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Buck Woody

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SQL Azure and Trust Services

Microsoft is working on a new Windows Azure service called “Trust Services”. Trust Services takes a certificate you upload and uses it to encrypt and decrypt sensitive data in the cloud. Of course, like any security service, there’s a bit more to it than that. I’ll give you a quick overview of how you can use this product to protect data you send to SQL Azure.

The primary issue with storing data in the cloud is that you are in an environment that isn’t under your control – in fact, that’s the benefit of being in a distributed computing environment in the first place. On premises you’re able to encrypt data you don’t want anyone else to see, using various methods such as passwords (not very strong) or certificates (stronger). When you use a certificate, it’s vital that you create (or procure) and protect it yourself.

When you store data remotely, regardless of IaaS, PaaS or SaaS, you don’t own the machines where the data lives. That means if you use a certificate from the cloud vendor to encrypt the data, you have to trust that the data won’t be accessed by the vendor. In some cases having a signed agreement with the vendor that they won’t access your data is sufficient, in other cases that doesn’t meet the requirements your system has for security.

With the new Trust Services service, the basic process is that you use a Portal to create a Trust Server using policies and other controls. You place a X.509 Certificate you create or procure in that server. Using the Software development Kit (SDK), the developer has access to an Application Layer Encryption Framework to set fields of data they want to encrypt. From there, the data can be stored in SQL Azure as a standard field – only it is encrypted before it ever arrives. The portion of the client software that decrypts the data uses the same service, so the authenticated user sees the data if they are allowed to do so. The data remains encrypted “at rest”. 

You can learn more about this product and check it out in the SQL Azure labs at Microsoft Codename "Trust Services"

Published Tuesday, March 27, 2012 6:32 AM by BuckWoody
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