Welcome!

Cloud Expo Authors: Elizabeth White, Roger Strukhoff, Jason Bloomberg, Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski

Related Topics: Cloud Expo, Virtualization, Web 2.0, Security

Cloud Expo: Article

How to Make Public and Private Clouds Secure

What controls can you put in place to restrict data loss?

With Gartner predicting $150 billion in cloud-related revenues by 2013, the march towards "the cloud" is not abating. As the market grows, "Is the cloud secure?" is a very familiar refrain frequently asked by corporate management. While those in IT will certainly tell you no environment will be completely secure, there are measures you can take when moving to the cloud to mitigate security risks to reasonable levels. Transitioning to the cloud can often be more secure than a traditional in-house solution. Cloud providers have collectively invested billions in implementing standards and procedures to safeguard data. They need to compete based on not only price, but the breadth of their security, driving innovation to the benefit of the customer.

In a public cloud environment the end user has a solution that is highly automated. Customers can put their applications in the cloud and control all of the individual attributes of their services. If you develop products and services in a testing or development environment, the high level of scalability offered by an on-demand computing solution makes it easy to clone server images and make ad-hoc changes to your infrastructure.

The public cloud of course lacks the visibility of control of a private model. Choosing the public cloud also means giving up a measure of control, in terms of where the processing takes place. With a single tenant private cloud, you have more specialized control with fewer people sharing resources. Each environment poses security challenges that can be managed by following standards and choosing the right partners.

Ensuring Security
What controls can you put in place to restrict data loss?

A sophisticated identity management system is crucial for protection from password hacking. Instituting and following a real password management system with true randomization is essential for data security. While it seems like a relic from the 1990s, it is shocking to see the number of IT staff or administrators who still use "123456" or "admin" as a password; a practice that should be ruthlessly weeded out. Consider using a secure password management service that protects user ID and password data and can flag users that repeat passwords across various systems. Using LDAP controls and administering credentials will keep access information from being scattered around. Additional controls such as running scripts to remove access when employees leave the organization are also recommended for identity management security.

After your internal processes such as identity management are better implemented and followed, you should turn your attention to the best practices of your various outsourcers. You may be at the point where you are working with several different SaaS providers. Do they follow your preferred procedures for identity management security? If possible, the centralization of these practices under your review can provide an added measure of security. Also, when choosing a solution provider, you should ask not only about their identity management practices, but also hiring and background check procedures for their administrators and about how access to data is controlled.

Over time, as cloud technology evolves, providers are standardizing policies that dictate where data physically resides. You might see user-defined policies with restrictions on crossing certain state or country boundaries as companies become increasingly globalized.

Specifically for public environments, data in the cloud is typically shared in proximity to other customers. While providers encrypt this data, it's still important to look at how the data is being segregated. Ask your solution provider to follow best encryption practices to be sure your data is both safe and usable. When your data is no longer needed, the cloud provider should take the right steps for deletion. In addition, you want a provider to offer managed services, including firewalls and the latest intrusion detection systems.

Another important consideration is the legal ramifications and jurisdiction that cover data standards. While your data containing PII (Personally Identifiable Information) might be considered "secure" in one country, it may fall under different regulations in another. European governments often have very strict rules for privacy protections compared to other countries. When choosing a cloud solution provider, you need to make sure your data can be quickly relocated in case your service agreement ends. Knowing the physical location of your data is important for such recovery efforts.

Availability and uptime are of course important for end customer satisfaction, but as a client, you need guarantees for data availability. Will internal IT staff have consistent access to company data to perform their daily job functions? Defined service-level agreements should detail availability and include penalty clauses if the agreement's terms are not upheld.

According to Gartner research, 40 or more states have formal regulations in place governing how companies can protect PII. In addition to the traditional focus on credit card, bank account, and other finance-centric information, there are also concerns around Social Security numbers and any other type of data that warrants privacy restrictions. The implications are that a customer should choose an established cloud solution provider that places system controls on the movement of PII within their cloud network. If sensitive data ends up on servers outside of the United States, it can create serious legal issues. Beyond PII, many companies run the risk of exposing their own intellectual property or other trade secrets.

