|By Philip Lieberman||
|March 29, 2010 05:00 PM EDT||
Cloud Security on Ulitzer
Safeguarding a cloud infrastructure from unmonitored access, malware and intruder attacks grows more challenging for service providers as their operations evolve. And as a cloud infrastructure grows, so too does the presence of unsecured privileged identities – those so-called super-user accounts that hold elevated permission to access sensitive data, run programs, and change configuration settings on virtually every IT component. Privileged identities exist on all physical and virtual operating systems, on network devices such as routers, switches, and firewalls, and in programs and services including databases, line-of-business applications, Web services, middleware, VM hypervisors and more.
Left unsecured, privileged accounts leave an organization vulnerable to IT staff members who have unmonitored access to sensitive customer data and can change configuration settings on critical components of your infrastructure through anonymous, unaudited access. Unsecured privileged accounts can also lead to financial loss from failed regulatory audits such as PCI-DSS, HIPAA, SOX and other standards that require privileged identity controls.
One of the largest challenges for consumers of cloud services is attaining transparency into how a public cloud provider is securing its infrastructure. For example, how are identities being managed and secured? Many cloud providers won’t give their customers much more of an answer than a SAS 70 certification. How can we trust in the cloud if the vendors of cloud-based infrastructures neglect to implement both the process and technology to assure that segregation of duties are enforced, and customer and vendor identities are secured?
The Cloud Vendor’s Challenge: Accountability
Cloud computing has the potential to transform business technology, but it brings security issues that IT organizations should consider before trusting their sensitive data to the cloud. These issues should cause security experts and auditors to rethink many fundamental assumptions about Privileged Identity Management in terms of who is responsible for managing these powerful privileged accounts, how they manage them, and who exactly is in control.
Historically, IT data centers have always been in secured physical locations. Now, with cloud computing, those locations are no longer maintained directly by the IT organization. So the questions are these: how do you get accountability for management of physical assets that are no longer under your physical control, and exactly what control mechanisms are in place? Can you trust your cloud vendor to secure your most sensitive data? Moreover, if there’s a security breach in the cloud, who is to blame? Is it the cloud vendor that disclaims all legal liability in its contract, or an enterprise that relinquishes control of its sensitive data in the first place?
Cloud computing promises to make IT more efficient and deliver more consistent service levels. However, there’s a paradox that when it comes to security (and control over privileged identities in particular) cloud services are often among the least efficient. Many cloud service providers’ processes – based on ad-hoc techniques like scripting of password changes – are slow, expensive and unreliable. And that’s dangerous.
Fortunately the industry is starting to move beyond paralyzing discussions about the security and compliance problems that arise from cloud computing to address them head on. One example is the Trusted Cloud Initiative, which was launched at RSA Security Conference 2010. The goal of the initiative is “to help cloud providers develop industry-recommended, secure and interoperable identity, access and compliance management configurations, and practices.” However, only time will tell if it will help standardize cloud computing or turn out to be a technology certification of little use.
Several major cloud vendors and ISPs have begun the task of integrating security solutions that are capable of managing the large number of privileged identities that make up their infrastructure (hardware, VM hosts, VM Image OS, application stacks). This has really broken the fundamental model of IT being in control of security and has started to blur the lines between vendor and customer when it comes to the management of security.
Today, some privileged identity management frameworks are capable of managing “from iron to application,” giving cloud customers a full measure of control over credentials used in each physical and virtual layer of the stack and the potential to gain full visibility into who has access. In contrast, scripts and other ad-hoc methods to manage privileged identities can no longer keep pace or meet regulatory requirements in fast-changing and highly virtualized cloud computing environments.
In addition, cloud vendors must move to become identity providers of authentication services, multi-tenancy control, and X.509 certificate issuance for applications, end-points, users, and encrypted sessions. It is inappropriate for cloud vendors to expect their customers to use disconnected and third party providers of certificate services for what should be an inherent and integrated feature of every cloud vendor’s offering.
