Welcome!

@CloudExpo Authors: Pat Romanski, Yeshim Deniz, Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Aruna Ravichandran

Related Topics: @CloudExpo

@CloudExpo: Article

Strategies for Securing Enterprise-to-Cloud Communication

IaaS vendors and Enterprise consumers share responsibilities for enabling Cloud Security

The Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) published Version 2.1 of its Guidance for Critical Areas of Focus in Cloud Computing with a significant and comprehensive set of recommendations that enterprises should incorporate within their security best practices if they are to use cloud computing in a meaningful way.

The Guidance provides broad recommendations for operational security concerns including application security, encryption & key management, and identity & access management. In this article, we will consider security implications of REST- and SOAP-based communication between consumers and specifically, Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) providers.

Cloud Application Security
Cloud application security requires looking at classic application security models and extending these models out to dynamic and multi-tenant architectures. While planning for cloud-based application security, DMZ-resident application security should be used as the starting point. DMZ-based security enforcement models should be extended to incorporate secure enterprise-to-cloud traffic management and operational control.  IaaS cloud providers design their management APIs to accommodate consumers with varying skill sets. Popular IaaS providers (Amazon EC2, Rackspace, Opsource, GoGrid) publish RESTful APIs for keeping a low threshold-of-difficulty to accommodate a broad set of consumers that lack sophisticated SOAP-based communication stacks but can easily consume XML/JSON using RESTful interaction. Amazon EC2, however, also provides a sophisticated WDSL for SOAP-based interaction. Although cloud providers have a greater responsibility of implementing extensive application security provisions while accommodating consumers of varying technical skills, cloud consumers also have to share the burden of risk mitigation by ensuring that their API calls into the cloud providers are secure and clean. The potential for a cascading effect in a shared, multi-tenant environment is high: a single poorly formed SOAP- or REST-based API request can cause a Denial of Service (DoS) attack potentially shutting down access to the cloud management APIs for many.

Implications for Cloud Consumers
Cloud consumers, for example enterprises, usually make outbound calls into an IaaS provider using a REST-based or a SOAP-based API for provisioning and managing server instances. Such standards-based API calls provide significant flexibility and ease for automating cloud resource management. However, this flexibility also opens the door to security risks that should be addressed. Here are a few operational recommendations, expanding on the CSA Guidance for Application Security, that cloud consumers should consider for lowering their risk profile while interacting with an IaaS:

  1. Enable Encryption: Cloud consumer should use SSL (HTTPS) for encrypting data-in-motion. When available, data-at-rest encryption (WS-Security) should also be used for invoking IaaS management services. Enabling content-level encryption for SOAP and REST responses ensures that only authorized consumer can decrypt responses with their private keys and use the API for managing their cloud images.
  2. Check Requests & Responses: Before invoking a REST- or SOAP-based call to an IaaS, consumers should determine whether the invocation is in the correct format and does not contain malware and that the request message integrity has not been compromised. The response from SOAP and REST-XML/JSON calls should also be scanned for malware and possible corruption before consumption by enterprise cloud management applications. Fortunately, structured data such as XML and SOAP provide the ability to check for message hygiene through a variety of ways starting with the simplest check: XSD Schema Validation. A schema, embedded in a WSDL file, provides constraints for message data types, structure, and content (through facets). Enforcing schema validation or simple deep-content validation through regular expression for REST calls ensures that the messages adhere to their required structure. Additional checks must be performed for malware that may be transmitted in a request or response to identify and quarantine infected messages. Such protective actions can prevent malware cascading through an enterprise or its IaaS provider.
  3. Enable Web services: For building a robust and secure framework for interacting with IaaS providers, SOAP-based interaction provides richness over RESTful XML/JSON. With SOAP use, enterprises can leverage their Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) and have full key life-cycle management including the ability to issue, sign, revoke and validate X.509 certificates being used in SOAP calls. By using key-pairs, enterprises have extensive control over authentication, message integrity and privacy while interacting with an IaaS. Using X.509 with GETs in a RESTful interaction is difficult and non-standard (other than for SSL mutual authentication that most IaaS providers do not support).