Companies need their cloud providers to implement and follow strict controls that are routinely checked by independent auditors. Auditors exist to validate reporting to make sure procedures are in place to protect PII and other data. Performing thorough reviews of physical and logical access controls, auditors can proactively alert companies to security holes before there is a data breach. Auditors can review if background checks aren't performed or are not completed properly. Backup procedures of customer data are also intensely scrutinized. Who has access to backup data? Does more than one organization touch the backup data?

As companies utilize more and more SaaS solutions to handle business needs, standards such as SAS 70 become more and more prevalent across multiple industries. As a flexible accounting standard that can be altered to fit the custom needs of SaaS providers, SAS 70 is becoming a de-facto standard in the space. While it is indeed a little disingenuous for companies to dictate their own control objectives to the auditing firm, those that take the auditing seriously can proactively find and fix minor issues before they become massive problems.

Choosing the Right Vendor and Managing Outsourcers
The barriers to entry for cloud solution providers are quite low. Less-established players might not be as fastidious about where your data might travel, or who has access to analyze that data. You can't go just on the cost of the service if the tradeoff is lack of security oversight or a broader risk of the company going under.

You need to ask potential solution providers a lot of questions, digging beneath their standard marketing literature. What about business continuity? Is there a documented process for this? If one of their data centers is destroyed, what does that mean for your business? Do they only have one location? If so, you need to explore their backup and disaster recovery procedures, as well as the security risks of those procedures. Another important consideration is the company's actions after a security breach. Do you trust them to tell you security has been compromised so you can take steps to mitigate damage?

Negotiating with the provider can afford extra levels of protection. Strengthened layers of encryption and set standards of data storage can be put in the contract as a safeguard.

You also need to look beyond the cloud provider at any other SaaS type provider, whether a CRM solution or any other kind. A complete cloud solution and other business processes are often enabled by a chain of outsourcers. For customers that manage very sensitive data, they should request independent security audits of outsourcers, for instance any hosting companies used by the cloud provider.

Nightmare scenarios develop when an outsourcer in the fourth degree of separation exposes confidential information. You need to properly review the data standards for all of these outsourcers and have the right to refuse certain unreliable outsourcers from having any contact with your data. All of these SaaS companies have an obligation to enforce and monitor where customer data goes and how it is accessed.

Outsourcers should follow defined password assignment standards that decrease the likelihood of password hijacking. With multi-tenant cloud environments, the risks are greater so, to decrease these risks, the vendor needs to illustrate the controls they put in place to afford some separation between tenants.

Putting It Together
Maintaining optimal security is a two-step process: first, outline data requirements in terms of privacy and user access; and second, vet the right solution provider that can implement both technical and philosophical strategies to minimize risks. With the rate of technological innovation across all sectors, new tools to protect and manage cloud-based data are being researched and developed. As these strategies move beyond development into the implementation stage, cloud providers will have additional weapons to safeguard customer data and ensure security.

More Stories By Lucas Roh

Lucas Roh is CEO and President of Hostway. From Hostway's very beginning, he has been the driving force in the company's dedication to reliability and easy-to-use services through an ongoing commitment to emerging technology. Since starting the company in 1998, he has charted Hostway's growth to achieve an international presence, rank as one of the top-five Web hosting companies globally and remain profitable every quarter since its founding. Recognizing this success, the Chicago Business Hall of Fame named Roh Chicago's Young Business Leader of the Year in 2004.

Previously, Roh was a computer scientist at Argonne National Laboratory, conducting pioneering research in the emerging field of computer technologies integrated into mathematics. For six years, he worked in software and hardware engineering for several companies, including Tektronics and Hewlett-Packard. In the late 1980s, he founded Wavetech Corp, a software company. He has taught at Colorado State University and has authored more than 20 academic papers.