The End User’s Challenge: Transparency
In my opinion, the cloud is a really good, compelling idea. It can reduce the cost of IT dramatically. Given that cloud computing is available, the idea of building new data centers these days seems like a last-century way of doing things. And since many organizations lack the appropriate personnel to manage the IT resources they have, they’re willing to forego seeing and touching their own systems in their secured data centers – and the corresponding feeling of control – and have turned to outsourcing. Cloud computing is essentially the next generation of outsourcing, so we’re not only reducing manpower but also getting rid of our hard assets entirely. By moving these services to data centers anywhere on the planet we’re offered the potential for service delivery that costs far less than the alternatives. And the idea of outsourcing security and liability is extraordinarily compelling.
However, enterprises should ask the right questions of their cloud providers before taking the leap into the cloud and blindly assuming that their data is safe there. You should ask your cloud service provider to meet every point of compliance that your IT organization is required to meet, and should ask your cloud service provider every question that your IT auditors ask you.
Auditors, too, share a responsibility to verify that client organizations are able to track the usage and control of their data and resources inside the cloud. In keeping with major regulatory mandates, auditors are obligated to confirm segregation of duties and the enforcement of “need to know” and “need to access” policies. And, potential cloud customers should ask what provisions have been made to provide the required trail of access to the user’s auditors on demand – and what provisions are in place to allow the sharing of privileged control between cloud vendor and user for appropriate reporting and verification.
Because today’s cloud vendors offer literally no transparency and little information, don’t be surprised if you don’t like the answers you get. Most cloud vendors would say that for security purposes, it’s on a “need to know” basis and you don’t need to know. Others state that they’re SAS 70 compliant, but that’s really just a self-certification. And because each measure of security adds to cloud vendor costs, it is appropriate for consumers of cloud services to demand to know precisely what measures are in place – and what auditing processes are supported – as part of the service agreement.
Be persistent. What kind of security does the cloud service provider have in place to protect your privileged accounts and most sensitive data? Do they have Privileged Identity Management technology in place? How do they control privileged accounts used in cloud infrastructure to manage sensitive systems and data? How do they manage cloud stacks at the physical layer and application stack layers ? What is your access to audit records?
Whatever regulatory standards your organization must meet, so too must your cloud vendor. So if you think that by venturing into the cloud you’re saving yourself from regulatory headaches, think again.
Security is the greatest barrier towards adoption of the cloud, and it’s no great surprise that cloud security was a major theme at this year’s RSA Conference. Unfortunately, improvements in cloud security won’t be seen as a priority until a major breach has a significant impact on one or more cloud service vendors and their customers. This needs to change. When it comes to cloud security, it is the end-user’s duty to understand what processes and methodologies the cloud vendor is using to protect the customer’s most sensitive assets.
|douglas.barbin 03/31/10 06:09:00 PM EDT|
Very good article and very comprehensive view of the assurance issues surrounding identity management in the cloud. One clarification (and I could see what you were getting at so its not as if you misconstrued) but I wanted to clarify that SAS 70 is not a self-certification.
First, SAS 70 is not a certification at all although I agree with you that technology marketers love to issue press releases saying that it is. Second, you are correct in that there are no prescriptive standards and that what is being tested are the control activities and objectives set by the provider.
That said, the two do have to interrelate for a CPA to render an unqualified opinion. For instance, if the (high-level) control objective provides reasonable assurance against unauthorized access and the (detailed) control activities tested by the auditor were only paper-based (policies) with no technical preventive or detective controls, the result would likely be a qualified or adverse opinion on that objective if not the broader controls.
The bottom line is while yes, the cloud provider dictates what the objectives and activities are, you won't get an unqualified (some refer to as clean) opinion if the controls are not suitably designed and/or fairly presented.
