Data Storage and Encryption in Java

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Using SSL to encrypt data over the wire provides security against a narrow range of attacksThe threats are real; however, the focus is tightA much broader security measure is to encrypt the actual data and not just the connection On the face of it, encrypted data storage prevents it from being read both during transmission and while it remains stored in the database Unfortunately, just like SSL, the use case for data encryption from EC2 is completely pointlessTo understand why, ask yourself from whom the encryption protects you The answer is not anyone on the open Internet, since the EC2 to SimpleDB pipe never leaves the Amazon cloudThe answer is not other AWS users, since they can access neither your network traffic nor your SimpleDB domainsThe only conceivable protection you get is against Amazon staff members, either acting as lone attackers, or as part of an internal investigation of bad account behavior, or acting on behalf of law enforcement armed with a court order In all of those cases, the encryption has not helped you because you are keeping the decryption key on an EC2 instanceThe EC2 instance is just as accessible to those people It would be like locking your front door and leaving the key under the doormat: It may be convenient, but it is lousy security Encryption for the purpose of security demands that you make the key difficult for an intruder to obtain On the other hand, the case for encrypting sensitive data on the outside and storing it in SimpleDB is easy to make No one in the Amazon fold would have the ability to decrypt it, the brute-force capabilities of hundreds of thousands of commodity servers in close proximity not withstanding One thing to be clear about is the fact that although the case can be made for this encryption, it still offers protection only against the exact same group of Amazon employees and law enforcement officials but no one else In order to make a rational case for data encryption, you need a real reason to protect against these threatsA false sense of security provides only imagined benefits
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The common reason for encrypting this data is in order to adhere to privacy regulations or policies Certain rules apply when you need to store credit card data or patient health informationThe accessibility of certain sensitive data to the IT personnel is one of the things for which an account needs to be made If you do decide to encrypt data before you store it, there are a few side effectsThe biggest one may be that you lose the ability to do most queries against the attributes that are encryptedThe only comparison operator you can use on encrypted data is the equality operator Even then, the data value within the query must be encrypted first Sorting on any of those attributes will also be off the table If the data is fully encrypted, it essentially results in the loss of queries Encryption also results in an increase in the number of bytes when the raw bytes are Base 64 encoded Take care that the 1,024-byte limit is not exceededWhen data encryption is used, SSL will probably not be needed
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Another security option you have is to break down the data and store it in different locations One example of this is patient health dataThe individual bits of data are not as sensitive as the correlation between personally identifiable information and the procedures, treatments, and diagnosis information A large set of regulations govern the storage and transmission of protected health information in the United States Data security is only one small piece of the puzzle Organizational policies, procedures, training, and disaster recovery are just a few of the areas subject to auditThe Amazon cloud offers both the security controls and the privacy controls needed for the deployment of compliant applications In the context of database storage, the multiple location option allows for storing part of the data (procedures and billing, for example) in SimpleDB, with only a primary key to identify patientsThe primary key references patient data, like name and contact info, stored at another location This arrangement prevents a security breach at one location from exposing usable informationAs a practical matter, it results in a bifurcated system performing the same types of data storage in different ways However, it can make full data encryption unnecessary, and it allows the smaller fraction of sensitive data to be stored with heavy security, whereas the remainder is unusable without the core and can be stored with less security and cost
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The bulk of security discussion in this chapter applies to services provided through a website or to SimpleDB access from beyond the borders of Amazon data centersThis is where the security weaknesses are Any part of your application that has to travel across the Internet or reside within a web browser is subject to attackThe Internet is not something to fear and avoid, espe-
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