Roh received a Ph.D. in computer science from Colorado State University in 1995 and an undergraduate degree in physics from the University of Chicago in 1988.

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
giladpn 03/13/11 04:28:00 AM EDT

Specifically for Data in the Cloud, if you are looking for a Data Security & Privacy solution here is a new one (disclaimer: we're the proud creators):

Cloud Expo Latest Stories
SYS-CON Events announced today that TechXtend (formerly Programmer’s Paradise), a leading value-added provider of server and storage virtualization, and r-evolution will exhibit at SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. TechXtend (formerly Programmer’s Paradise) is a leading value-added provider of software, systems and solutions for corporations, government organizations, and academic institutions across the United States and Canada. TechXtend is the Exclusive Reseller in the United States for r-evolution
The consumption economy is here and so are cloud applications and solutions that offer more than subscription and flat fee models and at the same time are available on a pure consumption model, which not only reduces IT spend but also lowers infrastructure costs, and offers ease of use and availability. In their session at 15th Cloud Expo, Ermanno Bonifazi, CEO & Founder of Solgenia, and Ian Khan, Global Strategic Positioning & Brand Manager at Solgenia, will discuss this shifting dynamic with an example of a top European Telco provider. Find out how they are leveraging the power of acloud-based consumption model services to offer more value to the mass market and enable a new revenue model that embraces the true meaning of the Third Industrial Revolution.
The emergence of cloud computing and Big Data warrants a greater role for the PMO to successfully manage enterprise transformation driven by these powerful trends. As the adoption of cloud-based services continues to grow, a governance model is needed to orchestrate enterprise cloud implementations and harness the power of Big Data analytics. In his session at 15th Cloud Expo, Mahesh Singh, President of BigData, Inc., to discuss how the Enterprise PMO takes center stage not only in developing the appropriate governance model but also in collaborating with key stakeholders to ensure a successful transformation.
Every healthy ecosystem is diverse. This is especially true in cloud ecosystems, where portability and interoperability are more important than old enterprise models of proprietary ownership. In his session at 15th Cloud Expo, Mark Baker, Server Product Manager at Canonical/Ubuntu, will discuss how single vendors used to take the lead in creating and delivering technology, but in a cloud economy, where users want tools of their preference, when and where they need them, it makes no sense.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cloudian, Inc., the leading provider of hybrid cloud storage solutions, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Cloudian is a Foster City, Calif.-based software company specializing in cloud storage. Cloudian HyperStore® is an S3-compatible cloud object storage platform that enables service providers and enterprises to build reliable, affordable and scalable hybrid cloud storage solutions. Cloudian actively partners with leading cloud computing environments including Amazon Web Services, Citrix Cloud Platform, Apache CloudStack, OpenStack and the vast ecosystem of S3 compatible tools and applications. Cloudian's customers include Vodafone, Nextel, NTT, Nifty, and LunaCloud. The company has additional offices in China and Japan.
In today's application economy, enterprise organizations realize that it's their applications that are the heart and soul of their business. If their application users have a bad experience, their revenue and reputation are at stake. In his session at 15th Cloud Expo, Anand Akela, Senior Director of Product Marketing for Application Performance Management at CA Technologies, will discuss how a user-centric Application Performance Management solution can help inspire your users with every application transaction.
Come learn about what you need to consider when moving your data to the cloud. In her session at 15th Cloud Expo, Skyla Loomis, a Program Director of Cloudant Development at Cloudant, will discuss the security, performance, and operational implications of keeping your data on premise, moving it to the cloud, or taking a hybrid approach. She will use real customer examples to illustrate the tradeoffs, key decision points, and how to be successful with a cloud or hybrid cloud solution.