What do a firewall and a fortress have in common? They are no longer strong enough to protect the valuables housed inside. Like the walls of an old fortress, the cracks in the firewall are allowing the bad guys to slip in - unannounced and unnoticed. By the time these thieves get in, the damage is already done and the network is already compromised. Intellectual property is easily slipped out the back door leaving no trace of forced entry. If we want to reign in on these cybercriminals, it's hig...
Dec. 27, 2014 04:00 PM EST Reads: 2,592
"ElasticBox is an enterprise company that makes it very easy for developers and IT ops to collaborate to develop, build and deploy applications on any cloud - private, public or hybrid," stated Monish Sharma, VP of Customer Success at ElasticBox, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at DevOps Summit, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Dec. 27, 2014 01:30 PM EST Reads: 2,753
The term culture has had a polarizing effect among DevOps supporters. Some propose that culture change is critical for success with DevOps, but are remiss to define culture. Some talk about a DevOps culture but then reference activities that could lead to culture change and there are those that talk about culture change as a set of behaviors that need to be adopted by those in IT. There is no question that businesses successful in adopting a DevOps mindset have seen departmental culture change, ...
Dec. 27, 2014 12:45 PM EST Reads: 2,656
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Chief Ar...
Dec. 27, 2014 12:30 PM EST Reads: 3,470
The 4th International DevOps Summit, co-located with16th International Cloud Expo – being held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY – announces that its Call for Papers is now open. Born out of proven success in agile development, cloud computing, and process automation, DevOps is a macro trend you cannot afford to miss. From showcase success stories from early adopters and web-scale businesses, DevOps is expanding to organizations of all sizes, including the world's large...
Dec. 27, 2014 12:00 PM EST Reads: 3,745
DevOps Summit 2015 New York, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that it is now accepting Keynote Proposals. 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 wait for long development cycles that produce software that is obsolete...
Dec. 27, 2014 12:00 PM EST Reads: 2,823
The definition of IoT is not new, in fact it’s been around for over a decade. What has changed is the public's awareness that the technology we use on a daily basis has caught up on the vision of an always on, always connected world. If you look into the details of what comprises the IoT, you’ll see that it includes everything from cloud computing, Big Data analytics, “Things,” Web communication, applications, network, storage, etc. It is essentially including everything connected online from ha...
Dec. 27, 2014 12:00 PM EST Reads: 3,541
The security devil is always in the details of the attack: the ones you've endured, the ones you prepare yourself to fend off, and the ones that, you fear, will catch you completely unaware and defenseless. The Internet of Things (IoT) is nothing if not an endless proliferation of details. It's the vision of a world in which continuous Internet connectivity and addressability is embedded into a growing range of human artifacts, into the natural world, and even into our smartphones, appliances, a...
Dec. 27, 2014 11:30 AM EST Reads: 3,556
"SAP had made a big transition into the cloud as we believe it has significant value for our customers, drives innovation and is easy to consume. When you look at the SAP portfolio, SAP HANA is the underlying platform and it powers all of our platforms and all of our analytics," explained Thorsten Leiduck, VP ISVs & Digital Commerce at SAP, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 15th Cloud Expo, held Nov 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Dec. 27, 2014 11:00 AM EST Reads: 2,643
SAP is delivering break-through innovation combined with fantastic user experience powered by the market-leading in-memory technology, SAP HANA. In his General Session at 15th Cloud Expo, Thorsten Leiduck, VP ISVs & Digital Commerce, SAP, discussed how SAP and partners provide cloud and hybrid cloud solutions as well as real-time Big Data offerings that help companies of all sizes and industries run better. SAP launched an application challenge to award the most innovative SAP HANA and SAP HANA...
Dec. 27, 2014 11:00 AM EST Reads: 2,977
Connected devices and the Internet of Things are getting significant momentum in 2014. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Hunter, Chief Scientist & Technology Evangelist at Greenwave Systems, examined three key elements that together will drive mass adoption of the IoT before the end of 2015. The first element is the recent advent of robust open source protocols (like AllJoyn and WebRTC) that facilitate M2M communication. The second is broad availability of flexible, cost-effective ...