Implications for Cloud Providers
IaaS vendors usually provide a simple-to-use, web-based UI that enables user to manage cloud-based server images. This web-based interface is great to get up and running quickly, however, for enterprises that deploy numerous images, automated scripting for image management is essential. Most IaaS vendors provide REST, SOAP or Command Line scripting APIs for automating image management functions. Here are a few operational recommendations, expanding on the CSA Guidance for Application Security, that cloud providers should consider for lowering their risk profile:

  1. Provide standards-based flexibility: From the simplest of RESTful XML/JSON GETs to sophisticated signed SOAP requests with embedded X.509, IaaS providers have to address requirements from users with highly-varied technical skills. For large enterprise customers, IaaS vendors must provide strong authentication capabilities and rich SOAP-based interaction, whereas for smaller companies that may not have technical skill for handling a SOAP stack, simple RESTful interaction is usually preferred. Within simple, RESTful type interaction, there is a glaring lack of standardization on identity token use. Enterprises serious about using IaaS have to consider multi-cloud deployments for higher reliability. Standards-based identity tokens - perhaps OAuth for RESTful APIs and WS-X.509 for SOAP APIs - will provide a common management framework for enterprises to build redundancy through multi-cloud deployments.
  2. Enable comprehensive encryption: IaaS vendors must provide both data-in-motion security via protocols such as SSL and data-at-rest security through standards such as WS-Security for satisfying corporate security requirements. All IaaS vendors provide SSL-based encryption for invoking management APIs, however, content-level encryption for data-at-rest is not implement. IaaS providers such as Amazon EC2 support X.509 certificates for authentication and also provides WS-Signature capabilities for their SOAP-based API. Other IaaS vendors should provide such SOAP-based APIs along with more granular security controls. IaaS vendors should support SOAP APIs and provide granular encryption for XML/SOAP responses as an additional level of encryption control so that only enterprises with strict ownership and control of their private keys can view encrypted information within a XML/SOAP response.
  3. Perform comprehensive API testing: Before releasing a set cloud management calls to consumers, the APIs should be thoroughly tested across all exposed interaction formats, e.g., JSON/XML-REST and SOAP over HTTP(S).  The testing should be comprehensive and should cover four aspects of testing:  functional, performance, interoperability, and security.  Functional testing ensures that the cloud provisioning and management calls behave as expected and that no regression errors have been introduced.  Such functional testing has to cover all message types, identity tokens and security artifacts.  Performance testing can establish concurrency and throughput profiles for the APIs.  Interoperability testing ensures the APIs are consumable by the widest array of application platforms.  Adhering to WS-I Basic Profiles, for example, ensures that service description (WSDL) for the cloud management API can be used by .NET, Java, and LAMP environments with relative ease.  Finally, and perhaps, the most overlooked aspect of testing is a full penetration and security test for the IaaS management API that identifies REST, XML and SOAP-based vulnerabilities before the IaaS is exposed for public consumption. The multiplicative effect of a multi-tenant setting and multiple configuration APIs results is a dramatic expansion of the attack surface area. Identifying and remediating such risks through exhaustive penetration testing should be an essential component of IaaS providers Application Security operational plan.

Conclusions
Cloud application security requires extending risk planning and analysis beyond corporate boundaries. Enterprises that are already comfortable with deploying applications in the DMZ for deep integration with external trading partner have already laid the fo undations for interacting securely with IaaS cloud providers. Such mature enterprises have already figured out how to invoke external APIs via XML/SOAP, manage their identity tokens, encrypt communication and monitor traffic. Utilizing IaaS provider APIs and building a reliable multi-cloud application strategy requires extending their existing application infrastructure for centralized cloud management and control. Cloud providers, public and private, on-premise and off-premise have a higher burden of managing cloud application security than cloud service consumers. Cloud providers are required to balance security with flexibility. Greater security may discourage users with lower technical skills whereas enterprise customers may expect only the highest level of security. Cloud vendors should continue to focus on providing flexibility while extending security options available to users. They should also consider using standards-based identity tokens and work towards a standard management API that enables enterprises to build secure and reliable multi-cloud deployments.

