Porticor uses encryption key-splitting technology to give the customer a master encryption key common to all data objects in an application, while Porticor keeps its own set of encryption keys-'banker keys' as Parann-Nissany refers to them-for each data object. When an application accesses the data store, it uses both parts of the key to dynamically encrypt and decrypt the data. The master key itself is homomorphically encrypted so it is never exposed, even when in use.
"The customer has control through the customer master key and the banker works very hard to secure every file and disk," Parann-Nissany says. "Only the combination of the customer key and the banker key will open a disk."
Moreover, the keys in Porticor's possession are encrypted with the master key, so Porticor can't even access the keys without the customer.
"Suppose you're not dealing with a hacker," Parann-Nissany says. "Your attacker is a business rival and they go to court and get a court order for your data. Because of the nature of the solution, we have nothing. Even the banker key is not there, it's encrypted through the master key. They have to go to the customer if they want the data."
He added, "The banker can never see the customer key. Even when it is being combined with the other keys, it is itself encrypted through this technique. The key point is that we can manage the customer keys without ever touching them or knowing them ourselves."
CompTIA recommends that organizations use the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) as a resource for security questions when evaluating cloud service providers. The CSA, a nonprofit organization, has a list of more than 200 questions covering data integrity, security architecture, audits, regulatory compliance, governance, physical security, legal and more. It also publishes a top-level security roadmap for cloud operations.
Thor Olavsrud is a senior writer for CIO.com. Follow him @ThorOlavsrud.