Crypto-Agility: Are You Ready to Implement It?

We're all familiar with "business agility" — an organization's ability to adapt, react, stay competitive, and reduce time to market. Increasingly, there's a move towards "crypto-agility" — protecting your data and systems by using the latest encryption and cryptographic techniques. Crypto-agility relies on similar concepts to business agility: adaptive algorithms, reacting to the latest threats, staying ahead of hackers, and rapidly implementing changes. We'll break down what crypto-agility is, how cryptography works in cybersecurity, and what you can do to keep your security at an advantage.

Crypto-Agility Enhances Cryptography Across Networks, Systems and Data

Crypto-agility is your business's ability to adapt and implement new algorithms, encryption methods, and cryptographic protocols without having a significant impact on your data, networks, systems, and services.

Cryptographic standards can change quickly as encryption experts discover and implement more sophisticated algorithms to protect data. Whether driven by more powerful processing technology, innovative cryptographic thinking, or as a reaction to advances in hacking, your cybersecurity must stay one step ahead.

At the same time, you don't want to re-engineer your entire network, system, and data layers every time there's some new cryptographic process. Instead, you want agile cryptography that integrates with your existing systems and secures your data so you can make rapid changes with minimal disruption.

The Changing Nature of Cryptography and Network Security

Cryptography lets you protect your networks, systems, and devices using algorithms to encode and decode information, so it's only accessible by qualified, authenticated, approved users and systems. From a cybersecurity perspective, encryption applies a set of rules-based equations and mathematical codes to scramble data based on a particular input and key — known as "Public Key Infrastructure (PKI)."

After the information has been scrambled, it can be transmitted safely across a network and received at the destination. Once it arrives, the data is decrypted using a private, paired key. This cryptography is managed through digital security certificates that contain unique instructions, keys, and permissions for encryption.

How to Achieve Crypto-Agility in Cybersecurity

True crypto-agility requires a combination of cybersecurity strategy and investment, a robust, adaptable encryption and digital certificate platform, and strong policies and protocols. Your approach might include:

  • Auditing all current cryptographic algorithms, integrations, keys, certificates, and other resources for full visibility across the organization
  • Establishing a cryptographic baseline and the minimum and desired standards you need from an encryption platform
  • Deciding on your cryptographic and encryption policies, for example:
    • Enforcing a company-wide policy on introducing, modifying, managing, and decommissioning cryptographic algorithms and certificates
    • Ensuring that you only use the latest encryption and regularly update your cryptography
    • Insisting that third parties and other organizations adhere to your cryptographic policies
    • Updating your IT operations to allow for rapid cryptographic replacement in the event of vulnerability discoveries or hacks
  • Exploring different PKI and digital certificate platforms to support a crypto-agility approach
  • Building a cryptographic layer that completely integrates with your existing systems and networks
  • Ensuring that the principle of strong, rapidly-replaceable, easily-managed cryptography is part of your cybersecurity DNA
  • Automating your digital certificate and PKI management and implementation
  • Adhering to cybersecurity best practices for digital certificates

These are just starting points, but each of them will enhance your crypto-agility, letting you adapt to a rapidly changing cybersecurity environment.

To learn more about how HID Global can help support crypto-agility for your business, download our white paper about automating digital certificate lifecycle management.

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Mrugesh Chandarana is a Senior Product Manager in Identity and Access Management Solutions at HID Global, where he focuses on IoT and PKI solutions. He has more than ten years of cybersecurity industry experience in areas such as risk management, threat and vulnerability management, application security and PKI. He has held product management positions at RiskSense, WhiteHat Security (acquired by NTT Security), and RiskVision (acquired by Resolver, Inc.).