How does enterprise key management work?

How does enterprise key management work?

EKM begins with key generation. Secure methods such as key generators, AES encryption algorithms, or random number generators are commonly employed. Organizations must ensure the security  of the location where the key is generated to avoid becoming vulnerable or rendering it unsuitable for encryption.

Following key generation, the next step in the key lifecycle is the secure distribution of keys. Keys must be distributed to authorized users through encrypted connections like TLS or SSL to safeguard their confidentiality. Implementing measures to prevent man-in-the-middle attacks is paramount in maintaining the integrity of key distribution processes.

Once keys are distributed, they are utilized for cryptographic operations. Only authorized users must be able to access the keys to prevent misuse.

After encryption, the keys must be securely stored to facilitate future decryption. The most secure storage methods include Hardware Security Modules (HSMs) or Cloud HSMs. Alternatively, if the keys are utilized in a cloud environment, the External Key Management Service provided by the Cloud Service Provider can be leveraged to ensure secure key storage.

Key rotation becomes necessary when a key reaches the end of its crypto period, which refers to the time period during which the key remains valid. Rotating keys involves retiring and replacing the old key with a new one. The data encrypted with the old key is first decrypted and then re-encrypted using the new key. Regular key rotation mitigates the risk associated with prolonged key usage, reducing the likelihood of key theft or compromise. In cases where a key is suspected to be compromised, key rotation may occur before the crypto period expires.

In case of a compromised key, two approaches can be taken: key revocation or key destruction.

Revoking a key render, it unusable for encrypting or decrypting data, even if its crypto period is still valid. On the other hand, key destruction involves permanently deleting the key from the key manager database or any other storage system. This irreversible action makes key recreation impossible, except when a backup image is available.