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Why i should not use encryption software on my server

By steve ·
More of a statement than a question but, i have a client who has been told that by putting encryption software (i.e. Truecrypt) he will protect his files. However, this will be a royal pain for me as i do a lot of remote work and occasionally need to restart. The encryption software requesting a password before boot-up. This will also put additional overhead on the server. Sure, great for mobile devices; laptops, flash drives but, i would like some stronger reasons for not doing this. Anyone? Or is it a perfectly reasonable idea? Running Windows Server 2000.

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Security gain vs cost

by TobiF In reply to Why i should not use encr ...

Security is not black-or-white.

You always need to find the balance between gain and cost.

So here, too, your customer needs to compare the gain vs the cost.

If the server is in a rather secure location with limited risk of someone stealing the box or connecting to it locally, then, maybe, the added security from full-disk encryption is lower than for, say, a laptop.
- Oh. Also point out that as long as the encrypted volume is mounted (As I understand, most of the time) it is clearly accessible for anyone, who has gained access to the system rightly or wrongly.

On the cost side:
-You already mentioned problems during restarts. This can be translated into higher cost for your services and longer downtimes (=missed revenues?). Plus, if everytime someone needs to get to the server to enter the password locally, then how many people will know the password, and are you sure it won't be written on a post-it sticker under the keyboard?
-You also mentioned that the system will have to work a bit harder and may need to be upgraded sooner.

Further:
- In encrypted systems, the risk for big impact from a small problem with the hard drive is a bit higher. (A small error in the file header can convert the whole encrypted unit into digital noise, unless you've backed up the header.)
- File problems may take longer time to fix.
- ... (Here I invite other people to fill in...)

Perhaps some kind of compromise gives a better balance?
What does your client want to protect?
- The OS files? (don't think Win2k is that important)
- Anything in the registry? (could be, but the risks of encrypting the registry are higher than for many other parts of the system.)
- The data? (In that case, why not isolate the data on an encrypted volume, and leave the OS in normal state? This would make your work easier, too.)

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Thanks

by steve In reply to Security gain vs cost

Hey TobiF

Thanks for this. I am trying to build a case file on this. Ironically, i can find next to nothing on Google, which leads me to believe that no one would do this. However, i do want to try and deliver an answer more than 'No one else has done it as it is a bad idea.' I am truly grateful for your thoughts so far. However, the server has a RAID array, which i can only imagine is going to cause more problems. I cannot quite get the rationale as to why he would want to do it and maybe i should focus on this first but, mobile device, sure. If you have a laptop then encryption offers an additional level of security from a casual theft of someone accessing the data but, if someone wants to get that data and has the tools and the time, then they will get through. I am not sure how encryption will work on the RAID array and just the whole overhead of this seems far too much trouble. As you say, Cost vs Gain. Any information gathered or anything you are away of is truly appreciated. As i have said they would be better spending their money on a kick-*** alarm system and wireless cameras than messing around with encryption on their server. I can encrypt the company laptops in a few hours but, a server with 100GB+ of data? It will take a while and they will have the whole office down for a day. minimum and i am fearful of what would be the state of play at the end. Thanks again TobiF for this and anything else you may be able to provide.

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Clarify

by robo_dev In reply to Why i should not use encr ...

The 'password before boot' thing sounds like you are encrypting the whole hard drive.

You would typically do this on a portable device, to protect against it getting stolen.
Is this a portable device?

Further, I am not 100% sure that most encryption software of this type will even work properly with a server OS. If, for example, your server has a RAID array, I'm not sure how well TrueCrypt will play with that.

What threat is your client trying to avoid?

Does your client understand that the files are not encrypted when the server is powered on and connected, possibly even connected to the Internet?

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Clarification - A little

by steve In reply to Clarify

As it stands, my client has got paranoid about somebody stealing the server. My whole argument is that you would only encrypt portable devices and that encrypting the server, or generally any static device, is a little over the top. My concern is exactly as above, encrypting a RAID array sounds like a whole heap of trouble. As far as i am concerned, having a secure password for logon is enough. If someone steals the server, and has enough time and resources, they would probably be able to bypass the encryption anyway. I fear that you are also right. Server OS, and lets be fair, an oldish one at that may not even want to play ball with encryption. My view is that the money would be better spent getting a secure unit for the server to go in. I despair. I guess i am looking for someone who may have had any experience of this previously. I can understand someone encrypting laptop or flash drive. Even a PC in the domain should just be accessing files from the server, therefore, nothing of any major confidentiality should be on the PC. They are an accounting firm using Sage and Iris mostly, and all this is stored on the server. I was hoping someone may have something concrete to say, 'NO, this is definitely a bad idea because.........' Any help would be hugely appreciated. I have a meeting with them next Tuesday and i am keen to get as much ammo for this as possible. Thanks for your thoughts thus far.

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Rack-mount server in a locked rack

by robo_dev In reply to Clarification - A little

in a locked closet, with a security camera watching it. That's what I have at home.

The bigger risk for him is something like a broken water pipe or a lightning strike....in other words an offsite backup that is tested periodically is what he really needs.

The APC Netbotz RackBotz monitoring appliance will send an alert when the server cabinet door is opened, and also can send images from the color camera that's part of the unit. It also monitors temperature, humidity, etc. I also have one of these at home.

The Windows EFS (Encrypted File System) feature would be a possibility if you really had to do encryption, but it would need to play well with whatever app you're using...and if the app uses a database, then the answer is no.

I would suspect that the accounting app stores the data in a format that is undecipherable to any normal humans, in any case.

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Physical Security

by steve In reply to Rack-mount server in a lo ...

Thanks again robo-dev
Indeed, my whole take on this is that the physical security is far more important. And the boot level password is hardly worth much if someone hacks your system from the outside and we have significant protection on that side. And stopping someone physically walking out with your server is a better spend than any attempt to encryption, with the potential hazards and additional overhead on the hardware. Truly appreciate your help and insight on this.

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