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Amazon adds free encryption to storage service

Server Side Encryption protects data stored in Amazon's data center

Using Amazon Web Services' new Server Side Encryption feature, enterprises will at no extra cost be able to encrypt data stored on the company's Simple Storage Service (S3), Amazon said on Tuesday.

The Server Side Encryption feature has been added to simplify the process of protecting data stored on S3. Previously, enterprises had to choose an encryption algorithm, create and store keys, and adapt applications to ensure that all data was encrypted and decrypted for every operation. Now users can leave that to Amazon. The Server Side Encryption feature handles all encryption, decryption and key management transparently, according to a blog post.

The data is encrypted when an extra header is added when writing an object to S3. Each object is encrypted with a unique key. As an additional safeguard, this key itself is encrypted with a regularly rotated master key. The encryption algorithm Amazon uses is AES-256, it said.

Enterprises can start to take advantage of Server Side Encryption using Amazon's Management Console and the S3 API.

That Amazon added encryption on its servers isn't terribly exciting, according to Swedish security expert Jakob Schlyter. The feature would help protect data if someone managed to break into one of Amazon's data centers, and steal a disk that stored company data. That has to be weighed against what would happen if something went wrong with Amazon's key management, and data was lost because of that, Schlyter said, and added that he would still use client-side encryption.

On Tuesday, Amazon also said that the number of objects stored on S3 increased to 566 billion during the third quarter of this year, after reaching 262 billion objects during the last quarter of 2010.

The company is also hiring new staff to the S3 team, including a software development manager, development engineer and business development representative, who will all be based in Seattle.

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