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3 Essential Steps to Mastering Cryptographic Infrastructure

cryptographic management

Security and management

Imagine owning a car but never changing the oil, or planting a garden but never fertilizing it. Without the proper care, these things become less useful. Cryptographic infrastructure is no different. An organization can have every encryption and key management solution available, but if they’re not being managed well, they lose effectiveness. Encryption and key management tools are most powerful when combined with a solid cryptographic management strategy. 

Enterprise cryptographic management involves remotely managing your cryptographic solutions as a coordinated whole, rather than having to manage each device separately or in person. Cryptographic management tools might include dedicated cryptographic management servers or portable touch-screen tablets.

In this post, we’ll explore how tools like these streamline management to strengthen security.  

Centralized infrastructure with HSM clusters

Centralization is one of the most important concepts in cryptographic management. Most security architects would agree that managing infrastructure from a centralized point helps organizations respond to emergent demands swiftly and efficiently. But centralizing one’s infrastructure is easier said than done. Fortunately, the process can be made easier by using a cryptographic management server. One of the immediate advantages of a cryptographic management server is its ability to cluster cryptographic devices like hardware security modules (HSMs). HSM clustering is an essential part of achieving centralized management.  

An HSM cluster is a logical construct in which multiple HSMs (or virtual HSMs) respond to the same set of applications. Clustering HSMs lets you manage different HSMs as one group. For example, an administrator can send firmware updates and settings changes to a cluster of HSMs, and can temporarily bring an HSM in a cluster offline for system maintenance or updates without affecting the service: the other HSMs in the cluster handle the workload.  

You can also cluster virtual HSMs, where several instances of an HSM are hosted on the same device so that each instance performs a dedicated service. The virtual HSMs in this case are clustered and controlled as a group to handle the same workloads. Using a virtualization solution with an intuitive GUI makes the process even easier. 

System health through monitoring and alerting

Data should inform decision-making, especially in cybersecurity. One of the best ways of gathering data to make informed decisions about your security infrastructure is through monitoring and alerting. In the past, administrators had to manage HSMs separately and in-person. Now, there are infrastructure management solutions that allow users to manage and monitor entire groups of devices remotely and in real time.  

A monitoring and alerting platform is a crucial part of a healthy cryptographic infrastructure. Deploying the right cryptographic management solution should both centralize your infrastructure and allow you to monitor it as a whole, defining the parameters by which you’ll be alerted to specific types of activity. As far as a monitoring engine goes, the more granular, the better. System access attempts, command counts, processing throughput, and even device temperature are things to look for.  

The alerting engine should be just as robust, with the ability to configure automatic SMTP, SMS, and SNMP log outputs that inform you when the parameters you’ve defined are met. With a solution like this, IT managers are apprised whenever unexpected events or potential security risks occur, such as multiple unsuccessful attempts to access the system. 

Reduced overhead via orchestration

The goal of cryptographic management is to improve your security posture while reducing management overhead. Management overhead is often measured in time and effort. Without a centralized, remote management solution, you may find yourself having to visit data centers and server rooms in-person and to train personnel on each cryptographic solution, whether by learning API commands or using each HSM’s interface. Managing infrastructure like this—as a series of individual components, rather than as a coordinated group—creates all kinds of headaches. 

With a sophisticated infrastructure management platform, IT managers get that time and effort back. Being able to cluster devices and manage them as groups, monitor devices remotely, and apply changes and updates to them in bulk, all serve to reduce management costs by eliminating the need for in-person maintenance. Applying a centralized approach to enterprise cryptographic infrastructure—where automation, management, and virtualization are key—is known as cryptographic orchestration. Managing everything from a centralized location accomplishes the goal of increasing security while decreasing management costs.  

Taking steps like these provides an extra layer of defense against unexpected events and security risks. 

Conclusion

For organizations that handle sensitive information, cryptographic infrastructure is a must. But, like oil in a car or fertilizer in a garden, good cryptographic management is essential to maintaining your infrastructure and getting the most out of it.

Device clustering helps achieve centralized management; monitoring and alerting ensures long-term security; and cryptographic orchestration reduces management expenses. A reliable cryptographic management platform combines all of the above into a comprehensive platform that keeps your infrastructure efficient over the long term.  

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Author Futurex

For over 40 years, Futurex has been a trusted provider of hardened, enterprise-class data security solutions. More than 15,000 organizations worldwide have used Futurex’s innovative hardware security modules, key management servers, and cloud HSM solutions to address mission-critical data encryption and key management needs.

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