Dec. 27, 2014 11:00 AM EST Reads: 3,295
Scott Jenson leads a project called The Physical Web within the Chrome team at Google. Project members are working to take the scalability and openness of the web and use it to talk to the exponentially exploding range of smart devices. Nearly every company today working on the IoT comes up with the same basic solution: use my server and you'll be fine. But if we really believe there will be trillions of these devices, that just can't scale. We need a system that is open a scalable and by using ...
Dec. 27, 2014 11:00 AM EST Reads: 3,437
How do APIs and IoT relate? The answer is not as simple as merely adding an API on top of a dumb device, but rather about understanding the architectural patterns for implementing an IoT fabric. There are typically two or three trends: Exposing the device to a management framework Exposing that management framework to a business centric logic Exposing that business layer and data to end users. This last trend is the IoT stack, which involves a new shift in the separation of what stuff happe...
Dec. 27, 2014 10:00 AM EST Reads: 3,353
DevOps is all about agility. However, you don't want to be on a high-speed bus to nowhere. The right DevOps approach controls velocity with a tight feedback loop that not only consists of operational data but also incorporates business context. With a business context in the decision making, the right business priorities are incorporated, which results in a higher value creation. In his session at DevOps Summit, Todd Rader, Solutions Architect at AppDynamics, discussed key monitoring techniques...
Dec. 27, 2014 10:00 AM EST Reads: 2,976
The 3rd International @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that it is now accepting Keynote Proposals. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal and enterprise IT since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago. All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices - computers, smartphones, tablets, and sensors - connected to th...
Dec. 27, 2014 09:00 AM EST Reads: 4,108
SYS-CON Events announced today that Gridstore™, the leader in hyper-converged infrastructure purpose-built to optimize Microsoft workloads, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Gridstore™ is the leader in hyper-converged infrastructure purpose-built for Microsoft workloads and designed to accelerate applications in virtualized environments. Gridstore’s hyper-converged infrastructure is the ...
Dec. 27, 2014 09:00 AM EST Reads: 3,007
Fundamentally, SDN is still mostly about network plumbing. While plumbing may be useful to tinker with, what you can do with your plumbing is far more intriguing. A rigid interpretation of SDN confines it to Layers 2 and 3, and that's reasonable. But SDN opens opportunities for novel constructions in Layers 4 to 7 that solve real operational problems in data centers. "Data center," in fact, might become anachronistic - data is everywhere, constantly on the move, seemingly always overflowing. Net...
Dec. 27, 2014 08:00 AM EST Reads: 2,737
An entirely new security model is needed for the Internet of Things, or is it? Can we save some old and tested controls for this new and different environment? In his session at @ThingsExpo, New York's at the Javits Center, Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, reviewed hands-on lessons with IoT devices and reveal a new risk balance you might not expect. Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, has more than nineteen years' experience managing global security operations and asse...
Dec. 27, 2014 08:00 AM EST Reads: 3,336
SYS-CON Media announced that Centrify, a provider of unified identity management across cloud, mobile and data center environments that delivers single sign-on (SSO) for users and a simplified identity infrastructure for IT, has launched an ad campaign on Cloud Computing Journal. The ads focus on security: how an organization can successfully control privilege for all of the organization’s identities to mitigate identity-related risk without slowing down the business, and how Centrify provides ...
Dec. 27, 2014 07:00 AM EST Reads: 2,702
The Internet of Things promises to transform businesses (and lives), but navigating the business and technical path to success can be difficult to understand. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Sean Lorenz, Technical Product Manager for Xively at LogMeIn, demonstrated how to approach creating broadly successful connected customer solutions using real world business transformation studies including New England BioLabs and more.
Dec. 27, 2014 06:45 AM EST Reads: 3,557