References

  1. Guidance for Critical Areas of Focus in Cloud Computing
  2. Beginner's Guide to OAUTH
  3. Understanding WS-Security
  4. Pillars of SOA Testing

More Stories By Mamoon Yunus

Mamoon Yunus is an industry-honored CEO and visionary in Web Services-based technologies. As the founder of Forum Systems, he pioneered XML Security Gateways & Firewalls and was granted a patent for XML Gateway Appliances. He has spearheaded Forum's direction and strategy for eight generations of award-winning XML Security products. Prior to Forum Systems, Yunus was a Global Systems Engineer for webMethods (NASD: WEBM) where he developed XML-based business integration and architecture plans for Global 2000 companies such as GE, Pepsi, Siemens, and Mass Mutual. He has held various high-level executive positions at Informix (acquired by IBM) and Cambridge Technology Group.

He holds two Graduate Degrees in Engineering from MIT and a BSME from Georgia Institute of Technology. InfoWorld recognized Yunus as one of four "Up and coming CTOs to watch in 2004." He is a sought-after speaker at industry conferences such as RSA, Gartner, Web Services Edge, CSI, Network Interop, and Microsoft TechEd. Yunus has the distinction of showcasing Forum Systems' entrepreneurial leadership as a case study at the MIT Sloan School of Management. He has also been featured on CNBC as Terry Bradshaw's "Pick of the Week."

