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The Ins and Outs of Data Center Protection and Security

This blog post gives an overview of how data center security works and how we provide solutions for protection against cyber attacks.

Securing the Digital Fortress: Addressing Challenges in Data Center and Cloud Security

Data center security is described as a set of policies, precautions and practices designed to mitigate unauthorized access and manipulation of its resources. Denial of service (DoS), data theft, alteration and loss are some common attacks among the many security problems data centers face that are designed to gain access to protected systems. Data security issues can be a nightmare for companies, especially those that rely on massive data centers that host personal and financial information.

According to research from Anixter, 39% of companies state negligence was the primary factor in recent data breaches. In comparison, malicious and criminal attacks account for 37% and have an average cost of $5.5 million. This, of course, is one of the reasons why more data centers and companies are switching to the cloud to store data, but the risks of storing data in the cloud can also be enormous.

How Data Center Security Works

Data center security follows the workload across physical data centers and multi-cloud environments to protect applications, infrastructure, data, intellectual property and more. The practice applies from traditional data centers based on physical servers to more modern data centers based on virtualized servers, including the cloud.

Traditional data centers are networks of computing and storage resources that enable the delivery of shared applications and data. The key components include routers, switches, firewalls, storage systems, servers and application-delivery controllers.

Data centers contain hundreds to thousands of physical and virtual servers segmented by application type, data classification zone and other methods. Creating and managing proper security rules to control access to and between resources can be incredibly difficult.

There are three critical needs for data center security, with visibility being the first. When securing the data center, there needs to be the visibility of users, devices, networks, workloads, applications and processes. Visibility helps avoid performance bottlenecks and provides capacity planning and upgrades. It can also increase the speed of attack detection and identification of malicious users and speed up the forensics and post-incident response times.

Segmentation is another critical factor in security and helps reduce the scope of an attack by limiting its ability to spread through the data center from one resource to another. This is a boon for servers on delayed patch cycles and helps to reduce the possibility of vulnerabilities that could be exploited before a patch can be deployed. Make no mistake, segmentation won't prevent unwanted intrusion, but it will slow hackers down and provide security professionals the time they need to implement that patch.

Threat protection is the primary key to preventing attacks, as workloads constantly move across physical data centers and multi-cloud environments. Those underlying security policies must dynamically change to help enable real-time policy enforcement and security orchestration that follows those workloads everywhere. Take data centers with multiple customers, for example. One customer may attempt to compromise another's server to steal data or proprietary property. Malicious hackers often try to gain access to an employee's authentication credentials by infecting an end-point device with malware or using phishing techniques to trick an employee into providing them.

Companies and data centers can mitigate those disruptions by deploying comprehensive, integrated security devices or embedded systems that help streamline threat protection, detection and mitigation.

Hardware and Embedded Systems to Mitigate Unwanted Attacks

Data center Integrated hardware and software can help mitigate unwanted attacks on the host server and storage subsystem. (Image credit: Microchip)

Some companies and data centers employ hardware and embedded systems to help mitigate unwanted attacks. These can be implemented on both the host server and storage system and can help trace the data protection systems to provide a comprehensive overview of the threat. On the host side, implementing solutions such as smart memory controllers can help identify and prevent intrusion using secure EEC memory that provides a buffer between the CPU and DRAM.

Trust shields and root of trust solutions, which secure systems at the hardware and firmware level. These solutions provide runtime firmware protection that anchors the secure boot process while establishing an entire chain of trust for the system's platform. Secure control modules (SCMs) are similar and provide secure BIOS and SPI Flash capabilities that protect firmware and critical system components from unwanted attacks.

SmartIOC and SmartROC Secure Controllers will also offer increased security by implementing controller-based encryption capabilities while providing a boost to system performance in storage applications. Secure field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) and system on a chip (SoC) FPGAs are other solutions that provide increased security applications within the server and storage architecture. These combine three layers of security, including those for data, design and hardware levels. Some include crypto co-processors to manage data securely.

Believe it or not, power supplies can be a target of cyberattacks, with DoS being the most vulnerable. This can be mitigated using authentic supplies, the proper firmware, and root-of-trust components, including secure dsPIC® digital signal controllers (DSCs).

Preventing or mitigating attacks can also be done on the storage subsystems side as well. This can be done using secure NVMe® and SSD controllers, which take advantage of PCIe® link encryption, quality of service (QoS) and secure boot and data encryption capabilities. Secure UBM controllers and smart PCIe switches also help on the server side, which can be used to secure backplanes for storage enclosure management and secure boot and firmware features.

It's important to note that while every company and data center may employ the latest cybersecurity protection, data is never truly protected. Hackers who want in bad enough will employ every measure possible to gain entry. The solutions offered in this post are designed to slow intrusion from the latest threats and provide the best possible mitigation measures available today.

Kyle Gaede, Nov 30, 2023

Tags/Keywords: Computing and Data Center, Security

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