Data security remains a significant concern for organizations handling sensitive information. To avoid unauthorized access and data breaches of such data, effective security procedures are crucial. Encryption, a fundamental component of data security, ensures that intercepted data remains unreadable without the appropriate decryption keys.

Among the many cloud-based platforms, Snowflake stands out by offering robust encryption mechanisms. Snowflake protects data throughout its lifecycle, from data ingestion and storage to querying, ensuring the data is encrypted and secure. But how is Snowflake data encrypted?

Let’s look into the details of Snowflake data encryption, how to set it up, and some associated best practices.

Understanding End-To-End Encryption in Snowflake

End-to-end encryption (E2EE) in Snowflake is a technique for securing data and preventing third parties from accessing it while in transit to and from Snowflake or at rest.

Snowflake Data Encryption: Snowflake End-to-End Encryption

The E2EE system consists of the following elements:

  • The Snowflake client in the business network.
  • A data file staging area, which can be Snowflake-provided or customer-provided.
  • Depending on the cloud platform, Snowflake operates on a virtual network (VNet) or secure virtual private cloud (VPC).

For data files, Snowflake supports both external (customer-provided) and internal (Snowflake-provided) stages. Snowflake’s internal stages allow you to upload and organize your data files before loading the data into tables.

On the other hand, customer-provided stages, such as Amazon S3 or Microsoft Azure, are directories or containers that you manage. If you have data already stored in a cloud storage service and want to copy it into Snowflake, customer-provided storage areas are a good option.

Does SnowSQL Encrypt by Default?

SnowSQL, the command-line client for Snowflake, encrypts data by default to ensure robust data security. To protect data in transit, it utilizes TLS (Transport Layer Security). For data at rest, Snowflake automatically employs AES-256 encryption, ensuring high-level protection.

Snowflake supports key-pair authentication, which can use both encrypted and unencrypted private keys. However, to enhance security, using encrypted keys is strongly recommended. You can also implement client-side encryption for data files staged in external storage locations.

For more information on how to configure and customize the encryption settings, consult the Snowflake documentation.

Understanding Encryption Key Management in Snowflake 

Snowflake employs two main encryption key management strategies: Snowflake-managed keys and customer-managed keys.

Snowflake-Managed Keys

In addition to AES 256-bit encryption, Snowflake-managed keys provide strong security. These keys use a hierarchical key model that includes four levels of keys: root keys, account master keys, table master keys, and file keys. Snowflake employs automatic key rotation when the keys are more than 30 days old.

Since Snowflake handles all the data encryption and key management aspects and eliminates the need for manual intervention, it simplifies security management for its customers.

Customer-Managed Keys

By utilizing the key management service of the cloud provider that hosts your Snowflake account, you can maintain a customer-managed key, which is a master encryption key. The key management services include Google Cloud Key Management Service (KMS), AWS KMS, and Azure Key Vault.

While using customer-managed keys provides added security customization and control, it also requires diligent management of key lifecycle and security practices.

When you combine the customer-managed key with a Snowflake-managed key, it’s referred to as Tri-Secret Secure. This model requires you to actively manage the availability and security of your keys, ensuring continuous access to encrypted data.

For more detailed information on encryption key management in Snowflake, refer to the Snowflake documentation.

Setting Up Encryption in Snowflake

Snowflake employs robust encryption mechanisms to secure data both at rest and in transit. One such mechanism is end-to-end encryption (E2EE), which helps minimize the attack surface and safeguard data by preventing third parties from accessing it while in transit or at rest.

Here’s how you can set up encryption in Snowflake:

  • For One or More Data File Uploads to a Stage:

If the stage is external, you have the option to encrypt the data files using client-side encryption. However, if the data is not encrypted, Snowflake encrypts it when loaded into a table.

If the stage is internal—a Snowflake stage—then the Snowflake client automatically encrypts the data files on the local machine of the user before being transmitted to the internal stage. The data files are also encrypted after being loaded into the stage.

  • Loading Data from the Stage into a Table:

The data from the stage is converted into Snowflake’s proprietary file format, followed by storing it in a cloud storage container. Snowflake uses TLS to secure all data in transit. When data in a table is altered or processed, Snowflake decrypts it and re-encrypts it after the transformations and operations are done.

  • Unloading Query Results into an Internal or External Stage:

You can optionally encrypt results unloaded into a customer-managed stage with client-side encryption. On the other hand, Snowflake automatically encrypts results unloaded into a Snowflake-provided stage.

  • Downloading Data Files from the Stage and Decrypting on the Client Side:

You retrieve encrypted data files from the platform and then use your own decryption tools and keys to decrypt the data on your local machine. This process of data encryption in Snowflake ensures that the data remains secure.

Use Client-Side Encryption

Snowflake Data Encryption: Client-Side Encryption

For an additional layer of security, use client-side encryption, where data is encrypted at the cloud storage source before being transmitted to Snowflake. To do this, you can generate and manage encryption keys using tools like AWS KMS or Azure Key Vault. This ensures that data is encrypted before copying it to the staging area.