@CloudExpo Stories
Data scientists must access high-performance computing resources across a wide-area network. To achieve cloud-based HPC visualization, researchers must transfer datasets and visualization results efficiently. HPC clusters now compute GPU-accelerated visualization in the cloud cluster. To efficiently display results remotely, a high-performance, low-latency protocol transfers the display from the cluster to a remote desktop. Further, tools to easily mount remote datasets and efficiently transfer...
Though cloud is the future of enterprise computing, a smooth transition of legacy applications and systems is critical for seamless business operations. IT professionals are eager to start leveraging the cost, scale and other benefits of cloud, but with massive investments already in place in existing infrastructure and a number of compliance and resource hurdles, it can be challenging to move to a cloud-based infrastructure.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Avere Systems, a leading provider of enterprise storage for the hybrid cloud, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Avere delivers a more modern architectural approach to storage that doesn't require the overprovisioning of storage capacity to achieve performance, overspending on expensive storage media for inactive data or the overbui...
Containers are rapidly finding their way into enterprise data centers, but change is difficult. How do enterprises transform their architecture with technologies like containers without losing the reliable components of their current solutions? In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 21st Cloud Expo, Tony Campbell, Director, Educational Services at CoreOS, will explore the challenges organizations are facing today as they move to containers and go over how Kubernetes applications can deploy with lega...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Avere Systems, a leading provider of hybrid cloud enablement solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Avere Systems was created by file systems experts determined to reinvent storage by changing the way enterprises thought about and bought storage resources. With decades of experience behind the company’s founders, Avere got its ...
Amazon is pursuing new markets and disrupting industries at an incredible pace. Almost every industry seems to be in its crosshairs. Companies and industries that once thought they were safe are now worried about being “Amazoned.”. The new watch word should be “Be afraid. Be very afraid.” In his session 21st Cloud Expo, Chris Kocher, a co-founder of Grey Heron, will address questions such as: What new areas is Amazon disrupting? How are they doing this? Where are they likely to go? What are th...
Today most companies are adopting or evaluating container technology - Docker in particular - to speed up application deployment, drive down cost, ease management and make application delivery more flexible overall. As with most new architectures, this dream takes significant work to become a reality. Even when you do get your application componentized enough and packaged properly, there are still challenges for DevOps teams to making the shift to continuous delivery and achieving that reducti...
As hybrid cloud becomes the de-facto standard mode of operation for most enterprises, new challenges arise on how to efficiently and economically share data across environments. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Dr. Allon Cohen, VP of Product at Elastifile, will explore new techniques and best practices that help enterprise IT benefit from the advantages of hybrid cloud environments by enabling data availability for both legacy enterprise and cloud-native mission critical applications. By rev...
The next XaaS is CICDaaS. Why? Because CICD saves developers a huge amount of time. CD is an especially great option for projects that require multiple and frequent contributions to be integrated. But… securing CICD best practices is an emerging, essential, yet little understood practice for DevOps teams and their Cloud Service Providers. The only way to get CICD to work in a highly secure environment takes collaboration, patience and persistence. Building CICD in the cloud requires rigorous ar...
Recently, REAN Cloud built a digital concierge for a North Carolina hospital that had observed that most patient call button questions were repetitive. In addition, the paper-based process used to measure patient health metrics was laborious, not in real-time and sometimes error-prone. In their session at 21st Cloud Expo, Sean Finnerty, Executive Director, Practice Lead, Health Care & Life Science at REAN Cloud, and Dr. S.P.T. Krishnan, Principal Architect at REAN Cloud, will discuss how they b...
SYS-CON Events announced today that SkyScale will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. SkyScale is a world-class provider of cloud-based, ultra-fast multi-GPU hardware platforms for lease to customers desiring the fastest performance available as a service anywhere in the world. SkyScale builds, configures, and manages dedicated systems strategically located in maximum-security...
As you move to the cloud, your network should be efficient, secure, and easy to manage. An enterprise adopting a hybrid or public cloud needs systems and tools that provide: Agility: ability to deliver applications and services faster, even in complex hybrid environments Easier manageability: enable reliable connectivity with complete oversight as the data center network evolves Greater efficiency: eliminate wasted effort while reducing errors and optimize asset utilization Security: imple...
High-velocity engineering teams are applying not only continuous delivery processes, but also lessons in experimentation from established leaders like Amazon, Netflix, and Facebook. These companies have made experimentation a foundation for their release processes, allowing them to try out major feature releases and redesigns within smaller groups before making them broadly available. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Brian Lucas, Senior Staff Engineer at Optimizely, will discuss how by using...
In this strange new world where more and more power is drawn from business technology, companies are effectively straddling two paths on the road to innovation and transformation into digital enterprises. The first path is the heritage trail – with “legacy” technology forming the background. Here, extant technologies are transformed by core IT teams to provide more API-driven approaches. Legacy systems can restrict companies that are transitioning into digital enterprises. To truly become a lead...
DevOps at Cloud Expo, taking place October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 21st Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to w...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Daiya Industry will exhibit at the Japanese Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Ruby Development Inc. builds new services in short period of time and provides a continuous support of those services based on Ruby on Rails. For more information, please visit https://github.com/RubyDevInc.
When it comes to cloud computing, the ability to turn massive amounts of compute cores on and off on demand sounds attractive to IT staff, who need to manage peaks and valleys in user activity. With cloud bursting, the majority of the data can stay on premises while tapping into compute from public cloud providers, reducing risk and minimizing need to move large files. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Scott Jeschonek, Director of Product Management at Avere Systems, discussed the IT and busine...
As businesses evolve, they need technology that is simple to help them succeed today and flexible enough to help them build for tomorrow. Chrome is fit for the workplace of the future — providing a secure, consistent user experience across a range of devices that can be used anywhere. In her session at 21st Cloud Expo, Vidya Nagarajan, a Senior Product Manager at Google, will take a look at various options as to how ChromeOS can be leveraged to interact with people on the devices, and formats th...
First generation hyperconverged solutions have taken the data center by storm, rapidly proliferating in pockets everywhere to provide further consolidation of floor space and workloads. These first generation solutions are not without challenges, however. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Wes Talbert, a Principal Architect and results-driven enterprise sales leader at NetApp, will discuss how the HCI solution of tomorrow will integrate with the public cloud to deliver a quality hybrid cloud e...
Is advanced scheduling in Kubernetes achievable? Yes, however, how do you properly accommodate every real-life scenario that a Kubernetes user might encounter? How do you leverage advanced scheduling techniques to shape and describe each scenario in easy-to-use rules and configurations? In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 21st Cloud Expo, Oleg Chunikhin, CTO at Kublr, will answer these questions and demonstrate techniques for implementing advanced scheduling. For example, using spot instances ...