Security "Bits"

Salesforce "Platform Encryption"

By Nat Kausik | July 16, 2015 at 3:35 PM


Yesterday, Salesforce announced a very interesting suite of technologies dubbed Saleforce Shield.  The announcement is in response to growing interest from Salesforce customers for enhanced security.

Salesforce already does an excellent job of securing their service, but wanted to improve on it to satisfy customer demand.  Amongst the three capabilities of Salesforce Shield, the most interesting is Platform Encryption.   Salesforce customers want to encrypt sensitive data in their Salesforce instance to protect against data breach.  If a hacker breaches Salesforce servers, he should not get the customer's sensitive data.

It is easy to encrypt data, but strongly encrypted data cannot support search and sort functions that are key to usability. First-generation encryption gateways preserved search and sort through the use of weak cyclic ciphers that hark back to the Roman Empire and are easy to crack via statistical attacks.  Specifically, these gateways replace each string in the plaintext with a deterministic set of cipher strings in the ciphertext.  Searching the plaintext for a keyword is equivalent to searching the ciphertext for the cipher strings.   But a such schemes are vulnerable, since an attacker who saves a copy of the phone book to the encrypted store would immediately have the plaintext/ciphertext maps for all the names in the phone book.

Last week, Bitglass announced the industry's first and only true AES-256 encryption that is both searchable and sortable.   The technology is patented (US Pat. 9,047,480)  and reviewed by experts including Professor Martin Hellman of Stanford University.   The technology essentially allows the customer to get the app from the SaaS provider, e.g. Salesforce, but store sensitive data on their private storage, combining the flexibility of public cloud apps with the security of private cloud data storage.  The split storage architecture also helps organizations satisfy data-residency requirements.

Bitglass's breakthrough technology is used by customers for encrypting data on cloud apps including Salesforce.  When should customers use Bitglass over Salesforce Platform Encryption for encrypting data-at-rest?  The table below compares key capabilities delivered by the two technologies.

In summary, Salesforce Platform Encryption is a good addition to the security of the Salesforce platform. Likewise, Google uses its own platform encryption for all cloud data at rest.  However, Platform Encryption does not secure against breach of A hacker who gets into Salesforce can freely decrypt encrypted data.  Secondly, since Salesforce has access to all of the plaintext data, the customer does not have exclusive control of the data. Third, all third-party applications have access to your Salesforce data in the clear.  On the surface, this looks like a good thing, but if you dig deeper you realize that these third party SaaS apps backup their database and your data is now out of your control, in the clear, for ever. In contrast, Bitglass Searchable Encryption puts you, the customer in sole control of the data and only you have access to the plaintext data.

Customers seeking to protect their data against breach, satisfy data-residency and compliance requirements and retain sole access to their data must consider Bitglass.


                                                                                           Bitglass For Salesforce  


Nat Kausik

CEO | Bitglass



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