Ingesting Encrypted Client-Side Data into Snowflake

Snowflake Data Encryption: Ingesting Encrypted Client Side Data into Snowflake

Snowflake uses a client-side master key, supporting the client-side encryption protocol when writing data to or reading data from a cloud storage service stage.

For loading client-side encrypted data from a customer-provided stage, use a CREATE STAGE command. This will help create a named stage object with an extra MASTER_KEY parameter, which requires either a 128-bit or 256-bit AES key encoded in Base64. Then, you can load the data from the stage into your Snowflake tables.

A named stage object stores settings specific to a stage and facilitates the easy loading and unloading of data between Snowflake and a designated cloud storage container.

Following these steps will help effectively set up and manage data encryption in Snowflake, ensuring that your data remains secure at all times.

Best Practices for Data Security in Snowflake

Ensuring data security in Snowflake is crucial for protecting sensitive information and maintaining compliance with regulatory standards. Here are some best practices for enhancing data security in Snowflake:

Regular Audits and Monitoring

  • Conduct routine audits and continuous monitoring to track all the activities and modifications made within your Snowflake environment.
  • Utilize Snowflake’s comprehensive alerting and logging functionalities to monitor user activity, access trends, and detect any anomalous activity.
  • Implement automated alert systems to promptly notify administrators of any suspicious activity.

Access Control and User Permissions

  • Implement strict access controls and user permissions based on the principle of least privilege.
  • Assign roles and permissions according to each user’s specific requirements, ensuring they have access only to the data and functions necessary for their roles.
  • Regularly review and update these permissions to adapt to changing roles and responsibilities.

Data Encryption

  • For robust Snowflake data encryption at rest and in transit, utilize the platform’s comprehensive encryption capabilities.
  • Consider implementing client-side encryption for additional security before data is transmitted to Snowflake.

Network Security

  • Set up network policies to restrict access to your Snowflake environment.
  • Use IP whitelisting to control which IP addresses can access your data and enforce secure connections through virtual private networks (VPNs) or private links.

Data Masking and Tokenization

  • Protect sensitive data by applying data masking and tokenization techniques. These methods help obfuscate sensitive information, ensuring that unauthorized users cannot view or exploit it.

Enable Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

  • For additional security beyond usernames and passwords, implement multi-factor authentication.
  • MFA involves two or more verification factors, such as passwords combined with a smartphone authentication or security token.

Regular Key Rotation

  • Rotate encryption keys regularly to mitigate the risk of key compromise.
  • Regular key rotation reduces the likelihood that a compromised key can be used to access sensitive data over a long period.

Data Encryption in Snowflake with Hevo

Setting up data encryption in Snowflake often presents challenges, such as configuring encryption settings, ensuring secure data transfers, and maintaining data integrity. To address these challenges, Hevo, a real-time ELT no-code data pipeline platform, offers impressive solutions. It can help simplify the integration, cleansing, and transfer of data to Snowflake while also providing strong encryption methods to enhance data security.

Hevo supports integration with 150+ data sources (40+ free sources) and implements encryption at multiple stages to safeguard the data from unauthorized access while also ensuring compliance with industry standards. Here are some of Hevo’s features:

  • End-to-End Encryption: Hevo ensures Snowflake data encryption in transit. During transmission, data is encrypted using TLS to prevent interception. Internally, Hevo uses Kafka with SSL for secure node communication. For data at rest, strong encryption and regular key rotation are employed. Temporarily retained data, like staging data, is encrypted and deleted after use.
  • Auto-Schema Mapping: Hevo automates the laborious process of managing schemas by identifying the format of incoming data and replicating it to the target schema. Based on your data replication needs, you have the option of selecting Full or Incremental Mappings.
  • Incremental Data Load: Hevo supports real-time and incremental transfers of updated data, ensuring efficient bandwidth utilization. This capability keeps your Snowflake environment up-to-date with low latency, enhancing overall performance and efficiency.

Conclusion

Snowflake data security necessitates a thorough encryption strategy that protects data at rest and in transit, in addition to implementing robust access restrictions. However, configuring encryption directly within Snowflake can sometimes be complex and time-consuming; Hevo Data offers an effective solution to help overcome these limitations.

Hevo automates encryption, ensuring the secure management of your data throughout its lifecycle. The platform seamlessly integrates with Snowflake, enhancing its security features and enabling your business to protect your data effectively and cost-efficiently.

FAQs

Q1. What is the encryption in Snowflake’s internal stage?

  • Snowflake’s internal stage encryption protects data at rest using AES-256 encryption. All files stored in internal stages for querying, loading, and unloading are automatically encrypted with this standard.

Q2. How does Snowflake handle data encryption both at rest and in transit?

  • Snowflake uses robust mechanisms to handle data encryption both at rest and in transit. It secures data in transit using Transport Layer Security (TLS), ensuring secure communication between clients and servers.
  • For data at rest, Snowflake employs a hierarchical key model, using a combination of AES-256 encryption and periodic key rotation to safeguard stored data.
Sarthak Bhardwaj
Customer Experience Engineer, Hevo

Sarthak brings two years of expertise in JDBC, MongoDB, REST API, and AWS, playing a pivotal role in Hevo's triumph through adept problem-solving and superior issue management.

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