Welcome!

Cloud Expo Authors: Yeshim Deniz, Greg Ness, Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski, Carmen Gonzalez

Related Topics: Security, Cloud Expo

Security: Article

The Cloud Challenge: Security

It's the end-user’s duty to understand what processes and methodologies the cloud vendor is using

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.

Conclusion
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.

More Stories By Philip Lieberman

Philip Lieberman is President & CEO of Lieberman Software. You can reach him and learn more about Privileged Identity Management in the cloud by contacting Lieberman Software

Comments (1) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Most Recent Comments
douglas.barbin 03/31/10 06:09:00 PM EDT

Philip,

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.

Best Regards,
Doug

@CloudExpo Stories
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...
We are all here because we are sold on the transformative promise of The Cloud. But what good is all of this ephemeral, on-demand infrastructure if your usage doesn't actually improve the agility and speed of your business? How must Operations adapt in order to avoid stifling your Cloud initiative? In his session at DevOps Summit, Damon Edwards, co-founder and managing partner of the DTO Solutions, will highlight the successful organizational, process, and tooling patterns of high-performing c...
Software-driven innovation is becoming a primary approach to how businesses create and deliver new value to customers. A survey of 400 business and IT executives by the IBM Institute for Business Value showed businesses that are more effective at software delivery are also more profitable than their peers nearly 70 percent of the time (1). DevOps provides a way for businesses to remain competitive, applying lean and agile principles to software development to speed the delivery of software that ...
Docker offers a new, lightweight approach to application portability. Applications are shipped using a common container format and managed with a high-level API. Their processes run within isolated namespaces that abstract the operating environment independently of the distribution, versions, network setup, and other details of this environment. This "containerization" has often been nicknamed "the new virtualization." But containers are more than lightweight virtual machines. Beyond their small...
The move in recent years to cloud computing services and architectures has added significant pace to the application development and deployment environment. When enterprise IT can spin up large computing instances in just minutes, developers can also design and deploy in small time frames that were unimaginable a few years ago. The consequent move toward lean, agile, and fast development leads to the need for the development and operations sides to work very closely together. Thus, DevOps become...
Cloud Expo 2014 TV commercials will feature @ThingsExpo, which was launched in June, 2014 at New York City's Javits Center as the largest 'Internet of Things' event in the world.

ARMONK, N.Y., Nov. 20, 2014 /PRNewswire/ --  IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced that it is bringing a greater level of control, security and flexibility to cloud-based application development and delivery with a single-tenant version of Bluemix, IBM's

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...
The major cloud platforms defy a simple, side-by-side analysis. Each of the major IaaS public-cloud platforms offers their own unique strengths and functionality. Options for on-site private cloud are diverse as well, and must be designed and deployed while taking existing legacy architecture and infrastructure into account. Then the reality is that most enterprises are embarking on a hybrid cloud strategy and programs. In this Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo (http://www.CloudComputingExpo.com...
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...
Leysin American School is an exclusive, private boarding school located in Leysin, Switzerland. Leysin selected an OpenStack-powered, private cloud as a service to manage multiple applications and provide development environments for students across the institution. Seeking to meet rigid data sovereignty and data integrity requirements while offering flexible, on-demand cloud resources to users, Leysin identified OpenStack as the clear choice to round out the school's cloud strategy. Additional...
Technology is enabling a new approach to collecting and using data. This approach, commonly referred to as the "Internet of Things" (IoT), enables businesses to use real-time data from all sorts of things including machines, devices and sensors to make better decisions, improve customer service, and lower the risk in the creation of new revenue opportunities. In his General Session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Dave Wagstaff, Vice President and Chief Architect at BSQUARE Corporation, discuss the ...
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...
"BSQUARE is in the business of selling software solutions for smart connected devices. It's obvious that IoT has moved from being a technology to being a fundamental part of business, and in the last 18 months people have said let's figure out how to do it and let's put some focus on it, " explained Dave Wagstaff, VP & Chief Architect, at BSQUARE Corporation, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
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...
Verizon Enterprise Solutions is simplifying the cloud-purchasing experience for its clients, with the launch of Verizon Cloud Marketplace, a key foundational component of the company's robust ecosystem of enterprise-class technologies. The online storefront will initially feature pre-built cloud-based services from AppDynamics, Hitachi Data Systems, Juniper Networks, PfSense and Tervela. Available globally to enterprises using Verizon Cloud, Verizon Cloud Marketplace provides a one-stop shop fo...
"Our premise is Docker is not enough. That's not a bad thing - we actually love Docker. At ActiveState all our products are based on open source technology and Docker is an up-and-coming piece of open source technology," explained Bart Copeland, President & CEO of ActiveState Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at DevOps Summit at Cloud Expo®, held Nov 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
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...
Infor has announced a new feature Infor CloudSuite™ Aerospace & Defense (A&D) to aid compliance with International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). The ITAR function will serve as a complementary function for new or existing Infor CloudSuite A&D customers, to facilitate compliance for Infor customers that are creating a US defense article or performing a US defense service and wish to benefit from cloud-services. The ITAR regulation serves to manage handling and access requirements for dat...
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...