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Transparent Data Encryption in the Cloud

Database products that support TDE

Transparent Data Encryption (TDE), sometimes also called Transparent Database Encryption, is one way to encrypt database content. TDE offers encryption at a column, table, and tablespace level. This makes TDE one of the more highly configurable ways to encrypt database content, though some of these configuration options come with a performance price.

While TDE is well known in the Data Center, bringing it to the realm of Cloud Data Security does involve some new technical and operational questions.

Database products that support TDE
TDE is available as an “enterprise level” feature of Oracle Enterprise Edition and Microsoft SQL Server Enterprise Edition. Of course this carries a price premium.

With the MySQL open source database, it is possible to encrypt files that represent tables – using ecryptfs - which simulates some of the table-level features of TDE but usually not all the detailed column-level, row-level and tablespace capabilties.

Cloud security is only as good as its weakest link

Like any encryption technology, TDE is only as secure as the encryption keys. You have to keep your keys in a safe place. You need a Cloud Key Management solution that can support TDE and should supply the encryption keys for the column, table, or tablespace encryption.

Transparent Data Encryption in the Cloud

Cloud key management can be the weak link in Cloud

Encryption solutions

This is actually the trickiest security question when implementing TDE in the cloud, and requires thought and expertise. For example, TDE encryption keys are often kept in a database “wallet”, which is itself often a file on a disk. This approach may break in the cloud. The concern is that hackers will attack the virtual disk in the cloud, get from that to the wallet and through that to the data.

You may find yourself implementing TDE, only to discover that the scenario above invalidates your approach.

Fortunately, solid Cloud Key Management with Cloud Encryption is now available, using split-key encryption to ensure there is no single place that can be attacked. This best practice can be integrated with TDE.

Balancing your cloud encryption, flexibility and performance requirements

As mentioned above, TDE does involve a tradeoff. It is more highly configurable but also more complex, and some of its options carry a performance price.

Alternative Cloud Encryption solutions can offer Full Disk Encryption, which may be more highly performant and is certainly simpler to configure. As always, you must choose.

The best of all worlds is obviously a solution that supports both out of the box Full Disk Encryption and can work with TDE. Porticor is the solution to consider for this kind of Cloud Encryption.

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More Stories By Gilad Parann-Nissany

Gilad Parann-Nissany, Founder and CEO at Porticor is a pioneer of Cloud Computing. He has built SaaS Clouds for medium and small enterprises at SAP (CTO Small Business); contributing to several SAP products and reaching more than 8 million users. Recently he has created a consumer Cloud at G.ho.st - a cloud operating system that delighted hundreds of thousands of users while providing browser-based and mobile access to data, people and a variety of cloud-based applications. He is now CEO of Porticor, a leader in Virtual Privacy and Cloud Security.