SAN JOSE, Calif.—Data-centric security is one of the hot buttons of IT right now. This is the kind of encryption security that surrounds a data file and follows it through the Internet, all its networking and myriad servers until it rests in a storage bank.
We had a firsthand taste of how popular this subject is on March 9 here at eWEEK, when we hosted our monthly eWEEKchat on the topic, "Is Data-Centric Security the Future?" In a single hour, we averaged four tweets per minute, resulting in more than 1 million Twitter impressions.
Redwood City, Calif.-based BlueTalon, which originally focused on securing databases when it started up in 2013, but pivoted 13 months ago to specializing in securing sensitive data in Hadoop batch analytics clusters, has found itself standing alone in this market.
It provides an on-premises-only software package that secures all data streams into a Hadoop instance from wherever they emanate: public cloud, private cloud, relational databases, mobile devices, onsite SQL server and others. The BlueTalon Policy Engine also features enterprise-grade data access, CEO Eric Tilenius told eWEEK.
'Last Best Defense of Data'
"Think of us as the last best defense for your data. We want to put the security as tight and close to the data itself as can be," Tilenius said. "We've all heard about what happens when security issues strike companies—CEOs losing their jobs, $217 per record lost, and so on.
"Ninety to ninety-five percent of attackers will use compromised credentials to infiltrate the data. One account at JP Morgan Chase took out 76 million credit cards; in the case of Anthem (health care), it was just five compromised accounts that led to 80 million stolen records.
"Systems can be hacked. Data must be protected on its own. Once they (hackers) get in, it's like an all-you-can-eat buffet," he said.
The company decided to refocus on Hadoop because it kept running into what Tilenius has called a "gaping hole" while speaking with potential customers. They had a problem with how to put more data into Hadoop so they could take advantage of cheap storage and processing, while not simultaneously opening themselves up to data breaches or regulatory issues.
Rids Systems of Manual Labor
One large company, he told a reporter last year, had a team in place to manually vet every request to access data stored in Hadoop. The term "tedious" is appropriate here.
Data-centric security is designed to protect data at all times while allowing it to flow freely and securely anywhere, without the need for plug-ins, proxies, gateways or changes in user behavior. This also fits in well with the huge current trend toward automating everything possible, especially the tedious functions in IT.
What BlueTalon is doing is helping define a large trend in IT in which the primary function is the management and manipulation of data itself, rather than security focused primarily on the application, networking or storage. This type of security follows the data item or store around wherever it travels—on-premises or off.
This is as close to airtight a concept as there can be when it comes to securing the Internet of things, in which data created automatically by devices will soon become an ocean of content that in no way can be handled efficiently by network and storage admins.
Simplifying Your Security Life
BlueTalon founder and Chief Product Officer Pratik Verma gave a presentation March 30 at the Strata+Hadoop conference here at the McEnery Convention Center. In the session, "Three Principles for a Data-centric Security Architecture to Simplify Your Life," Verma talked about the need to embrace a new security architecture to protect sensitive data in a big data environment. His key data points:
--Bring business context to policy decisions. Policies based on user, data, or session attributes align security with business needs, and allow data owners to specify what they want protected.
--Distribute enforcement and centralize policies. Decoupling policy decision from enforcement allows for policies to be managed centrally and applied consistently to any data stores—Hadoop, RDBMS, or file systems—on premises or in the cloud.
--Deliver visibility at the data layer. With controls at the data layer, security teams gain unprecedented visibility into who has accessed what data.
"Big data projects create exciting new opportunities for businesses, but also expose them to new security risks if access controls remain siloed in applications," Verma said. "It's still too easy for hackers to bypass perimeter defenses and steal valid user credentials that give them access to millions of records.
"The problem is only getting worse with big data and cloud deployments. A critical layer in an effective defense-in-depth strategy is data-centric security, to protect an organization's most valuable asset—the data itself."
Creates Its Own Security Layer
BlueTalon's value is that it creates its own security layer of security logic that reaches across all data sources noted above.
"This is important because the alternative is to hard code this functionality into the apps, and that gets costly and time-consuming," Tilenius said. "We handle all the control, the monitoring and the remediation at once, with one app."