Cloud computing started a technology revolution; now DevOps is driving that revolution forward. By enabling new approaches to service delivery, cloud and DevOps together are delivering even greater speed, agility, and efficiency. No wonder leading innovators are adopting DevOps and cloud together! In his session at DevOps Summit, Andi Mann, Vice President of Strategic Solutions at CA Technologies, will explore the synergies in these two approaches, with practical tips, techniques, research data, war stories, case studies, and recommendations.
The 16th International Cloud Expo announces that its Call for Papers is now open. 16th International Cloud Expo, to be held June 9–11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City brings together Cloud Computing, APM, APIs, Security, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportunity. Submit your speaking proposal today!
14th International Cloud Expo, held on June 10–12, 2014 at the Javits Center in New York City, featured three content-packed days with a rich array of sessions about the business and technical value of cloud computing, Internet of Things, Big Data, and DevOps led by exceptional speakers from every sector of the IT ecosystem. The Cloud Expo series is the fastest-growing Enterprise IT event in the past 10 years, devoted to every aspect of delivering massively scalable enterprise IT as a service.
Hardware will never be more valuable than on the day it hits your loading dock. Each day new servers are not deployed to production the business is losing money. While Moore’s Law is typically cited to explain the exponential density growth of chips, a critical consequence of this is rapid depreciation of servers. The hardware for clustered systems (e.g., Hadoop, OpenStack) tends to be significant capital expenses. In his session at 15th Cloud Expo, Mason Katz, CTO and co-founder of StackIQ, to discuss how infrastructure teams should be aware of the capitalization and depreciation model of these expenses to fully understand when and where automation is critical.
Over the last few years the healthcare ecosystem has revolved around innovations in Electronic Health Record (HER) based systems. This evolution has helped us achieve much desired interoperability. Now the focus is shifting to other equally important aspects – scalability and performance. While applying cloud computing environments to the EHR systems, a special consideration needs to be given to the cloud enablement of Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VistA), i.e., the largest single medical system in the United States.
In his session at 15th Cloud Expo, Mark Hinkle, Senior Director, Open Source Solutions at Citrix Systems Inc., will provide overview of the open source software that can be used to deploy and manage a cloud computing environment. He will include information on storage, networking(e.g., OpenDaylight) and compute virtualization (Xen, KVM, LXC) and the orchestration(Apache CloudStack, OpenStack) of the three to build their own cloud services. Speaker Bio: Mark Hinkle is the Senior Director, Open Source Solutions, at Citrix Systems Inc. He joined Citrix as a result of their July 2011 acquisition of Cloud.com where he was their Vice President of Community. He is currently responsible for Citrix open source efforts around the open source cloud computing platform, Apache CloudStack and the Xen Hypervisor. Previously he was the VP of Community at Zenoss Inc., a producer of the open source application, server, and network management software, where he grew the Zenoss Core project to over 10...
Most of today’s hardware manufacturers are building servers with at least one SATA Port, but not every systems engineer utilizes them. This is considered a loss in the game of maximizing potential storage space in a fixed unit. The SATADOM Series was created by Innodisk as a high-performance, small form factor boot drive with low power consumption to be plugged into the unused SATA port on your server board as an alternative to hard drive or USB boot-up. Built for 1U systems, this powerful device is smaller than a one dollar coin, and frees up otherwise dead space on your motherboard. To meet the requirements of tomorrow’s cloud hardware, Innodisk invested internal R&D resources to develop our SATA III series of products. The SATA III SATADOM boasts 500/180MBs R/W Speeds respectively, or double R/W Speed of SATA II products.
As more applications and services move "to the cloud" (public or on-premise) cloud environments are increasingly adopting and building out traditional enterprise features. This in turn is enabling and encouraging cloud adoption from enterprise users. In many ways the definition is blurring as features like continuous operation, geo-distribution or on-demand capacity become the norm. NuoDB is involved in both building enterprise software and using enterprise cloud capabilities. In his session at 15th Cloud Expo, Seth Proctor, CTO at NuoDB, Inc., will discuss the experiences from building, deploying and using enterprise services and suggest some ways to approach moving enterprise applications into a cloud model.