Click here to close now.




















Welcome!

@CloudExpo Authors: Elizabeth White, Samuel Scott, Dana Gardner, Adrian Bridgwater, Liz McMillan

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Containers Expo Blog, Agile Computing, Cloud Security

@CloudExpo: 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):

@CloudExpo Stories
Any Ops team trying to support a company in today’s cloud-connected world knows that a new way of thinking is required – one just as dramatic than the shift from Ops to DevOps. The diversity of modern operations requires teams to focus their impact on breadth vs. depth. In his session at DevOps Summit, Adam Serediuk, Director of Operations at xMatters, Inc., will discuss the strategic requirements of evolving from Ops to DevOps, and why modern Operations has begun leveraging the “NoOps” approa...
SYS-CON Events announced today that G2G3 will exhibit at SYS-CON's @DevOpsSummit Silicon Valley, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Based on a collective appreciation for user experience, design, and technology, G2G3 is uniquely qualified and motivated to redefine how organizations and people engage in an increasingly digital world.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Micron Technology, Inc., a global leader in advanced semiconductor systems, will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Micron’s broad portfolio of high-performance memory technologies – including DRAM, NAND and NOR Flash – is the basis for solid state drives, modules, multichip packages and other system solutions. Backed by more than 35 years of tech...
This Enterprise Strategy Group lab validation report of the NEC Express5800/R320 server with Intel® Xeon® processor presents the benefits of 99.999% uptime NEC fault-tolerant servers that lower overall virtualized server total cost of ownership. This report also includes survey data on the significant costs associated with system outages impacting enterprise and web applications. Click Here to Download Report Now!
SYS-CON Events announced today that Pythian, a global IT services company specializing in helping companies leverage disruptive technologies to optimize revenue-generating systems, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 17th Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Founded in 1997, Pythian is a global IT services company that helps companies compete by adopting disruptive technologies such as cloud, Big Data, advance...
SYS-CON Events announced today the Containers & Microservices Bootcamp, being held November 3-4, 2015, in conjunction with 17th Cloud Expo, @ThingsExpo, and @DevOpsSummit at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. This is your chance to get started with the latest technology in the industry. Combined with real-world scenarios and use cases, the Containers and Microservices Bootcamp, led by Janakiram MSV, a Microsoft Regional Director, will include presentations as well as hands-on...
Cloud and datacenter migration innovator AppZero has joined the Microsoft Enterprise Cloud Alliance Program. AppZero is a fast, flexible way to move Windows Server applications from any source machine – physical or virtual – to any destination server, in any cloud or datacenter, using its patented container technology. AppZero’s container is also called a Virtual Application Appliance (VAA). To facilitate Microsoft Azure onboarding, AppZero has two purpose-built offerings: AppZero SP for Azure,...
Organizations from small to large are increasingly adopting cloud solutions to deliver essential business services at a much lower cost. According to cyber security experts, the frequency and severity of cyber-attacks are on the rise, causing alarm to businesses and customers across a variety of industries. To defend against exploits like these, a company must adopt a comprehensive security defense strategy that is designed for their business. In 2015, organizations such as United Airlines, Sony...
SYS-CON Events announced today that HPM Networks will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. For 20 years, HPM Networks has been integrating technology solutions that solve complex business challenges. HPM Networks has designed solutions for both SMB and enterprise customers throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
Red Hat is investing in Tesora, the number one contributor to OpenStack Trove Database as a Service (DBaaS) also ranked among the top 20 companies contributing to OpenStack overall. Tesora, the company bringing OpenStack Trove Database as a Service (DBaaS) to the enterprise, has announced that Red Hat and others have invested in the company as a part of Tesora's latest funding round. The funding agreement expands on the ongoing collaboration between Tesora and Red Hat, which dates back to Febr...
IBM’s Blue Box Cloud, powered by OpenStack, is now available in any of IBM’s globally integrated cloud data centers running SoftLayer infrastructure. Less than 90 days after its acquisition of Blue Box, IBM has integrated its Blue Box Cloud Dedicated private-cloud-as-a-service into its broader portfolio of OpenStack® based solutions. The announcement, made today at the OpenStack Silicon Valley event, further highlights IBM’s continued support to deliver OpenStack solutions across all cloud depl...
Through WebRTC, audio and video communications are being embedded more easily than ever into applications, helping carriers, enterprises and independent software vendors deliver greater functionality to their end users. With today’s business world increasingly focused on outcomes, users’ growing calls for ease of use, and businesses craving smarter, tighter integration, what’s the next step in delivering a richer, more immersive experience? That richer, more fully integrated experience comes ab...
With the proliferation of connected devices underpinning new Internet of Things systems, Brandon Schulz, Director of Luxoft IoT – Retail, will be looking at the transformation of the retail customer experience in brick and mortar stores in his session at @ThingsExpo. Questions he will address include: Will beacons drop to the wayside like QR codes, or be a proximity-based profit driver? How will the customer experience change in stores of all types when everything can be instrumented and a...
Culture is the most important ingredient of DevOps. The challenge for most organizations is defining and communicating a vision of beneficial DevOps culture for their organizations, and then facilitating the changes needed to achieve that. Often this comes down to an ability to provide true leadership. As a CIO, are your direct reports IT managers or are they IT leaders? The hard truth is that many IT managers have risen through the ranks based on their technical skills, not their leadership ab...
WSM International, the pioneer and leader in server migration services, has announced an agreement with WHOA.com, a leader in providing secure public, private and hybrid cloud computing services. Under terms of the agreement, WSM will provide migration services to WHOA.com customers to relocate some or all of their applications, digital assets, and other computing workloads to WHOA.com enterprise-class, secure cloud infrastructure. The migration services include detailed evaluation and planning...
In today's digital world, change is the one constant. Disruptive innovations like cloud, mobility, social media, and the Internet of Things have reshaped the market and set new standards in customer expectations. To remain competitive, businesses must tap the potential of emerging technologies and markets through the rapid release of new products and services. However, the rigid and siloed structures of traditional IT platforms and processes are slowing them down – resulting in lengthy delivery ...
The Internet of Things (IoT) is about the digitization of physical assets including sensors, devices, machines, gateways, and the network. It creates possibilities for significant value creation and new revenue generating business models via data democratization and ubiquitous analytics across IoT networks. The explosion of data in all forms in IoT requires a more robust and broader lens in order to enable smarter timely actions and better outcomes. Business operations become the key driver of I...
U.S. companies are desperately trying to recruit and hire skilled software engineers and developers, but there is simply not enough quality talent to go around. Tiempo Development is a nearshore software development company. Our headquarters are in AZ, but we are a pioneer and leader in outsourcing to Mexico, based on our three software development centers there. We have a proven process and we are experts at providing our customers with powerful solutions. We transform ideas into reality.
In their Live Hack” presentation at 17th Cloud Expo, Stephen Coty and Paul Fletcher, Chief Security Evangelists at Alert Logic, will provide the audience with a chance to see a live demonstration of the common tools cyber attackers use to attack cloud and traditional IT systems. This “Live Hack” uses open source attack tools that are free and available for download by anybody. Attendees will learn where to find and how to operate these tools for the purpose of testing their own IT infrastructu...
SYS-CON Events announced today that IceWarp will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. IceWarp, the leader of cloud and on-premise messaging, delivers secured email, chat, documents, conferencing and collaboration to today's mobile workforce, all in one unified interface