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Cryptography orchestration reimagined for the enterprise

By Nick Forrester
Wed 10 Mar 2021
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Unbound has announced its new CORE platform, a next-generation solution offering that delivers comprehensive cryptography orchestration for enterprises. 

Unbound CORE brings something new and different to the world of cryptographic infrastructure for enterprises. However, to fully understand the agility, flexibility, and advanced protection it offers organisations, it’s essential to understand the gaps in legacy key management. 
 

Legacy key protection

An important aspect of any cryptographic deployment is the protection and management of keys. If these keys are not well protected, then the security of the entire solution comes under question. 

Storing keys as plain files on computers is extremely problematic. The solution to this problem is to use a ‘key store’ that provides robust protection of cryptographic keys provided as part of CORE.
 

Orchestration for all keys everywhere – an inclusive approach

There are several key stores on the market for managing and protecting keys, including physical hardware security modules (HSMs), cloud HSMs and cloud key management systems like AWS KMS and Azure Vault.

In the past, Unbound’s products were yet another choice as a solution, and our MPC key store was yet another key store (albeit with many advantages). But Unbound has shifted towards a fully inclusive approach.

Imagine the power of a single platform that orchestrates cryptographic keys of all types in all key stores, instead of the existing fragmented landscape with siloed management systems and distinct interfaces. That is the new approach with Unbound CORE. 

The solution manages keys in Unbound’s FIPS 140-2 Level 2 MPC key store, in physical HSMs, and in cloud HSMs and cloud KMSs — finally enabling enterprises to work in a single uniform way in all environments and with any key store. 

Unbound CORE’s orchestration includes the following benefits:

Management: A proven single pane of glass for managing all keys in all environments via a modern web UI. Unbound CORE key management includes key rotation, key synchronisation across key stores of all kinds, ACL enforcement, cryptographic policy enforcement, and everything you expect from a rich key management solution.

Central audit: Instead of a different audit log for each key store and environment, a single unified audit log with a single format for all.

Advanced authentication and authorisation: Integration to OpenID Connect and OAUTH for both administration and clients consuming cryptographic services. 

A virtual HSM: Instead of consuming cryptographic services differently in different key stores and environments, Unbound CORE provides a virtual HSM that is a single access point through which all key stores can be utilised. Unbound’s virtual HSM separates the cryptographic interface and functionality from the specific key store being used, in the same way as virtual machines work independently of the bare metal they are run on. 

Unified integrations: Once Unbound CORE has an integration into a higher-level cryptographic application, it can be used with any key store and in any environment.
 

One unified product

In the past, Unbound provided three different products for three different classes of problems. In contrast, Unbound CORE is a single unified product that incorporates all of an enterprise’s cryptographic infrastructure needs. 

Keys in physical HSMs, cloud KMSs and Unbound’s MPC key store are managed together with keys used for authentication and transaction signing on user mobiles or workstations, as well as keys for crypto assets. Unbound CORE is designed to grow with an enterprise, supporting business growth with fast and agile cryptographic support for new initiatives.
 

A virtual mesh of cryptographic key stores

One of the challenges working with fragmented and legacy solutions is that they do not ‘talk to each other’. This means policies must be defined separately on each system; keys must be manually synchronised between stores, and so on. 

Unbound CORE generates a virtual mesh of cryptographic key stores, reducing the manual overhead of management and the risk of error. Complicated tasks like synchronising keys between key stores are automatically taken care of.
 

The world’s first cryptography firewall for key misuse prevention

A firewall is a tool used to monitor access to a network and ensure that only authorised traffic is allowed. Unbound CORE provides key misuse prevention and serves as a cryptography firewall, monitoring usage of cryptographic keys of all types, and ensuring that only legitimate operations are allowed. 

This is achieved via a combination of cryptographically enforced quorum approval of operations, together with a policy engine that includes basic checks like time of day, client location, and rate-limiting. It also has advanced checks, like KYC and AML for financial transactions, fraud detection, anomaly detection tools (queried before and not after the operation).

It is no longer enough to merely protect keys from theft, as attackers who breach authorised clients can carry out the same cryptographic operations as the legitimate client. A single valid signature on malicious code is enough to carry out a devastating attack, and a single fraudulent signature on a transaction is all that is needed to steal all of the crypto assets protected by a key. 
 

No single point of failure

Unbound provides security mechanisms that avoid the single point of security failure that occurs when an attacker breaches a critical machine. This includes:

  • Built-in quorum administration
  • Quorum approval of operations to prevent key misuse
  • Tamper-resistant audits gathered at multiple machines independently
  • The ability to combine protection mechanisms, like MPC and secure enclaves.
     
A new collaborative world of inclusion

The world of security products should not be viewed as a zero-sum game. Far more value is brought through inclusion than exclusion, and enabling organisations to work in a unified approach irrespective of the key store being used is beneficial both for ease of operations as well as for security itself. 

The result is that enterprises can universally enjoy Unbound’s unique features while maintaining the freedom to choose the key store that best suits their policies, depending on the specific environment. Physical HSMs, cloud HSMs and KMSs, secure enclaves and Unbound’s MPC key store can be used together under one umbrella, bringing the best of all worlds together.

For more details on Unbound CORE, click here.

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